Ellen Strenski
University of California at Irvine

"Now that are the characteristic marks of the sea-anemone which entitle it to be removed from the hands of the botanist and placed in those of the zoologist?"
(George Eliot quoted in Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger 90).

The "characteristic marks" of e-mail, like those of the ambiguously hybrid sea-anemone, are provocative. E-mail is a new medium generated by a new technology; cyberspace is a new social environment precipating new subjectivities. As epistolary art, it is also very old, at least as old as Ovid's Heroides. That it should inspire the making of connections between such seemingly disparate phenomena as cpu's, letters, listservers, eros, rituals, exchanges, flaming, is in keeping with its collage-like, associative, conductive logic of accretion. Much public discourse about cyberspace (see Mark Mullen's chapter) mistakenly puts e-mail on the same level as a transaction with an automated teller machine. However, humanists, especially rhetoricians, should appreciate and value the richly powerful and dangerous "noise" embodied literally, if ambiguously in hybrid form, in this gift exchange of electronic conversation. Acknowledgments

My sincere gratitude goes to my UCI colleagues, Eric D. Friedman, John Hollowell, David Plotkin, and Jim Tarter, for their generous attention to previous drafts of this chapter.

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The Rhetorical Dimensions of Cyberspace

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