This live stream Traversal of Mary-Kim Arnold’s “Lust” took place on Friday, May 18, 2018 in the Electronic Literature Lab. It was performed by Nicholas Schiller, Associate Director of the lab and faculty in the Creative Media & Digital Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver. The Traversal documentation includes three video clips of the performance itself along with introductory comments and the question and answer session with the audience that followed the performance. For the performance we used a Macintosh SE (circa 1987) running System Software 6.0.7 and a copy of the work from Grigar's collection. Schiller rehearsed during the weeks leading up to the event. Handling the technical setup on YouTube was Greg Philbrook, the Creative Media & Digital Culture program's technical and instructional assistant. All four of the four research assistants––Vanessa Rhodes, Mariah Gwin, Veronica Whitney, and Katie Bowen––oversaw the social media engagement and photographed the event.Traversal of Mary-Kim Arnold’s “Lust,” Part 1
The video beings with the Pathfinders introductory clip used in other Traversals. Dr. Dene Grigar then appears to welcome the audience to the live broadcast and to introduce the work. Grigar thanks the sponsors of the series: Washington State University, WSU’s Louis E. and Stella G. Buchanan Distinguished professorship, and the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO).
Grigar introduces today’s Traversal with a brief description of the results and impact of the series of Traversals and a look ahead to next season’s planned Traversals. The four undergraduate researchers who worked to produce this season of Traversals were honored and acknowledged. Grigar annouces that the undergraduate researchers won prizes at WSU’s SURCA research event and at WSU Vancouver’s Research Showcase.
Next year’s line up of e-lit works to be Traversed includes George Landau’s The Dickens Web, Catherine Kramer’s In Small and Large Pieces, Dena Larson’s Samplers, Stephanie Strickland’s True North, Richard Holton’s Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, Judd Morrisey and Lori Talley’s My Name is Captain, Captain, and Megan Heyward’s Of Day, Of Night.
Grigar closes by acknowledging and thanking the ELL staff. Nicholas Schiller, Greg Philbrook, Vanessa Rhodes, Veronica Whitney, Katie Bowen, and Mariah Gwin are thanked. In a final note, Grigar notes that the colors of the video have been desaturated to best capture the work in its original black and white. Nicholas Schiller now begins his reading of Mary Kim Arnold’s "Lust".Traversal of Mary-Kim Arnold’s “Lust,” Part 2
Schiller begins his traversal through Mary Kim Arnold’s Lust. The work begins with a poem titled “Prologue”. Each word of Prologue is a hypertext link to another point in the narrative. Repetition of words, themes, and concepts is noted and the word Summer is chosen to follow to a new link. Each link is a new poem. Schiller continues to read each poem as it comes and traces words and themes that repeat as his traverses the piece. Repeated concepts such as woven fibers, lovers who speak or do not speak, and the seasons are noted and followed.
The title of “Lust” and the theme of lust in the piece are explored. There are repeated fragments of stories of lovers, words and phrases that evoke nakedness or undress, a child that comes to the lovers is mentioned obliquely and directly, yet “Lust” is not primarily an erotic work. The short, terse, declarative sentences tell a story in brief pieces. Words used to describe lovers’ interactions in one place are used in others to describe non-erotic scenarios. As the Traversal through the work, the repetition of words and concepts and the shifting of the contexts they appear in is highlighted.Traversal of Mary-Kim Arnold’s “Lust,” Part 3
As we progress through the work, Schiller notes that several of the poems are titled with male-sounding first names. There are several male lovers, but it appears that the “her” of the story is singular. The narrative repeats and the repeated concepts give each newly revealed aspect of the narrative a different content, a new taste. Many of the tellings of this story are cold or full of regret, so when Schiller finds a warm or a sort of happy telling of the story, he notes it. The story continues to iterate, repeating different tellings of similar events, similar happenings, each is different in how it remembers the events. The story is told as if from memory. The individual lexias act like memories in a sequence, linked but not sequential. In one the lovers may speak, in another they are silent. In some the child is present, others it is absent. This slightly altered repetitions continues throughout the reading as new poems are read and previously visited poems are re-visited. The reading closes and the Traversal transitions to the question and answer portion of the event.Traversal of Mary-Kim Arnold’s “Lust,” Q&A, Part 1
Following the traversal, the cameras turn and Grigar opens the floor to the audience for a question and answer period. Remote viewers are encouraged to submit their questions through YouTube’s chat feature. Questions open with Grigar asking about a review from Michael Joyce who noted that there are four men named in the piece, but the story centers itself around as a single woman only referred to as "she". Grigar and Schiller discuss this and Schiller notes that the central “she” does read as one person. A question is asked about the sort of lust that Arnold is writing about. Schiller notes that the work does not appear to aim to help the reader experience lust, but it recalls moments of lust, erotic lust, lust for existence, or a child’s lust for its basic needs. Grigar also notes that there is lust for lust itself, that lust can be its own object. She goes on to point out the way the work succeeds in cultivating ambiguity through the way it tells the story. In the ELL audience, a participant continues this thread of conversation by pointing to the repetition in the text and the repetition of the way we celebrate memory. Grigar points to the successful use of repetition in the text, noting that the work is relatively short for a hypertext, but as the reader re-visits each lexia, the words gain weight through repetition. Another question is raised about the ambiguous repetition of a knife and blood. Various possible readings of this are discussed and considered. This develops into a discussion of these violent images and how they are woven in with mention of a child.Traversal of Mary-Kim Arnold’s “Lust,” Q&A, Part 2
Schiller notes that several of the poems are given male names. The narrative repeats and the repeated words and concepts give each newly revealed aspect to the narrative a different content, a new taste. Many of the tellings of this story are cold or full of regret, so when Schiller finds a warm or a sort of happy telling of the story, he notes it. The story continues to iterate, repeating different tellings of similar events, similar happenings, each is different in how it remembers the events. The story is told as if from memory. The individual lexias act like memories in a sequence, linked but not sequential. In one the lovers may speak, in another they are silent. In some the child is present, others it is absent. This slightly altered repetitions continues throughout the reading as new poems are read and previously visited poems are re-visited. The reading closes and the Traversal transitions to the question and answer portion of the event.