he proto-hypertextuality of In Memoriam thus atomizes and disperses Tennyson the man. He is to be found nowhere, except possibly in the "Epilogue," which appears after and outside the poem itself. Tennyson, the real, once-existing man with his actual beliefs and fears, cannot be extrapolated from within the poem's individual sections, for each presents Tennyson only at a particular moment. Traversing these individual sections, the reader experiences a somewhat idealized version of Tennyson's moments of grief and recovery. In Memoriam thus fulfills Paul Valéry's definition of poetry as a machine that reproduces an emotion. It also fulfills another of Benjamin's observations in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" — one he makes in the course of contrasting "painter and cameraman. The painter maintains in his work a natural distance from reality, the cameraman penetrates deeply into its web. There is a tremendous difference between the pictures they obtain. That of the painter is a total one, that of the cameraman consists of multiple fragments which are assembled under a new law" (233-34). Although speaking of a different information medium, Benjamin here captures some sense of the way hypertext, when compared to print, appears atomized, and in doing so, he also conveys one of the chief qualities of Tennyson's antilinear, multi-sequential poem.
From George P. Landow, Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992; Hypertext 2.0, revised, expanded edition, 1997.
Last modified 20 February 2010