Hypertext in Jackson’s Wunderkrammer

Shelley Jackson’s my body – a Wunderkrammer is exactly that – an online ‘wonder-room’ of Jackson’s body.  It is a Wunderkrammer in the traditional sense of the word – it is a “collection of curiosities” (http://oxfordictionaries.com) – yet Jackson’s online version offers a synthesis of the elements of the piece that wouldn’t exist if it was not online.

My body – a Wunderkrammer is a semi-autobiographical literary work in which the reader/explorer is encouraged to ‘click’ on any segmented part of a full-body self portrait of Jackson.  Each body part then leads to an exposition of the body part (i.e. Jackson’s initial self-discovery and ongoing exploration of said feature) that often includes some anecdote or other autobiographical story relative to the body part being explored.  It seems that part of what Janet H. Murray envisions in Hamlet on the Holodeck: the Future of Narrative in Cyberspace comes to fruition in Jackson’s work, because all of the expositions incorporate the use of hypertext.  This is what gives Jackson’s Wunderkrammer a ‘one-up’ on the Wunderkrammen of the 17th century, as the different body parts and relative expositions are all interconnected via hypertext.

Using hypertext to connect the different body parts allows Jackson to comment on the holistic nature of the human body.  Moreover, she is physically able to demonstrate the utility that comes with varying forms of digital media through hypertext.  Instead of offering one linear story that describes her various moments of self discovery, she allows the reader to discover and explore her body the same way she did – haphazardly.   The rhetoric among the various body parts speaks to this notion.

Bolstering her semi-autobiographical expositions with fictitious elements also adds to the overall anthropomorphic quality of the work itself.  People tell stories or remembrances from memory, so they are likely to be exaggerated or slight miscommunications are likely to pop up in their rendering.  This is evident in Jackson’s work, and she alludes to this fact when she says, of learning how to draw teeth, “realism lay slightly short of the exact copy.”

As a work of digital media, Jackson’s my body – a Wunderkrammer is interesting because it does what a normal book cannot do – it can tell stories within stories (stories that speak to one another in the text), while offering a coherent overarching anecdotal structure that can be embraced or abandoned by the reader/explorer.