hypertext, theology, medieval studies
Self-discovery, self-exploration, the creation of the self or the Subject is a human preoccupation that goes beyond the postmodern era. The epigraphs that begin this paper show that the human concern with how language and representation play a crucial role in the formation of the subject flows back through time from our present to Augustine, the fourth-century master of the art of self-knowledge, and beyond. When Augustine started writing his Confessions, the self as something to write about, a theme or object (subject) of writing activity, was already well established. In his Confessions, Augustine uses cor ad cor loquitur, or to put it plainly, having a heart to heart with God. Such a conversation was meant to change his life by teaching him how to revise himself in Christ's image. In other words, cor ad cor loquitur is a lesson in subjectivity.
Today, as someone who is a medievalist, theologian, and techno-geek, I find myself pondering how this ancient and never-ending conversation echoes still, even in the realm of hypertext. And yes! I did say hypertext. As theologian and medievalist, I wander on my pilgrim way in many different worlds, antique and contemporary. For me, the hypertext world of Cyberia (that computerized technological world in to which we are presently evolving) continues the ancient trail of a conversation, of heart speaking to heart, in which subjectivity evolves. The mechanism of self-reflection, central to cor ad cor loquitur, resides in the rhetorical structure of hypertext. Contemporary pilgrims negotiating their way as author and audience through the lexias[i] and byways of Cyberia's hypertext find themselves following in the footsteps of their medieval ancestors who pondered on author and audience in the book of the heart known as cor ad cor loquitur. I invite you to accompany me as I use the medievalist’s lens to investigate how hypertext is the latest evolution in cor ad cor loquitur.