Embodiment in A Wonderkammer

The following is a fan work of Shelley Jackson's My Body: a Wonderkammer

N. Katherine Hayles wrote, in How We Became Posthuman, “What do gendered bodies have to do with the erasure of embodiment and the subsequent merging of machine and human intelligence in the figure of the cyborg?” (Hayles xii). In My Body, a Wonderkammer, Shelley Jackson uses the hypertext format to describe her relationship with her body. Immediately, our intuitive grasp of embodiment is of the mechanical ways our own bodies can interact with one another: the potentials, and the givens of contact, finally the continuity of our flesh. Jackson, on the other hand, establishes pointers between body parts and related experiences as they relate “conceptually” to one another, which form a unique, cyborgian structure of her body. Yet the text has no illusions about how transformative it is not. Jackson engages with a mapped body, and potential readers’ ideas about what a body should be. Additionally, she engages with the notion of a Wonderkammer – a cabinet of curiosities, or a collection of unusual objects on display in a wealthy person’s room. These rooms were prior to the modern museum, but Jackson also engages with the more straightforward literal of her title.

As a collection of objects, Jackson’s compartmentalized body appears to make discrete each of its pieces in the way we might normally talk about them – arms, legs, eyes, feet, toes, and so on. At /body.html, we are shown an incomplete sitemap as a diagram of Jackson’s body, presenting us several starting points – one could argue that the body itself serves as a starting point, but given the format of the work is primarily in writing with supplementary diagrams, it is safe to say that engagement with the text is by reading it.

There is also to be understood a logical construction of ideas, or at least an explanation to how Jackson is writing, where language introduced elsewhere in the hypertext alludes to understanding this page as well. For instance, comparison to others’ bodies is a near-constant theme in the piece, but only legs, feet, skin, and breasts lead one there – whereas /others_bodies.html sinks into eyes. The simple reason why connections don’t exist here is because they are not the continuity Jackson wanted to emphasize.