Many others before me have expressed difficulty with beginnings, Michel Foucault being among the chief spokespersons. Foucault's perspective is couched in terms of discourse. His wish is to seamlessly enter the discourse, to be part of the path of the discourse, blending in with what came before and with what will come after. Barton and Barton have likewise expressed the desire to elude the "uneasy occupation of the space constituted by the preface" ("Preface/Metapreface" 3).
The problem for the Bartons and Foucault, as well as Barthes, Derrida and others is that, though the preface/introduction is a part of the convention of scholarly writing in print, it is also a game involving time and space.
Beginnings in hypertext are problematic because there is no way to determine where readers "begin" in an open hypertext (one in which readers have the opportunity to choose any node at any time). Any information authors put into a beginning might never be seen by readers. Introductory material, therefore, becomes background information. Introductory material may be useful to readers to know where the author stands on certain positions ( for example, in this work, my thoughts on postmodernism), but the information may not be part of a particular argument.
The preface, on the other hand, with its detachment from the text about which it is written is actually is less problematic in hypertext. The term "preface," with its implication of "coming before," is still difficult, but the material in the preface fits better into the hypertext than into print. Thus Derrida's complaint, "Here is what I wrote, then read, and what I am writing that you are going to read," is resolved with hypertext's ability to put any node next to another: readers can seamlessly switch between the "preface" and the work. The preface simply becomes another thread in the work.
An Introduction? Derrida on the Preface
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