Por Sabrina Mazzali-Lurati & Peter Schulz
The increasing importance of semiotic analysis of new media is well
acknowledged. In our paper we concentrate on the process of interpretation
and comprehension of hypertextual transpositions. Hypertextual transpositions
are a particular kind of hypermedia for literature and literary
studies. In our research we aimed at understanding if and how the
characteristics of the hypertextual form (namely, the fragmentation
of contents and the absence of a predefined reading order) have
an impact upon the act of reading. Such a question is central as
to the improvement of the effectiveness in the use of this kind
of artefacts. After having introduced the topic and the general
framework, we will provide a definition of hypertextual transpositions.
In the main part of the article we will outline and describe the
two main features of this kind of hypermedial applications (namely,
the logic of representation and the second order representation),
taking care to point out their impact upon the user’s act
of reading and comprehending the application contents.
semiotics, new media and hypertext studies, text comprehension.
0.1 Semiotics and new media
the borderline between semiotics and informatics stays the study
of the process of interpretation and comprehension of new media
artefacts, such as hypertexts and hypermedia. Because of the growing
importance new media have been acquiring in communication processes,
such a study is of high importance in order to assure the effectiveness
of communication. The fragmentation of contents and the absence
of a predefined reading order characterizing hypertexts and hypermedia
can affect the process of text coherence building and, therefore,
the interpretation and comprehension of the messages conveyed through
such artefacts (cf. Engebretsen 2000; Fritz 1999; Storrer 2002).
The hypermedia designer has to sustain the user in this process
by taking care of the signs he decides to include in the application.
In fact, as the semiotic engineering approach outlined (cf. De Souza
1993; De Souza et al. 1999; Prates et al. 2000), a successful user-application
interaction depends on the reader’s understanding of the designer’s
intentions and icons and messages constituting the user interface
have to be studied as signs. Correspondently, the interaction between
user and interface has to be studied as a process of signs interpretation.
In this paper we present the results of a research devoted to a
very precise aspect of this main topic, namely the use of a particular
kind of hypermedial applications in the field of literature and
literary studies and the conditions of its effectiveness.
0.2 Hypertext and literary studies
the beginning of the spreading out of hypertext several professors
and scholars underlined the advantages of the use of this new technology
and textual form for the study of literature. A vivid enthusiasm
accompanied the appearance of the first literary hypertexts. Since
then, different kinds of hypertextual and hypermedial applications
for literature can be found both on-line and off-line: archives,
hyperfiction, presentations of authors, presentations of themes,
presentation of literary works. The reason of the initial enthusiasm
was the belief that a technology had finally appeared that was able
to realize the poststructuralist principles and the principles of
deconstruction. 1This was particularly
evident in hyperfiction, but it was also related to new possibilities
for literature teaching and learning and, thus, to the uses of hypertext
for the educational presentations of different topics and subjects
for literary studies (authors, themes, literary works). Different
claims were made starting from the idea of this convergence between
hypertext and post-structuralism and deconstruction.2
The central and most striking claim had to do with the nature of
the reading experience. The literary text calls for reading and,
therefore, reading is at the core of literature and literary studies.
In the enthusiasm for the innovation introduced by hypertext, it
was claimed that this new textual form would bring a new way of
reading that, in the case of hyperfiction, was called “hyperreading”.
This new way should derive from the particular features of the hypertextual
form, especially from non-linearity. Non-linearity (or multilinearity
as it has subsequently been defined) was seen as the main hypertext’s
feature, the feature capable of breaking the unity, the stability
and the canonical order of the literary text, thus allowing the
reader to choose her/his own reading path through the text (Bolter
1991; Delany & Landow 1994; Joyce 1995; Landow 1997). In fact,
even if reading cannot be but linear – the reading of a word
after the other inevitably creates a linear sequence -, hypertext
is, at least at the potential level, multilinear, since several
different possible reading paths are made available (cf. Cantoni
& Paolini 2001; Liestøl 1994; Miall 1998; Rosenberg M.
In the work we are presenting here we aimed at verifying the truth
of this claim about hypertext reading by studying one particular
kind of hypertext/hypermedia for literature, namely applications
presenting a given literary work. We called them hypertextual transpositions
(henceforth HT). We analyzed examples of this particular kind of
technological artefact starting from a semiotic-hermeneutic perspective3
and this analysis allowed us to identify two main characteristics
of this kind of hypermedia having an impact upon the act of reading
the literary text. We will describe them in the following, after
having defined what HT are and how we approached them.
1. Defining hypertextual transpositions
are hypermedial applications focussing on a given literary text.
They are meant to be used in reading, enjoying and/or studying the
literary text. Concretely, they consist of the electronic version
of the literary text (which constitutes the core of the application)
and of a series of added materials (that can be other texts, images,
video clips and audio files) that aim at casting light upon the
literary text’s significance and at enriching the reading
Fig. 1 – DC2 is an example of HT of the Divine Comedy. Here
the electronic version of the literary text is available in the
collection “Commedia” (which can be accessed from the
access device displayed in the upper part of the homepage). Added
materials (such as texts of other works by Dante, essays about different
themes developed in the Inferno, illustrations of the text, audio
files with aloud readings, maps of the Hell) can be accessed from
other collections, displayed in the low part of the homepage.
most interesting aspect of HT consists in the fact that they imply
the transposition in a new medium of a text that was originally
conceived for a different medium. For instance, Dante wrote the
Divine Comedy as a manuscript and since several centuries we have
been used to read it in a printed form (as a book). In DC2 (cf.
fig. 1) this text is transposed in a new medium, which essentially
is a hypertext.
In fact, HT are hypertexts and, therefore, they present all the
features hypertexts have. Namely, they are characterized by multilinearity
(which comes from the fact that contents are fragmented in nodes,
which are then connected through hyperlinks) and – usually,
except the contrary is specified – by the absence of a preferential
reading order. Several different reading orders are possible and
more or less equivalent. Referring to the above-described claim
concerning hypertext reading, we can wonder if and how these characteristics
hypertextual transpositions share with all kinds of hypertexts have
an impact on the act of reading the literary text. We can wonder
what happens when literary texts we are used to read in a printed
form are transposed in this hypertextual form.
According to a semiotic-hermeneutic perspective, HT have been considered
as the result of the adding of new signs to the signs of the literary
text. Consequently, their analysis was guided by the question “how
does the reader interpret the signs composing them?” and “which
contribution and which difficulties these new signs bring with as
to the literary text’s comprehension?” The comparison
of HT to printed annotated and/or illustrated editions (which we
considered to be HT ancestors, since they are the artefact in which
we are accustomed to read literary texts) also helped in identifying
HT most peculiar features.
Particularly, this comparison let emerge the presence in HT of two
main features, namely the increased presence of visual representations
of elements or aspects of the literary text (which we called logic
of representation) and the presence of signs (which can be contents,
devices or tools) influencing the way in which the literary text
is read (we called these elements second order representation).
From these features of HT derive new conditions for the act of reading
the literary text. First, the increased use of visual representations
(of images) as means to understanding entails risks of misunderstanding
as to the function of these images in respect to the literary text.
These misunderstandings can prevent the reader from reaching the
comprehension of the literary text’s significance. It is therefore
necessary to avoid the arising of such misunderstandings. Second,
the elements influencing the way in which the literary text is read
(the second order representation) have to be adequate in respect
to the reader’s goal and task; otherwise, such elements can
prevent the reader from reaching the literary text’s comprehension.
2. Main features of hypertextual transpositions
2.1 The logic of representation
Usually in HT a remarkable amount of images is used in
relationship to all the different aspects of the literary text’s
structure and significance. Images are used in relationship to philological
aspects, namely for the illustration of and the access to manuscripts,
folios or different versions of the literary text. But they are
also used for the description of characters and places (that is,
for the illustration of the geographical setting of the narrated
story; cf. fig. 2) and for the illustration of elements of the historical
context in which the literary text has been produced (such as images
of important characters of the time, of important places or important
events; cf. fig. 3).
Fig. 2 – M1 – On the text’s screen photographs
of the speaking characters and a background representing the landscape
Fig. 3 – M2 – A gallery of images is
dedicated to kings and queens of England.
HT the literary text’s significance is highlighted for a great
part through visual representations. Several elements or aspects
of the literary text are presented and explained in a visual way.
In other words, in HT there is the use of a deictic modality, more
precisely of the modality of monstrare ad oculos, for the
clarification of the literary text’s significance. This modality
consists in contributing to the comprehension in allowing the user
to see the object s/he has to know in order to understand a given
word or passage of the literary text. We defined this modality as
“understanding by seeing” maxim.
The goal of the adoption of this maxim is providing the reader with
a more experiential knowledge and comprehension of the literary
text by providing her/him with the knowledge of the denotata.
This modality of providing access to knowledge and comprehension
brings for sure benefits for the reader. In fact, the reference
to denotata, that is, to the objects of the concrete world,
is essential to human communication and the perception of objects
is essential to human knowledge (it is essential for human beings
in order to acquire the knowledge of something).
It is important to point out that benefits derive from this practice
for the reader only if an essential condition is respected, namely
the condition of correspondence between the content of the image
and the content of the part of the literary text to which the image
refers. Our analysis showed that in HT this condition is always
respected. Nonetheless, the comprehension of the function of the
images in respect to the literary text is not always immediate.
This is due to the features of images as signs. Images are analogical
signs and as analogical signs they present some particular characteristics.
For instance, images are highly rich from a semantic point of view
(an image transmits at the same time a lot of information in a dense
way) and their perception is open to different possibilities. These
two features can be source of secondary meanings, which, in the
case of images referring to a passage of the literary text, can
go beyond the meaning of the passage the image aims at clarifying.
Because of this complexity and these features images as signs always
imply a level of interpretation that cannot be avoided and that
contrasts the attempt to provide to the reader a more direct and
experiential access to the literary text’s significance. In
other words, the interpretation images as signs require can entail
difficulties for the “understanding by seeing” maxim,
in that the reader cannot understand the function of the image in
respect to the clarification of the literary text’s significance.
Two other factors intervening in the process of image’s interpretation
contribute to these difficulties, namely the reader’s prior
knowledge (which, when it is rich, can make easier for the reader
the comprehension of the image and of the text) and the captions
of the images (the information it provides can guide the reader’s
attention on one aspect of the image instead of another).
Because of these difficulties misunderstandings can arise between
author/designer and reader as to the function of the image in respect
to the literary text’s significance. We take as an example
the images available in DC1 at Inferno I, 71.
4 – DC1 – Images available correspondently to Inferno
I, 71 (“Nacqui sub Iulio, ancor che fosse tardi / e vissi
a Roma sotto 'l buono Augusto / nel tempo de li dèi falsi
I, 71 corresponds to the passage of the text where Dante met
Virgil, but he didn’t recognize him. Therefore, Virgil is
revealing Dante who he is. Particularly, he is saying that he lived
in Rome in the Antiquity. That is, Virgil is explaining the place
and the time in which he lived. Correspondently to this passage
of the text, in The World of Dante these four photographs of Roman
remains (forums, Colosseum and the Basilica of Constantine) are
available. These images aim at showing the place mentioned in the
literary text as it was at the time the literary text is referring
to. However, these images are photographs. Photographs have a strong
indexical character that establishes a connection with the actual
reality of the reader. Such a connection goes beyond the meaning
of the literary text. It is an added meaning, which however is not
part of what Dante wanted to communicate. The literary text puts
the accent upon the past, while the photographs added to comment
this passage put the accent on the present. The reader could interpret
them in a misleading way (“Oh, look at what there is in Rome!”),
without grasping the most relevant connection with the text. The
available captions (which read “Forums, Rome”, “Colosseum,
Rome” and “Basilica of Costantino, Forums, Rome”)
contribute in focussing the reader’s attention on this added
meaning, since they only provide factual information about what
is illustrated in the photographs and where it is placed. Of course,
if the reader’s prior knowledge about Rome, about the Roman
period and about Virgil is rich enough, misunderstandings about
the images’ function due to this secondary meaning can be
The use of images can also entail another risk: the risk to induce
the reader to stop at the literal level of the literary text’s
significance (thus preventing him to carry on the inferential process
of comprehension in order to grasp also the levels of meaning that
go beyond the letter of the text, for instance the allegorical meaning).
2.2 The second order representation
analysis revealed the presence in HT of contents, devices and tools
influencing the way in which the literary text is read. The presence
of these elements introduces a new condition for the act of reading
the literary text, which consists in the fact that these elements
have to be adequate in respect to the user’s goal and task.
Since they have an influence upon the way in which the literary
text is read, we consider these contents, devices and tools as signs
in respect to a way to approach the literary text. They are signs
in respect to a reading strategy. We defined a reading strategy
as a way to approach the text,4
to perform the act of reading the text. These elements are reading
strategies representations. All together they create a representation
that in the HT is superposed to the literary text (which is on its
turn a representation). For this reason, we called it second order
The presence or the absence in the HT of a given content, device
or tool has an impact upon how the reader approaches the literary
text. For instance, in DC3, the “I Canti” collection
centre consists in an index displaying all the cantos of the Inferno.
To each canto corresponds an icon with a detail of the image that
will appear at the bottom left corner of the literary text screen.
Rolling over each icon, information about the place and the time
the canto takes place is displayed at the bottom of the screen.
In this way, when entering the text of a given canto, the reader
already got essential contextual information (cf. fig. 5).
Fig. 5 – DC3 – “I canti”
collection centre and detail of the information appearing the lower
part of the screen.
strategies are a hierarchical concept. It is possible to distinguish
between high-level and low-level reading strategies. Low-level reading
strategies deal with a very precise and partial aspect of the act
of reading. They are represented by single contents, devices or
tools included in the HT. A combination of low-level reading strategies
represents high-level reading strategies, that is, reading strategies
dealing with more comprehensive aspects of the act of reading.
All the elements of the application we recognized in the analyzed
HT as having an impact on the way the literary text is read have
been classified according to the low-level and the high-level reading
strategy they represent. In this way, we obtained a picture of an
ideally complete representation of reading strategies in HT. Fig.
6 provides an example. On the basis of this classification, the
act of reading a literary text in HT can be defined as the result
of the combination of various reading strategies represented by
contents, devices or tools included in the HT.5
the part of the literary text the user is exploring within the
whole of the narration
aware of spatial and temporal coordinates of the events narrated
in a given part of the literary text
date, time and main characters are displayed on each text screen
on the text pages
entering the text pages (behaviour anticipation pattern)
of the place of the narrated event
with the indication of the place that corresponds to the narrated
[M2 interactive maps]
of narrated scenes
[DC1, DC2, DC3]
an overview on the whole narrated story
access to maps and schemes from the literary text screens
[DC2, DC3, O1 (collection centre of “Incontri”)]
access to a plot-line from the literary text screens
and immediate access to a synopsis
[M1 (from each text screen), M3 (already on the homepage, before
the reader enters the literary text screens), MD2 (from each
text screen), RJ1 (already on the homepage, before the reader
enters the literary text screens)]
the literary text screens, access to the summary of the part
of the literary text to which the page the reader is exploring
[DC2, DC5, H1, M3, RJ1]
the literary text screens, access to descriptions of the place
where the narrated events happen
the literary text screens, access to summaries of the other
parts of the literary text
[H2 (even if it is less direct because the reader moves to another
collection), M1, M2, MD2, O1 (already on the homepage and before
entering the text!)]
division of the text of a given part among several different
screens follows a semantic criterion, that is, it aims at reflecting
the sense of the text (not a fixed number of verses per screen,
but narrated episodes)
6 – Example of classification of reading strategies representations.
In the right column are the detected devices. For instance, screen
backgrounds, access to maps and schemes. In the central column these
devices are grouped according to the low-level reading strategies
they represent. In the left column the low-level reading strategies
are grouped according to the high-level reading strategies they
contribute to represent.
to classify contents, devices and tools present in the application
according to the low- and high-level reading strategy they represent
is not enough in order to clarify the new condition the second order
representation introduces on the act of reading literary texts in
HT. Besides the second order representation itself, it is necessary
to take into consideration the goal of the user of a HT and her/his
The goal of the user of a HT can be defined as the success of the
act of reading the literary text. In other words, the goal is the
literary text’s comprehension. Such a comprehension is reached
by the user in different ways, owing to the major task s/he has
(or wants) to accomplish. It is possible that the user has or wants
to read the literary text, to study the literary text or to conduct
some specific research on the literary text. These are three different
user’s tasks, which can also be viewed as three different
modalities in which the act of reading the literary text (which
remains the basic activity in HT) can be carried out. Reading the
literary text refers to immersive reading, that is, to the kind
of reading that is considered to be characteristic of literary reading
and that places at the core of the act of reading the interaction
between text and reader’s images, memories and desires. Studying
the literary text refers to a situation where the reader needs to
acquire a systematic knowledge about the literary text. Researching
the literary text refers to a situation where the reader uses the
hypertextual transposition in order to build a knowledge that was
not made explicit by the authors in the HT contents.
For each HT it is possible to define the user’s goal and task.
Concretely, the user’s major task appears from the information
provided in the HT itself. Sometimes, it is explicitly declared.
Sometimes, it has to be defined on the base of its intended audience.
For instance, if the intended audience of a given HT is composed
of students, it is likely that the major user’s task is studying
the literary text.
User’s goal and task allow us to define the adequacy of the
second order representation. In fact, we can now say that a reading
strategy is adequate when it allows the reader to reach the goal
by accomplishing the major task. What counts is the adequacy of
the second order representation, not the second order representation
From these considerations a model of the act of reading a literary
text in HT can be derived, that highlights the adequacy of the represented
reading strategies (cf. fig. 7). The act of reading the literary
text in HT can be conceptualized as a pyramid, the vertex of which
is the literary text’s comprehension (that is, the user’s
goal). The user’s major task coincides with the perimeter
of the pyramid. The reaching of the vertex within a given perimeter
is allowed by a combination of reading strategies represented in
the hypertextual transposition. The pyramid surface coincides with
the combination of represented reading strategies (in fig. 7 each
number identifies one of the detected high-level reading strategies).
The reaching of the literary text’s comprehension depends
on the representation of the combination of reading strategies,
which is the most adequate considering the major task the user has
Fig. 7 – Model of the act of reading a literary text in HT.
a consequence, we can say that the importance of each high-level
reading strategy depends on the major user’s task. For instance,
if the major user’s task of a given application has been identified
as being “reading the literary text”, strategies 3.1
(“paying attention to the literary text”) or 4 (“getting
immersed in the reading experience”) are important, while
they are less important if the major user’s task is studying
the literary text or researching the literary text. Therefore, the
second order representation of this HT will be considered adequate
only if reading strategies 3.1 and 4 are widely and clearly represented.
Only if this happens, the second order representation assures the
success of the act of reading. If the major user’s task is
studying the literary text, strategies 2.2 (“integrating information
provided by added materials and annotations with the meaning of
the passage of the literary text it refers to”) and 3.3 (“exploring
further information”) will be important and, therefore, their
wide and clear representation within the application will be essential.
If the major user’s task is researching the literary text,
strategy 5 (“investigating the literary text according to
‘personal’ needs or questions”) and their adequate
representation will be important.
Comparing HT and printed editions of literary texts as to the presence
of a second order representation, we notice that, to a certain extent,
reading strategies representations are also present in printed editions
of literary texts. It is for instance the case of indexes, which
are devices that can have an influence upon the way in which the
text is accessed. However, in printed editions, mainly reading strategies
remain implicit. In HT their representation is of higher importance.
There, reading strategies that are usually implicit when reading
the literary text in a printed form, have to be made explicit, that
is, they have to be represented.
The reason of the major importance reading strategies representations
have in HT comes from the above-described two main characteristics
of hypertext, namely the physical fragmentation of contents and
the particular presupposition of hypertext. Since contents are fragmented
and since no canonical reading order is presupposed, the reader
needs more explicit devices in order to build the coherence during
the act of reading. In a printed edition such elements are implicitly
present on the base of the presupposition that the reader will begin
her/his act of reading from the beginning of the text towards its
end. The reading strategy in the case of a printed text is taken
for granted, while in a hypertext (more specifically, in a HT) it
is not, since there this presupposition drops. This could simply
be a cultural problem (we are not yet used to HT), but it could
also be a technological one (a problem deriving from a feature of
The higher importance reading strategies representations have in
HT in respect to printed editions is proved by the fact that the
non-explicitation of given reading strategies creates an obstacle
preventing the reader to put this reading strategy into effect.
This means that their non-representation can prevent readers from
an effective act of reading. It is for instance the case of the
use of scrolling menus in the text’s collection. They prevent
the reader to have an overview upon the whole content of the collection
and, therefore, upon the position of a given scene in respect to
the whole (cf. fig. 8).
Fig. 8 – M3 – Use of scrolling menus.
example is constituted by situations in which, once the reader entered
the literary text collection, only the possibility to move forward
in browsing the literary text is represented. This prevents him
to move back, to previous pages (cf. fig. 9). This is absolutely
impossible in a printed edition.
Fig. 9 – MD1 – Text screen and detail showing that the
reader can only move forward.
the explicitation of reading strategies and their adequacy in respect
to the user’s goal and task constitute essential conditions
for the success of the act of reading literary texts in HT. The
second order representation has to be adequate.
A key-point of the second order representation is constituted by
the interpretation of hyperlinks. This is for two reasons. First,
in order for the reader to adequately perform a given reading strategy,
it is necessary that the access to such contents appears meaningful
to him. The reader needs to grasp the semantics of the hyperlink,
to understand to which content the link provide access. For instance,
in order to adequately perform reading strategy “Gaining an
overview on the whole narrated story”, it is necessary that
the link providing access to a map, a scheme or a text summarizing
the story appears clear to him. Second, understanding the semantics
related to each type of link available in the HT allows the reader
to become acquainted with certain rules lying at the base of the
application. The knowledge of these rules allows the reader to perform
the adequate reading strategy. The performance of the adequate reading
strategy depends on a regularity that the reader can perceive only
in observing the signs made available by the author/designer.
In order to clarify the working of this crucial point of the second
order representation, we studied hyperlinks from a semiotic point
of view, by describing them as signs and by describing the process
of interpretation the user has to perform in front of them.
“Hyperlink” signs are composed of an anchor (the perceptible
part of the link, its strategy of manifestation) and of a function,
which is the signified, the meaning. But hyperlinks as signs are
characterized by the fact that within the link’s meaning two
layers can be distinguished. First, the link is a proposal, an invitation,
of the author for the continuation of the communication. Second,
this proposal of the author contains a promise of relevance.
Because of the presence of these two layers within the link’s
meaning, when interpreting a link, the user always has to apply
at the same time two of processes of interpretation: one in order
to identify the link as an invitation, a proposal, and another one
in order to understand its relevance. The process of interpretation
the user uses in order to interpret the link as an invitation is
always an indexical process. This means that the user’s reasoning
is the following “Since this word is underlined in blue colour,
here there is a possibility to go on in the communication”.
The process the user uses in order to interpret the relevance can
be an indexical, but also an iconic or a symbolic process of interpretation.
For instance, “Since the word ‘Virgilio’ is underlined
in the literary text, clicking there, I will get information about
who Virgil is”. These two different processes of interpretation
are interlaced. Usually the first one is not problematic, it is
almost automatic, while the second one is difficult; it is the one
where misunderstandings can occur.
In the analyzed HT we noticed that two modalities are used in order
to avoid such misunderstandings. First, iconic processes of interpretation
(which are the most risky ones) are avoided by making available
in HT links requiring only indexical or symbolic processes of interpretation.
Second, the reference to common practices of the field of literary
annotation and criticism are exploited in order to make the hyperlink’s
interpretation easier. For instance, the underlined words or expressions
used in fig. 10 exploit a common practice in literary criticism.
In fact, also in footnotes of printed editions usually happens that
different kinds of comment are provided and the reader cannot predict
which kind of comment he will find by reading the footnote.
Fig. 10 – MM1 – Underlined words or
expressions as hyperlinks.
it is for the explicitation of reading strategies and for their
adequacy in respect to the user’s goal and task, also the
use of anchors for hyperlinks avoiding processes of interpretation
that can be misleading is an important condition for the success
of the act of reading literary texts in HT.
adopted semiotic-hermeneutic perspective allowed us to identify
two main features of HT entailing risks for the effectiveness of
their use, namely for the success of the user’s process of
interpretation and comprehension. Such findings alert HT designers
to take care, on the one side, of the use of images as explicative
means in the perspective of the user’s understanding of the
function of these images in respect to the literary text and, on
the other side, of the adequacy of the second order representation
in respect to the user’s goal and tasks.
Beyond HT, this semiotic-hermeneutic perspective could be fruitfully
applied to other kind of hypermedial applications. Our first step
toward this direction of research (we applied this perspective to
hypermedial applications dealing with health communication topics;
cf. Mazzali-Lurati & Schulz 2003) proved to provide interesting
The first works on hypertext and literature make constant reference
to theorists such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and Michel
Foucault. Cf. Bolter 1991, 2001; Joyce 1995; Landow 1997.
2 They ranged from the claim that
hypertext has an associative nature that reflects the way in which
human mind works better than printed texts, to the claim that hypertext
provided new possibilities for literature teaching and learning,
bringing students to become more active (for instance, by allowing
them to contribute to the creation of the hypertext itself by adding
new connections to the ones established by the hypertext’s
author or by learning from the reasoning that led the teacher or
the expert to create given connections) (cf. particularly Landow
3 In our study we analyzed seventeen
hypertextual transpositions, devoted to different genres of literary
texts, namely hypertextual transpositions of Dante’s Divine
Comedy, some of Shakespeare’s plays (Hamlet, Macbeth and A
Midsummer Night’s Dream), of Homer’s Odyssey, of Boccaccio’s
Decameron and of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man. In the following
all the analyzed applications are indicated through abbreviations.
Complete references are provided at the end of this paper in the
4 We assume that the act of reading
entails two levels: an operational level and a semantic-cognitive
level. The operational level has to do with the manipulation of
the artefact, while the semantic-cognitive level has to do with
the understanding of the text. Reading strategies have to do with
both levels; they allow the reader to manage these two levels in
order to reach the literary text’s comprehension.
5 It is important to assure the
reader the possibility to perform these reading strategies. In order
to help this, we identified for each reading strategy a design pattern.
That is, for each reading strategy a reusable design solution has
been identified, the aim of which is to overcome the difficulties
preventing readers from adequately perform reading strategies. For
instance, to reading strategy 2.1 “situating the part of the
literary text the user is exploring within the whole of the narration”
corresponds a design pattern “sustaining the reader’s
orientation within the whole of the narration” that proposes
as a solution an easy access to devices such as summaries, plots,
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Graduated in Italian literature at the “Faculté
des Lettres” of the University of Fribourg,
Professor of Semiotics and Vice-director of the
Linguistics-Semiotics Institute of the School of Communication Sciences
at University of Lugano, Italia.