The limits and powers of the technological text
This thesis examines the implications for text and subject of the digital technology of hypertext. Focussing on the printed texts of Alasdair Gray, it explores the complex relationship between humans and technology depicted in his fictions. Gray’s fictional examples provide the basis for a wider discussion regarding the impact of technology upon the lives of the subjects who engage with it and in particular who engages with the technologies of writing. It aims to illustrate how digital technologies of writing can be considered in light of some of the textual concerns raised by fiction and criticism in the late age of print, notably issues of narrative theory and the cultural function of linear stories and histories. Straining in many respects against the limitations of the printed form, Gray’s boundary-pushing texts, whilst remaining firmly rooted in the aesthetic tradition of the book as object, perhaps anticipate a more flexible textual form. The digital space of hypertext can be seen to offer a new arena for the textual debate, but does it live up to the claims of some of its critics, particularly in terms of its rapport with aspects of contemporary theory? And what may be the consequences of text dematerialised in the digital medium? As well as considering the textual possibilities of hypertext, the thesis also looks at the ways in which subjects relate to technology as well as those by which technology – and particularly writing technology – relates to them. Given the ambiguous role of technology in the life of the subject – employed on the one hand as part of a project and promise of rational enlightenment through science and on the other as a military and ideological means of repression – the consequences of technological development and of the digital revolution for the written word must be closely considered. Finally, the thesis questions the types of texts that may be constructed through an engagement with the digital technology of hypertext and what types of subjects these in turn might construct.