Frequently Asked Questions about "Hypertext"
What is “Hypertext”?
2. What are the Richards Criteria?
3. Who are you?
4. What is the Popular Interpretation?
5. And the Texas/Bush School?
6. Can you summarize the Technosexual Reading?
• 7. How about the Richards Posttranssexual Rereading?
8. What's the story with the fan fiction and the double murder?
9. Who am I?
7. How about the Richards Posttranssexual Rereading?
Although Richard Allman apparently rewrote history with his Technosexual Reading by anticipating the sex change before it actually occurred, he effectively outed Ellen Richards. And it didn't take you literary detectives long to confirm from public records that Ellen Richards was indeed the former Alan Richardson, the wealthy, diminutive author of “Hypertext” him/herself.
Forced into public visibility, Ellen Richards had failed the common goal of transsexuals to “pass” and thus disappear back into the hegemonic binary gender system. She therefore took the next logical step, seizing upon “Hypertext” as a subversive, reconstructive force (“an intertextual tissue of embodied texts that disrupt the dominant discourse about sexuality”) whose effect is to transcend the black-and-white, the either-or, of Male and Female. This became known as the Posttranssexual or Posttranny Rereading.
Regarding the awkward real-life scene when Richards revealed her sexuality to Allman, or when (like the surprised Dick Hellton in FAQ #3) Allman discovered the truth for himself, we unfortunately have only hints and innuendo. We do know that Ellen Richards fired off a letter to Technopoetics (titled by the editors “Penile Provocation”) asserting that Allman's controversial reading was
...not an interpretation so much as a heterosexist response to a failed love affair, self-loathing, and guilt—his transphobic disgust at having so vigorously loved a man-woman with a man-made (if nearly perfect) neovagina.
In his fanciful narrative, Allman projects his own crossdressing fantasies onto "Ellen Richard" and "Eric Taylor." To assuage his homosexual panic, he has sublimated everything into a contest for the meaning of technosexuality, noting the emasculating effects but blind to the potential empowerment of the female "sex machine."
Ellen Richards offered an alternative narrative, equally plausible, in which Allman persuades his sex-changed lover to role-play female cyborg critic Donna Haraway dressed up like Lucy Lawless in Xena: The Warrior Princess, complete with metal breastplate (Text Rx) adapted from Madonna and Robot-Maria in Metropolis.
Then Allman can’t get it up.
“Shall we analyze the textuality of erectile dysfunction?” Richards asked rhetorically, detailing her Posttranssexual Reading in “Post-Pyrex ‘Hypertext’: Domesticating the Cyborg” (American Journal of Gender Dysphoria).
The final irony of the pre-Pyrex trope, she said, was that “transgendered women, no less than biological women, end up in the kitchen” (like Richards herself, FAQ #7).
The public outing and ad hominem attacks brought the literary infighting briefly from the academic journals into the mainstream press and tabloids ("Sexperts, Lovers Can’t Tell Tranny Professor from the Real Thing!" proclaimed the Weekly World News). The waiting lists swelled for both Richards' and Allman's courses at Stanford.
Surprisingly, the Popular Interpretation (FAQ #4), instead of falling out of favor with the news that its major contributor was actually the poem's author with a new sexual identity, enjoyed a bit of a revival; jaded 21st century readers simply shrugged that the author’s reading of her own work was no more deluded than any other.
On the eve of the Tenth Annual “Hypertext” Symposium, the Posttranssexual Rereading had made Ellen Richards a leading candidate for Comeback Critic of the Year. Moreover, after years of critical and personal estrangement, Richards and Allman would appear together on the same panel (FAQ #8).