March 1, 2005
4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar
Standish Room, LE
8:00 p.m. Reading
Fine Arts Building
UAlbany, Uptown Campus
Shelley Jackson, author, illustrator and children's book writer, is one of the most acclaimed pioneers of the hypertext novel, a relatively new art form and multi-dimensional literary product of the electronic age. Jackson's celebrated hypertext novel is "Patchwork Girl by Mary/Shelley & Herself" (1995), abundantly illustrated by the author herself. Inspired by Mary Shelley's classic horror novel, "Frankenstein." "Patchwork Girl" presents a new monster--assembled from female body parts by Mary Shelley herself--who falls in love with the author, stalking her from Europe to America. The novel is published on CD-ROM by the world's leading hypertext publisher, Eastgate Systems, Inc, and is that company's biggest-selling title.
Postmodern fiction master Robert Coover has called "Patchwork Girl," "Perhaps the true paradigmatic work of the era." Indeed, it is difficult to find a critical or scholarly discussion of the hypertext genre that fails to mention "Patchwork Girl," which, along with Michael Joyce's "afternoon, a story" (1987, revised 1993), has helped to define the hypertext novel, while setting a high standard for this emerging art form.
Jackson is also the author of a paper-and-print short story collection, "The Melancholy of Anatomy" (2002), which features surreal tales about bodily parts and human illnesses, including the Pushcart Prize-winning story, "Egg." Writing for the "New York Times," Megan Harlan said, "Throughout, Jackson takes deep-rooted anxieties about the body's capacious growths, secretions and desires and spins them into wry, absurdist fantasies." The reviewer for the "Village Voice Literary Supplement" said that that Jackson "erases the boundaries between body and self, secretion and shedding, love and loathing, enveloping the reader in a slippery, icky, fascinating world." That publication also named Jackson one of seven up-and-coming "Writers on the Verge" for 2001.
Jackson has contributed to a number of leading literary periodicals including "The Paris Review," "Kenyon Review," and "Grand Street." She is also the author and illustrator of two well-received books for children, "The Old Woman and the Wave" (1998), and "Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog" (2000), and has illustrated a number of children's books by other authors. Other hypertexts by Jackson, both of them available for viewing on the author's website, www.ineradicablestain.com, include "My Body," an autobiography, and "The Doll Games," a collaboration with her sister, Pamela Jackson.
Jackson is also the creator of an unusual art-project-in-progress, "Skin: A Mortal Work of Art," which involves tatooing the words of a short story on various volunteers, one word per person. According to Jackson, "The text will be published nowhere else, and the author will not permit it to be summarized, quoted, described, set to music, or adapted for film, theater, television or any other medium. The full text will be known only to participants, who may, but need not choose to establish communication with one another."
Jackson's presentations at the University are cosponsored by the Institute for Research on Women (IROW), and the University Art Museum's Art & Culture Talks, and are scheduled in conjunction with the University Libraries' semester-long series, "Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature." The latter series was developed by the National Library of Medicine, in collaboration with the American Library Association. Major funding comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Library of Medicine.