the e-poets network Videotheque


Shelley Jackson

Just before the millennium, Shelley Jackson created the canonical hypertext Patchwork Girl, and the realm of electronic literature was never the same.

Shelley Jackson
Shelley Jackson

documentation video:
selected passages from Patchwork Girl
recorded at the Hammer Museum, California, 2002

Jackson earned her original craft practicing anatomical illustration. But her sublime creativity truly blossomed when she connected her illustration's prerogatives into those of fiction, and then combined that fiction with the (then) new medium of hypertext. Her creation became part horror story, part dark comedy, part Victorian-esque narrative, and a full-on contemporary critique on the nature of storytelling. As she wrote, she moved into the space of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, supposing, "What if Mary Shelley herself made the monster -- not the fictional Dr. Frankenstein?" In doing so, Jackson embraced the broadly-known and -popular horror story, but spun it on her own terms.

In the new story, the author re-constructs a woman. Each body part contributes to the narrative. Stories comment about their respective organ donors, and frequently have something additional to say about womanhood, both as it is inhabited and as it is observed. The reader may navigate through the assembled body of fiction at will. Jackson teamed with Eastgate Systems to release the work as hypertext on disc, not as a book, and it has been a central element of reading lists in new literature ever since.

Jackson earned critical praise and recoginition from thinkers in the new electronic literature, including Mark Amerika, N. Katherine Hayles, Michael Joyce, and Robert Coover who was also her mentor at Brown University. Eastgate continues to make the electronic literature available for new computer platforms.

Jackson's personal website is The site holds much information and commentary by the artist, including links to her published works.

- Kurt Heintz, 2012