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Tag Archives: Multiplicity

Multiplicity, Calvino’s final completed Memo, views “the novel as an encyclopedia, method of knowledge, and a method of connections.” I take this to mean the novel functions as a compilation of allusions to the rest of our world and culture. Imagine any novel and think of just how many allusions and references to Earth it contains. Carlo Emilio Gadda represented the world as a tangled knot of these references, because everything in the world linked to everything else in some way, either close or distant.

Because of this, Calvino has a particular love for overambitious novels that try to pack in as many references and allusions to things as possible. This creates an even more complex network within the story and truly gives it life.


A perfect analogy to describe Multiplicity is the use of tags and links in internet culture. Hyperlinks allow the world wide web’s user interface to become even more streamlined than print, allowing instant access to new information by merely clicking on it. Links can lead to an infinite number of pages, wherever the mind wishes to go.


A website like specializes in links as conduits of information. On can spend hours on the site, clicking between links and reading endless amount of information that seems to be growing at an exponential rate. It’s a constantly growing hive of information that I think is one great example of Multiplicity one can find on the web.

The best emblem to depict Multiplicity would have to be a simple encyclopedia. It perfectly describes the concept Calvino describes of having a wealth of references that refer to things from our culture. An encyclopedia is itself a knot of information, used to refer to important things in society that require explanation. It is a gateway to general knowledge about the world.


While I used’s linking process as my analogy, the site was inspired by the inadequacy of print encyclopedias, and those were probably inspired by the amount of references novels would make. Readers wanted a source of knowledge they could refer to when a novel made a passing allusion to something they knew nothing about; thus, the encyclopedia was born.

“Rice” by geniwate serves as an excellent example of the nature of Multiplicity. The piece is posed as a collage of images and cultural logos focusing on themes and current events from Vietnam. It is dripping with cultural reference, as I find myself wondering what some them are, ignorant as I am on the history of Vietnam.


I think because these references are unknown to me, that makes them all the more alluring. Clearly some are supposed to refer to dark or disturbing events, because the tone of the work implies it. I assume someone who knew more than I about Vietnam would be more emotionally affected by it, rather than intrigued. Whichever the case, the references and icons in the work are representative allusions to the culture of the country and period, insights to that time.

“Rice” can be found here.

Hayles points out in her book that George Landow and Jay David Bolter stressed that the hyperlink is the defining feature of electronic literature. And I agree, the hyperlink adds a completely new dimension to literature, one previously unavailable to print. Prior to E-Lit, the best option print had available to it was a table of contents, or perhaps the narrative choices offered by a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Hyperlinks drastically increase the speed and digression of discourse, allowing a reader to peruse a multitude of topics in a random order and sometimes simultaneously.

Critics argue that readers are limited to following scripted links in E-Lit, but to me this is hypocritical. I could also argue that readers are only limited by what the author has printed on the page, as opposed to what he has coded into the scripts, so I don’t think that argument has any merit. Literary works will always be defined and restricted by the author’s imagination, whether they are print or electronic. Links simply allow for more freedom and disjointed continuity, as opposed to print texts which are strictly linear. The hyperlink is indeed crucial to the formation of E-Lit and a piece’s Multiplicity.