Patchwork Odysseus: Reimagining Frankenstein as a Hyperlink Epic Poem

Coming into this project, I knew I wanted to create something that blended what I had learned as a New Media student and my passion as an English major. Of course, the two already went very well together, as this class was an English elective that focused heavily on narrative and rhetoric as much as it did new media culture and history.

Before this class, I had previously read both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and many of Homer’s epic poems. What I hadn’t yet experienced was Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, an immersive hypertext narrative experience which introduced me to an entirely new medium of literature.


After reading Patchwork Girl and rereading Frankenstein for this class, I knew I had a great opportunity to attempt my own interpretation of (both) Shelley’s work. For my fresh new lens, I decided to reconstruct the story of Frankenstein as an epic poem. I decided on this lens because while rereading Frankenstein, I was struck by how many overt references there were to Greek mythology. The “Modern Prometheus,” the concept of hubris and likening oneself to a god, the commentary on femininity and wifehood.

This quickly proved to be incredibly labor intensive to start. The main body of my work would of course be my lexia, in the same medium as Shelley Jackson’s but in the writing style of Homer with content from Mary Shelley. In order to fully connect many of the aforementioned themes between works of Homer’s and Frankenstein, I basically had to reread both The Odyssey (my choice of inspiration) and Frankenstein another time. However, I’m very glad that I did this, as I think it not only made my final hyperlink narrative fully connected and fluid, but it helped me realize a new interpretation and appreciation for both works. In the end, the main four themes I connected between the texts became the four source links on the main page of my final project: Modern Prometheus, which is about Shelley and womanhood; journey, which is about travel and isolation; hubris, which is the desire to become godlike; and alive or dead, which is about the nature of humanity and companionship.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.42.28 PM.png

To make my hypertext true to Shelley’s form, I had to create a website where I could begin creating and hyperlinking pages to one another. I chose WordPress, due to my existing familiarity with it thanks to this class! I struggled a lot initially with formatting the site so it felt similarly minimal and easy to navigate like Patchwork Girl. To achieve the minimalist and “stumbled upon” vibe, I had to leave all of my pages untitled, which made it very confusing when I had to construct my final map linking all the lexia to one another. There is probably a much easier way to do this somewhere out there, but it all worked eventually.

My favorite part in constructing my hypertext were the pages where multiple lexia were offered as an option. Here, my epic poem reconstruction became a sort of choose-your-own-adventure in the same way as Patchwork Girl, where there is not one linear way to read my text. An example of this is a page under “Modern Prometheus,” which gives you two choices: pity or admiration.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.58.24 PM.png

If you choose pity, you are taken to another page with three possible different lexia to click on, each offering their own story. If you choose admiration, you are taken to one lexia on a long path of many others, which has a different tone than the above stories.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.58.43 PM.png

In the end, this project taught me a lot about navigating WordPress and working through mazes of hypertext. It gave me new appreciation for Shelley Jackson, who wrote and linked hundreds of lexia to my fiftyish over two years. Even with my small number of poems, the maze I created was already quite complicated and hard to track. I can only imagine her storyboard looked like that of a deranged cop trying to solve a 40-year old serial killer cold case.

See mine for yourself! Link to my hypertext project:

A Definition I’m Com-fort-able With

Jake Karlsruher

“The outer defenses are wea—

“The outer defenses will hold!  You need to start planning the counter offensive and stop worrying about the integrity of the base”

“Yes, sir, on it sir.  The enemy approaches!  Prepare for defensive measures?”

“Yes lieutenant, ready the archers.”

“Archers Ready!”

“…Brace yourself….”


Andrew the Conqueror, my older brother, poked his head out of our blanket and cushion fort; he was mortified. “MOMMM!  NOT NOW!”

Andrew and I never played cops and robbers.  We played Fort.  I loved Fort; it got me through 11th grade.  Kidding.  But seriously, Andrew and I defended that Fort with our lives. Were we participating in a game, or was this simply play?  Or was it a desperate attempt to fill our heads with illusions of grandeur because we were too afraid to talk to girls?  It was probably the latter, but we’ll focus on the first question: Game or Play?

For something to be a game, it must only follow one rule: there are rules.  All parties involved in playing the game must agree on these rules.  Once these rules are broken, the game collapses, and the activity is now play.  If the America is a Gamespace, then play would be chaos.  Forget that entire chart we saw in class.  The only true indication of a game is whether there are rules.   Fort is game: Andrew and I knew we had to be in the Fort at certain hours of the day, the Fort must be defended at all costs, and leaving the Fort would result in certain death.  There was no quantifiable outcome but there were two parties agreeing on a rule set.   A kid jumping on a trampoline is play, but it is not a game.  There are no rules governing how the kid must jump.

I can hear Thumser complaining about it now.  “But the trampoline could be game where your knees are one person and the trampoline is the other and you all agree on gravity and pain.”  My brilliant opinions only work if you use true definitions and don’t stretch the truth.  By stretching definitions I could prove Winston Churchill was a carrot ( or that girls are truly the Root of all Evil. homerthinkingAs the real Homer once said “Facts are meaningless.  You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true. ”

proof_that_girls_r_evilInstead, defining a game requires reason.  I think of it as my Big Lebowski Theorem (“This isn’t Nam, Donnie.  There are rules”).  Are there truly rules on which all people agree?  If yes, you’re in a game.  If not, then it is just play…or Nam.