"Mystory" is Gregory Ulmer's coinage for an emerging, hybrid genre. It dramatizes the shift that occurs when writers forground invention (heuretics) instead of interpretation (hermeneutics).
Constructing a mystory, Ulmer suggests, helps us anticipate or actually invent a rhetoric or poetics for electronic space, for it leads us to practice the "picto-ideo-phonographic writing" fostered by electronic technology and theorized by Derrida. Of his own experiments with mystory (many of which are published at his homepage), Ulmer writes:
They were designed to simulate the experience of invention, the crossing of discourses that has been shown to occur in the invention process. Realizing that learning is much closer to invention than to verification, I intended mystoriography primarily as a pedagogy. The modes of academic writing now taught in school tend to be positioned on the side of the already known rather than on the side of wanting to find out (of theoretical curiosity) and hence discourage learning how to learn. (1994: xii)
Mystory, then, is not intended to simulate a "real life" writing experience; it is not a lesson in narrative, this year's way to encourage student writers to share personal experiences. Rather, mystory should be regarded as a laboratory experiment, a pedagogical exercise that requires students to practice the art of speculation and invention.
Instead of concerning themselves with topography--with revisiting the places or topos traversed by storytellers--mystorians chorograph. Between being and becoming, chora--a word developed by Plato in Timaeus and defined by Francis Cornford as "space" or "receptacle"--is maddeningly resistant to interpretation (1994: 63). Still, through a route that I shall not retrace, Ulmer finds a powerful simile for chora in the musical term "riff," and he recommends that mystorians learn to write with patterns that function more like music than like concepts" (1994: 91).
Eureka! James Sears was a chorographer. He forsook melody and harmony for riffs, the endlessly repeated rhythmic figures of James Brown. Or as Barthes might have put it: James symbolically dropped the sequential codes that order classical narratives--codes that reveal truth and codes that coordinate actions--for the reversible codes that characterize modern texts (1974: 29). Ulmer would simply say that James found an alternative to "the logic of classical reasoning" and "the interest of problem solving" (1989a: 50). Instead of playing the role of analyst or cultural critic, he served as a channel, patterning and relaying information. He is emblematic of the cyberwriter.
To find out even more about mystory, see: