Staging Memories

As far as we can ascertain, this was originally the first hypertextual analysis in film studies.

It was started out as the term-end project for a course in close-textual analysis at the University of Southern California in 1993. The course was held right about the time that Mosaic browser was released, bringing the World Wide Web to those outside of the hard sciences and the military. The possibilities were both intriguing and breathtaking in 1993: one could link into the vast reaches of the Internet; it handled still photographs with no problem, and one could even make clickable graphics. It did offer tantalizing possibilities for including sound and moving image; alas, Hou’s long-take aesthetic, with its delicate and complicated mise-en-scène, was completely incompatible with the rudimentary technologies for delivering movies online.

We conjured a structure that was thoroughly dispersed and interconnected through hyperlinks. It did have an introduction and conclusion; however, the reader could freely navigate the body of the analysis. We taught ourselves html 1.0 and coded the hypertextual essay in a text editor. A website called Cinemaspace caught our eye. It had just been established as one of the first online film journals was happy to host the project.

Narrating National Sadness went online in 1994, the year of the first CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) conference on the World Wide Web (the “Woodstock of the Web”) and the year that Netscape was released. One of the virtues of online publishing is that the final form need not be “final” in any serious sense. Narrating National Sadness went under a number of iterations that led to the present version under the Maize Books imprint. Over the years we added movies, sound clips, animated gifs, clickable graphics, and even a VRML 3D interface (in VRML 1.0, so it’s no longer viewable).

However, at some moment in the late 2000s, we learned that the site had mysteriously disappeared. The links around the world went dead and the Wayback Machine captured only a partial archive of the site. We eventually found the entire project, and published the Maize edition in 2015. It includes a paper version, an open access online version, and and version in Apple iBooks that replicates some of the original site’s interactivity. A more fulsome publication history may be found in the foreword to the Maize edition.

Co-written with Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh. Coded the original web version and constructed the iBooks enhanced, interactive version.

View Original Site
Maize Edition: View and Download