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The Four Media - Part Two

The World Wide Web requires viewers to navigate websites by clicking on hyperlinks that reveal new features and facts. This process facilitates self-reflection as the scholar considers the processes required to uncover the ‘self’ of the text. ‘The viewer acknowledges that she is in the presence of a medium and learns through acts of mediation ... the experience of the medium is itself an experience of the real’.iii This is a consequence of what Bolter and Grusin term ‘remediation’, that is the publication of old texts in new media.

Remediation offers special advantages for the scholar of autobiography because it increases our awareness of the kinds of questions we ask of the text, thereby enabling us to shift our attention to the process as well as the final product. This gives us insights into two distinct but complementary processes: how the creator of the text acted upon as well as in the text, and how we analyse autobiographical texts.

By focusing on both process and product, it becomes possible to identify the ‘I’ behind and in the text. In the two articles published here, two forms of the narrative ‘I’ are singled out for special attention: the ‘narrating’ and the ‘narrated’. The narrated ‘I’ represents two different kinds of hero: the memoir, sketches and diaries depict a soldier in bondage, bravely struggling for survival but powerless to influence his circumstances. The photographs, on the other hand, present a hero who transcends his situation. He is a sergeant, in control of others as well as his environment, and invariably the central figure. He is almost always in the foreground.

Draycot’s representations of war should be viewed as fiction, not least because, as autobiographical texts, they are designed to conceal as well as reveal.iv The exclusion of the element of fear is a particularly pertinent example.v As will be discussed in the ‘Narrating “I”’ section, the memoir, sketches and diaries belong to the low-mimetic mode of fiction as defined by Northrop Frye, while the photographs belong to the myth/romance mode. The narrating and narrated ‘I’ of the different modes reflect what ‘was’ as well as what ‘could have been’. Both are rooted in disappointment. All four representations were preserved with pride by their creator and, with the exception of the photographs, underwent several revisions until very late in life.

iii Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA and London: The MIR Press, 1999).
iv ‘Autobiography and the Cultural Moment: A Thematic, Historical, and Bibliographical Introduction’, in James Olney (Ed.), Autobiography. Essays Theoretical and Critical (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980).
v Fear is an important element in many of the war memoirs, both earlier and later. See, for example, Captain A.O. Pollard, Fire-Eater. The Memoirs of a V.C. (London: Hutchinson, 1932); Wilfred R. Bion, War Memoirs 1917-1919, edited by Francesca Bion (London: Karnac Books, 1997); and Harry Patch, The Last Fighting Tommy. The Life of Harry Patch, the Only Surviving Veteran of the Trenches (London: Bloomsbury, 2008). Further examples of fear are discussed in the ‘Autobiography, Identity and Fiction’ section, footnote ii.

Next: The Four Media - Part Three
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