As part of the ENG 488: Hypertext, Graphic Novels & Pulp Fiction class at CCSU, English majors and graduate students are writing responses to some of the work in prior issues of our journal, underscoring the usefulness of electronic literature in the classroom.
I-Pledge provides the audience an opportunity to rewrite the Pledge, proclaiming allegiance to individual principles and values. As a collection of user-created material, the project is an amalgamation of discrete pieces which follow the established format of the Pledge of Allegiance. This creates an experience for the viewer: scrolling through the massed submissions becomes a monotonous exercise punctuated by some exceedingly poignant statements about contemporary cultural values. These statements demand moments of reflection, goading the viewer into an introspective examination of each pledge, accepting or rejecting every submission to refine his or her own potential pledge.
The simple interface makes the project approachable, but ultimately limits the user’s access to the available submissions. This decision seems calculated, both to appeal to the casual viewer and as a reflection of thematic implications. Just as the audience is not (or should not be) expected to read every pledge, it is inconceivable for any single individual to fully understand the desires and motivations of every member of his or her society. In this way, I-Pledge walks through a crowded party, shaking hands with each guest in turn and asking the question, “To what do you pledge allegiance?” As such, I-Pledge is an expression of each contributor’s identity, a series of aspirations and allegiances of varying levels of attainability.
The project itself is both interesting and ambitious, and it relies heavily upon the faith of its audience and contributors. While perusing the work, one can never be certain that the author of any particular pledge is being honest. This may bear more heavily on the viewer, but it is an ever-present reminder of the prominence of sarcasm and ennui in contemporary society. The project encourages the audience to weigh each submission against his or her own values, to consider the motivations behind each author’s statement, to repeatedly formulate his or her own pledge, and to define the relationship between the individual and the society-at-large.
by Steven Nelson
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