Agrippa (a Book of The Dead) - Critical Reception and Influence

Critical Reception and Influence

Agrippa was extremely influential—as a sigil for the artistic community to appreciate the potential of electronic media—for the extent to which it entered public consciousness. It caused a fierce controversy in the art world, among museums and among libraries. It challenged established notions of permanence of art and literature, and, as Ashbaugh intended, raised significant problems for archivists seeking to preserve it for the benefit of future generations.

Agrippa was particularly well received by critics, with digital media theorist Peter Lunenfeld describing it in 2001 as "one of the most evocative hypertexts published in the 1990s". Professor of English literature John Johnson has claimed that the importance of Agrippa stems not only from its "foregrounding of mediality in an assemblage of texts", but also from the fact that "media in this work are explicitly as passageways to the realm of the dead". The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature, which described the poem as "a mournful text", praised Agrippa's inventive use of digital format. However, academic Joseph Tabbi remarked in a 2008 paper that Agrippa was among those works that are "canonized before they have been read, resisted, and reconsidered among fellow authors within an institutional environment that persists in time and finds outlets in many media".

In a lecture at the exhibition of Agrippa at the Center for Book Arts in New York City, semiotician Marshall Blonsky of New York University drew an allusion between the project and the work of two French literary figures—philosopher Maurice Blanchot (author of "The Absence of the Book"), and poet Stéphane Mallarmé, a 19th-century forerunner of semiotics and deconstruction. In response to Blonsky's analysis that "he collaborators in Agrippa are responding to a historical condition of language, a modern skepticism about it", Gibson disparagingly commented "Honest to God, these academics who think it's all some sort of big-time French philosophy—that's a scam. Those guys worship Jerry Lewis, they get our pop culture all wrong."

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