Patchwork Girl Stands on The Shoulders of Shelley & Baum

PATCHWORK GIRL

Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl demonstrates how intertextual allusions are used as piecework in order to construct new literatures together from various sources of the past. Presented in hypertext format, Patchwork Girl uses intertextual allusions borrowed from canonical texts such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and L. Frank Baum’s Patchwork Girl of Oz to create a new work inspired by and in reference to Shelley and Baum’s works, reinterpreting their ideas and making them modern. The work of Patchwork Girl proves that literature has always been intertextual – writers have forever been influenced by other writers. We are all only standing on the shoulders of giants.

By assembling a work that borrowing from various influences, Patchwork Girl illuminates multi-vocality, intertextuality and hybrid authorship. Patchwork Girl adapts both L. Frank Baum’s Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) in an effort create a conversation between herself and authors of the past. “There is a continuing tradition of poets and programmers collaborating in the creation and use of authoring systems for generative literature” (Malloy, 32). Writers are influenced by other writers. The text of Patchwork Girl “renovates an ancient past as inspiration for modern literature” (Pressman, 304).

FRANKENSTEIN

Patchwork Girl immerses the reader in the act of piecing fragments of the story together, reminiscent of the sewing of a quilt. The ‘pieces’ of The Patchwork Girl are borrowed and reinterpreted from  Through the assemblage of the female monster by ‘stitching’ together body parts collected from various sources, the patchwork girl herself constructs her own identity from the borrowed body parts as reference points. This act of piecework references the fragmented characters from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster, as well as Baum’s Patchwork Girl of Oz, characters who are both constructed from borrowed scraps.

BAUM

patch
The Patchwork Girl of Oz shows a direct correlation to the Patchwork Girl in style and make

The Wizard of Oz can no longer be regarded the work of a single author” (Griswold, 465). Baum recognized that, while fairy tales were “collected by the Grimms and Perrault and Lang, these tales were, in fact, the community property of the oral tradition and told by professional storytellers, and sung by wandering minstrels” (Griswold, 466). For example, Baum may have been influenced by Shakespeare’s’ The Merchant of Venice when writing these Oz tales that seemingly address the meaning of life: “if you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” (The Merchant of Venice, 3.1) Shylock’s speech in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is loosely referenced in both Baum’s The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, reminding us that we are all human – the same, all equipped with the same faculties and therefore the same [types of] experiences, the same pains and comforts of emotion. For Patchwork Girl, working off this ancient idea of life as life for everyone validates The Patchwork Girl’s existence as a living, sentient being. Revisiting and remaking this idea new encourages tolerance of differences, celebration of shared experiences, and acknowledges humanity as united rather than opposed. Baum uses The Wizard of Oz books to expand on traditions borrowed from writers of the past by retelling them, making them modern and new, recycling old ideas in contemporary ways. Similarly, Jackson uses Patchwork Girl to revisit and expand on ideas from Frankenstein and The Patchwork Girl of Oz.

TITLE PAGE

Patchwork Girl Title Page
Patchwork Girl Title Page

Patchwork Girl has been described as a ‘rewriting’ of Frankenstein” (Trimarco, 126). That is, by taking the original plot of Frankenstein in certain lexias and rewriting passages of Shelley’s text in style of the nineteenth century novel, Patchwork Girl borrows from Shelley, simultaneously rewriting it while keeping the message the same. The title page of Patchwork Girl directly references Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which “plays with the similarities of the names Mary Shelley and Shelley Jackson by attributing authorship to ‘Mary/Shelley & Herself’.” (Trimarco, 126).

A Modern Monster”,  an alternative title to Patchwork Girl, references the Frankenstein-ian elements that have been borrowed and integrated into the new monstrous text that is Patchwork Girl. By hinting at the intertextual allusions that have been purposefully pulled, the idea of one author is dismantled and instead the reader is presented with a title and author page that reflects a patchwork of intertextual sources, creating the idea of hybrid authorship.

AM I MARY

Throughout the entire hypertext, Patchwork Girl is on a quest to understand her own identity. Making references to Mary as Patchwork Girl’s creator in the story, who has taken various ‘patches’ [of skin] from various bodies and sewn them together in an effort to unite them as one bodily being; Mary is part of Patchwork Girl, and the Patchwork Girl is now a part of Mary. This skews Patchwork Girl’s perception of herself, because not only is she composed of random limbs, each with a backstory of their own, she now also has a piece of the seamstrepatchwork i amss-creator within her.  The lexia Am I Mary illustrates her identity confusion:“I wonder if I am writing from my thigh, from the crimp-edged pancakelet of skin we stitched onto me (ousting a smidgen of some Veronica or Lenore). Is my gift of cutting hers? Am I a host, phony, a setting for gemstone? And if so, is that good or bad? Maybe my crude strength and my techy bent are better filters for her voice than her still-polite manners. Or does her politeness make her criminal leanings steeper, more vertiginous for the height of their drawing room origins? Like a meathook hung over the spinet? / Mary writes, I write, we write, but who is really writing? Ghost writers are the only kind there are.”

Jackson addresses the denotation of the term “ghostwriter” here. By extending the concept of ghostwriting to suggest that “all writers and all authors are ghostwriters in the sense that 65 all words and linguistic or literary elements they use have been used before, largely by writers and speakers who are dead now. Thus, when we appropriate their words, style, and other narrative elements, we all become ghostwriters […], and we all commit multiple acts of plagiarism,” (Bauschke). The patchwork-like construction process of the text deliberately emphasises intertextuality and hybrid authorship. The profusion of intertexts “expands current understandings of textual appropriation by offering the term ‘patchwriting,’ which is defined as ‘copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another” (Logie, 103). As a form of imitation or mimicry, patchwriting facilitates the “reshape[ing] of the work of another while leaving traces of the earlier writer’s thoughts and intentions” (Logie, 103).  

Patchwork Girl has difficulty in understanding the division between herself and her sources. Not knowing if her mind is her own, the Patchwork Girl “wonders” from which limb her thoughts are derived. Patchwork Girl’s inability to separate herself from the amalgamation of past lives she derives from forces her to question herself, wondering if she is her own or if she is simply the sum of the parts.

SCRAP BAG & THERAPIES 

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 4.47.53 PMPatchwork Girl immerses the reader in the act of piecing fragments of the story together, reminiscent of the sewing of a quilt. Through the assemblage of the female monster by ‘stitching’ together body parts collected from various sources, the patchwork girl herself constructs her own identity from the borrowed body parts as reference points.  The structure and content of Patchwork Girl parallel each other; the scattered form of the work imitates the character created by the work: both the character and the work itself are a patchwork of parts that ultimately create the whole. The fusion of lexias that allow for multiple reading experiences reflects the synthesis of experiences that create the patchwork girl herself.

patch 2Patchwork Girl recognizes herself as fragmentary,  which parallels the patchwork of intertextual sources that make up the work: “Mary writes, I write, we write, but who is really writing?” The work itself is reflective of the message it is trying to portray: Patchwork Girl herself is reflective of the hybrid authorship that IS hypertext, with an emphasis on the multiplicity of authors. The combination of layered lexias create “the sense of a fractured, decentered, and disembodied identity” (Doran, 267) which emphasises the multi-vocality that combines to create the Patchwork Girl. By adapting and borrowing from Baum and Shelley, the Patchwork Girl demonstrates how literature rearticulates the past. “Electronic literature is a “hopeful monster” […] composed of parts taken from diverse traditions that may not always fit neatly together. Hybrid by nature, it comprises a trading” (Hayles) of ideas and creates a conversation between contemporary authors and their predecessors.

GRAVEYARD & THERAPIES

patch grave

Jackson uses the work to create a conversation between herself and her influences. Combining the rich past of literature with modern technologies and writings Jackson’s hypertext Patchwork Girl questions the way we use technology and an amalgamation of our past experiences in order to construct our own identities. By assembling a work that borrows from various influences, Patchwork Girl embodies juxtaposition and multi-vocality that creates a composite message concerning the way we use technology to construct our own identity. Patchwork Girl’s identification of herself as an “I” while simultaneously recognizing the multi-vocality of her thoughts creates an identity crisis within the Patchwork Girl, causing her to question the stability of her identity. Jackson uses the work to create a conversation between herself and other authors, such as Mary Shelley and L. Frank Baum, borrowing words or phrases or ideas, and repurposing language of the past in a contemporary setting. Her inclusion of literary sources reinforces the idea that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

Patchwork Girl claims “we are redundant, looped, entangled” (Jackson), supporting the idea that authors revisit literatures and rework them in an effort to create a conversation between themselves and literatures of the past. This “illustrate[s] how literature adapts to a new age and its new media” (Pressman, 27), making universal age-old ideas modern and relevant.

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants being those major texts, canonical texts, texts that have withstood time, ancient texts that are still studied today, texts that offer ancient wisdoms, texts that are referenced and made new by modern authors.

Works Cited

Baum, L F, and John R. Neill. The Marvelous Land of Oz. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1995. Print.

Baum, L F, and John R. Neill. The Patchwork Girl of Oz. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1995. Print.

Bauschke, D. (2014, June). Reviving and Revising Mary Shelley’s Haunted Progeny: Haunted Bodies in Shelley Jackson’s [Electronic version]. Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies, 1(1), 53-72.

Doran. (2014). The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media (pp. 266-269). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Griswold, Jerry. “There’s No Place but Home: The Wizard of Oz.” The Antioch Review, Inc. 45.4 (1987): 462-75. Print.

Hayles, N. K. (2007, January 2). Electronic Literature: What is it?. In eliterature.org. Retrieved March 18, 2016.

Logie, J. (2001). [Review of The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties: Authorship,Appropriation, and the Law; Standing in the Shadow of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors,Collaborators]. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 31(1), 102–105. Retrieved fromhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/3886405

Malloy, J. (2014). The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media (pp. 32-36). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pressman, J. (2008). The strategy of digital modernism: Young-hae chang heavy industries’s dakota. Mfs-modern Fiction Studies, 54(2), 302-326.

Shakespeare, W. “The Merchant of Venice.” Ontario: General Publishing Company, Ltd., 1995. Print.

Trimarco, Paola. Digital Textuality. London: Palgrave, 2015. 126-30. Print.

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