Notes towards a Deformed Humanities

Origami CraneI’ve gone on record as saying that the digital humanities is not about building. It’s about sharing. I stand by that declaration. But I’ve also been thinking about a complementary mode of learning and research that is precisely the opposite of building things. It is destroying things.

I want to propose a theory and practice of a Deformed Humanities. A humanities born of broken, twisted things. And what is broken and twisted is also beautiful, and a bearer of knowledge. The Deformed Humanities is an origami crane—a piece of paper contorted into an object of startling insight and beauty.

I come to the Deformed Humanities (DH) by way of a most traditional route—textual scholarship. In 1999 Lisa Samuels and Jerry McGann published an essay about the power of what they call “deformance.” This is a portmanteau that combines the words performance and deform into an interpretative concept premised upon deliberately misreading a text, for example, reading a poem backwards line-by-line.

As Samuels and McGann put it, reading backwards “short circuits” our usual way of reading a text and “reinstalls the text—any text, prose or verse—as a performative event, a made thing” (Samuels & McGann 30). Reading backwards revitalizes a text, revealing its constructedness, its seams, edges, and working parts.

In many ways this idea of textual transformation as an interpretative maneuver is nothing new. Years before Samuels and McGann suggested reading backward as the paradigmatic deformance, the influential composition professor Peter Elbow suggested reading a poem backwards as a way to “breathe life into a text” (Elbow 201).

Still, Samuels and McGann point out that “deformative scholarship is all but forbidden, the thought of it either irresponsible or damaging to critical seriousness” (Samuels & McGann 34–35). Yet deformance has become a key methodology of the branch of digital humanities that focuses on text analysis and data-mining.

This is an argument that Steve Ramsay makes in Reading Machines. Computers let us practice deformance quite easily, taking apart a text—say, by focusing on only the nouns in an epic poem or calculating the frequency of collocations between character names in a novels.

Deformance is a Hedge

But however much deformance sounds like a progressive interpretative strategy, it actually reinscribes more conventional acts of interpretation. Samuels and McGann suggest—and many digital humanists would agree—that “we are brought to a critical position in which we can imagine things about the text that we did not and perhaps could not otherwise know” (36). And this is precisely what is wrong with the idea of deformance: it always circles back to the text.

Even the word itself—deformance—seems to be a hedge. The word is much more indebted to the socially acceptable activity of performance than the stigmatized word deformity. It reminds me of a scene in Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home, where the adult narrator Alison comments upon her teenage self’s use of the word “horrid” in her diary. “How,” Bechdel muses, “horrid has a slightly facetious tone that strikes me as Wildean. It appears to embrace the actual horror…then at the last second nimbly sidesteps it” (Bechdel 174). In a similar fashion, deformance appears to embrace the actual deformity of a text and then at the last possible moment sidesteps it. The end result of deformance as most critics would have it is a sense of renewal, a sense of de-forming only to re-form.

To evoke a key figure motivating the playfulness Samuels and McGann want to bring to language, deformance takes Humpty Dumpty apart only to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

And this is where I differ.

Humpty DumptyI don’t want to put Humpy Dumpty back together.

Let him lie there, a cracked shell oozing yolk. He is broken. And he is beautiful. The smell, the colors, the flow, the texture, the mess. All of it, it is unavailable until we break things. And let’s not soften our critical blow by calling it deformance. Name it what it is, a deformation.

In my vision of the Deformed Humanities, there is little need to go back to the original. We work—in the Stallybrass sense of the word—not to go back to the original text with a revitalized perspective, but to make an entirely new text or artifact.

The deformed work is the end, not the means to the end.

The Deformed Humanities is all around us. I’m only giving it a name. Mashups, remixes, fan fiction, they are all made by breaking things, with little regard for preserving the original whole. With its emphasis on exploring the insides of things, the Deformed Humanities shares affinities with Ian Bogost’s notion of carpentry, the practice of making philosophical and scholarly inquiries by constructing artifacts rather than writing words. In Alien Phenomenology, Or, What It’s Like to Be a Thing, Bogost describes carpentry as “making things that explain how things make their world” (93). Bogost goes on to highlight several computer programs he’s built in order to think like things—such as I am TIA, which renders the Atari VCS’s “view” of its own screen, an utterly alien landscape compared to what players of the Atari see on the screen. Where carpentry and the Deformed Humanities diverge is in the materials being used. Carpentry aspires to build from scratch, whereas the Deformed Humanities tears apart existing structures and uses the scraps.

For a long while I’ve told colleagues who puzzle over my own seemingly disparate objects of scholarly inquiry that “I study systems that break other systems.” Systems that break other systems is the thread that connects my work with electronic literature, graphic novels, videogames, code studies, and so on. Yet I had never thought about my own work as deformative until earlier this year. And it took someone else to point it out. This was my colleague Tom Scheinfeldt, the managing director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. In February, Scheinfeldt gave a talk at Brown University in which he argued that the game-changing element of the digital humanities was its performative aspect.

Babe RuthScheinfeldt uses Babe Ruth as an analogy. Ruth wasn’t merely the homerun king. He essentially invented homeruns as a strategy, transforming the game. As Scheinfeldt puts it, “the change Ruth made wasn’t engendered by him being able to bunt or steal more effectively than, say, Ty Cobb…it was engendered by making bunting and stealing irrelevant, by doing something completely new.”

Scheinfeldt then picks up on Ramsay’s use of “deformance” to suggest that what’s game-changing about digital technology is the way it allows us “to make and remake” texts in order “to produce meaning after meaning.”

Hacking the Accident

As an example, Scheinfeldt mentions a project of mine, which I had never thought about in terms of deformance. This was a digital project and e-book I made last fall called Hacking the Accident.

Hacking the Accident is a deformed version of Hacking the Academy, an edited collection forthcoming by the digitalculturebooks imprint of the University of Michigan Press. Hacking the Academy is a scholarly book about the disruptive potential of the digital humanities, crowdsourced in one week and edited by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt.

Taking advantage of the generous BY-NC Creative Commons license of the book, I took the entire contents of Hacking the Academy, some thirty something essays by leading thinkers in the digital humanities, and subjected them to the N+7 algorithm used by the Oulipo writers. This algorithm replaces every noun—every person, place, or thing—in Hacking the Academy with the person, place, or thing—mostly things—that comes seven nouns later in the dictionary.

The results of N+7 would seem absolutely nonsensical, if not for the disruptive juxtapositions, startling evocations, and unexpected revelations that ruthless application of the algorithm draws out from the original work. Consider the opening substitution of Hacking the Academy, sustained throughout the entire book: every instance of the word academy is literally an accident.

Other strange transpositions occur. Every fact is a fad and print is a prison. Instructors are insurgents and introductions are invasions. Questions become quicksand. Universities, uprisings. Scholarly associations wither away to scholarly asthmatics. Disciplines are fractured into discontinuities. Writing, the thing that absorbs our lives in the humanities, writing, the thing that we produce and consume endlessly and desperately, writing, the thing upon which our lives of letters is founded—writing, it is mere “yacking” in Hacking the Accident.

These are merely the single word exchanges, but there are longer phrases that are just as striking. Print-based journals turn out as prison-based joyrides, for example. I love that The Chronicle of Higher Education always appears as The Church of Higher Efficiency; it’s as if the newspaper was calling out academia for what it has become—an all-consuming, totalizing quest for efficiency and productivity, instead of a space of learning and creativity.

Consider the deformed opening lines of Cohen’s and Scheinfeldt’s introduction, which quotes from their original call for papers:

[quote style="1"]Can an allegiance edit a joyride? Can a lick exist without bookmarks? Can stunts build and manage their own lecture mandrake playgrounds? Can a configuration be held without a prohibition? Can Twitter replace a scholarly sofa?[/quote]

At the most obvious level, the work is a parody of academic discourse, amplifying the already jargon-heavy language of academia with even more incomprehensible language. But one level down there is a kind of Bakhtinian double-voiced discourse at work, in which the original intent is still there, but infused with meanings hostile to that intent—the print/prison transposition is a good example of this.

I’m convinced that Hacking the Accident is not merely a novelty. It’d be all too easy to dismiss the work as a gag, good for a few amusing quotes and nothing more. But that would overlook the several levels in which Hacking the Accident acts as a kind of intervention into academia. A deformation of the humanities. A deformation that doesn’t strive to put the humanities back together and reestablish the integrity of a text, but rather, a deformation that is a departure, leading us somewhere new entirely.

The Deformed Humanities—though most may not call it that—will prove to be the most vibrant and generative of all the many strands of the humanities. It is a legitimate mode of scholarship, a legitimate mode of doing and knowing. Precisely because it relies on undoing and unknowing.

Works Cited

Ayaroglu, Emre. Grulla. 2008. 19 Feb. 2012. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/emraya/3043088482/>.

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or, What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print.

Elbow, Peter. “Breathing Life into the Text.” When Writing Teachers Teach Literature: Bringing Writing to Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. 193–205. Print.

Ramsay, Stephen. Reading Machines: Toward and Algorithmic Criticism. University of Illinois Press, 2011. Print.

Samuels, Lisa, and Jerome McGann. “Deformance and Interpretation.” New Literary History 30.1 (1999) : 25–56. Print.

Scheinfeldt, Tom. “Game Change: Digital Technology and Performative Humanities.” Found History 15 Feb. 2012. 19 Feb. 2012. <http://www.foundhistory.org/2012/02/15/game-change-digital-technology-and-performative-humanities/>.

Stallybrass, Peter. “Against Thinking.” PMLA 122.5 (2007) : 1580–1587. Print.

38 thoughts on “Notes towards a Deformed Humanities

  1. Great post, Mark. I’m struck, however, by how Hacking the Accident is not simply a deformation as you describe it but also a performance. Part of the power of that piece, whether you’d like to admit it or not, is that it came from you, that it matches your online persona. It wouldn’t have made as much sense for me to have done it (had I even had the idea or the ability to do so). And it is the performance of @samplereality that draws people to look at the deformation. In a way, it’s not that different from Samuels and McGann, whose own performance as literary scholars is what drew attention to deformance in the first place. They were allowed to present such a Bakhtinian idea because they were the high priests when the carnival wasn’t underway. In this case, perhaps, you’re the well-known trickster who is going to put on the garb of the critic once in a while, perhaps even on the day following the upside-downedness of May Day.

    As you’ve pointed out here, there is much to be learned or to be provoked in thinking through what is revealed in deformations. And perhaps if the practice becomes more common it would be possible to decouple it from performance. Until then, if deformation be the food of humanities, play on.

    • I agree with Brian. There’s something about your online persona that starts with something that seems so trite, I’m thinking about the carnivalesque nature of some of your tweets, then turns it into something meaningful and powerful. Your tweets are like little viruses: I can’t decide whether people ignore them because they seem nonsensical, or because they (like me) want them to float as little kernels of deformation unencumbered by responses.

      Deformance also reminds me of Gilpin’s picturesque, a discourse that makes sense w/ McGann considering his background in British Romanticism. Whereas the beautiful and the sublime captivate and overwhelm the viewer respectively, Gilpin sees the picturesque as mediating between the two by inserting little pieces of imperfection. The point is that the destruction of the picturesque (Gilpin famously said that he wanted to take a hammer to Wordsworth’s Tinturn Abbey to make it more ruinous), actually reinforces and recuperates the sublime by interrupting its overwhelming effect. This would be, in my mind, the opposite of letting the cracked egg just lie there.

  2. I think you’re spot on about the value of deformance and DH. Personally, when I create topic models of poems, I keep reading the topic-keys as a kind of poetry itself… (snow tree wind/fall white/ice morning for example) and even played with the idea of using poems created from topic model keys as a way of introducing the topics before looking at how they were created.

    I find it particularly hard, though, not to want to put it all back together again. There’s a sort of internal sense-making drive to want to put things back where they were. Another thing that I find interesting with the Oulipo N+7 is the fact that the replacement words usually all begin with the same letter. I wonder if the “sense” that we see in Hacking the Accident isn’t somewhat like what happens when we scramble words, but can still understand the original (Hkacing het Adentcce)… which means to a certain degree, in our heads, we’re always putting the thing back together even if we don’t want to. Perhaps, that, too, is one of the values of deformative scholarship… understanding what drives us to turn it back.

  3. I have to agree with Lisa on this. I think the beauty lies in the oscillation between destruction and re-construction. In a sense, both are activities which cannot be carried out to perfection.

    As a textual scholar, I often make two arguments that sound contradictory, but after brief reflection coincide. The arguments usually go to those who think that texts are written in Plato’s heaven. First, I try to convince them that all material manifestations of texts (i.e. editions) are deformations already. They cannot be anything else. In other words, both “Hacking the Academy” and “Hkacing het Adenticce” are deformations. The other argument is that we need to preserve the material evidence of our cultural heritage as much as we will continue to remix it. In doing so, I have to be careful to avoid the fetishism of an Original. Not easy because to most folks the idea of the Text-In-The-Sky is guaranteed by the presence somewhere of the origins. The word ‘original’ does not help. at. all. I think Jerry’s arguments must be taken in this context.

    I do join your cause to champion remix culture in 2012, precisely for the reasons I just outlined. Perhaps it is the time to swing the pendulum to Oulipan Flippancy once more.

    Thanks again, for a provocative piece.

    • Great post, Mark — really provocative and (in a good way, given what you say here) productive.

      I’m also taken by the two-sided argument Alex invokes in his comment, particularly the second side he mentions — reading that argument for preservation alongside deformance, I couldn’t help but think of another of Mark’s manifestos on the fugitivity of objects: http://www.samplereality.com/2010/01/18/the-archive-or-the-trace-cultural-permanence-and-the-fugitive-text/. It’s a piece I find myself thinking about often (and not just because it mentions me!), and it strikes me as a precursor of this one. Mark makes a strong argument there for celebrating ephemerality, disappearance, decay, etc., as a counterforce to preservation and nostalgia. If in our most conventional moments we study and learn to preserve and remember, and if, as that earlier post suggests, we might reject preservation in order to embrace forgetting — literally oblivion, another loaded keyword — as meaningful, perhaps deformance provides us with one means for forgetting, for breaking things precisely to leave them behind.

      • I hadn’t read that piece by Mark before. Brilliant, as always.

        I am all for forgetting, but only if it is paired with a quixotic act of remembering. To go back to an old distinction Freud made between Mourning and Melancholia, I am afraid to declare, but I must do so, that radical attempts at oblivion are accompanied by the traces of their own incompleteness. History is full of the return of the repressed, and I refer you to book burnings, veils, racial denial, censorship, etc. to make my case. In many cases what returns carries a bone to pick. In the same way, radical attempts at remembering are accompanied by their own brand of maleficence. I agree here of Ibsen’s artistic 180 in The Wild Duck, where he condemns total honesty.

        Implicit in what I said in my first response is the idea that oblivion is already built-in into our archival practices. Heck it is built into everything we do! I quote Borges, quoting Bacon at the beginning of “El Inmortal”:

        Salomon saith, There is no new thing upon the earth. So that as Plato had an imagination, that all knowledge was but remembrance; so Salomon giveth his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion.

        If we subscribe to this notion, I feel we can stop fearing the bomb, and start worrying about the specific misuses of remembering and oblivion our pitiable humanity is victim to. My weapon of choice: A judicious oscillation between remembering and forgetting, a combination of the “moving on” of mourning with a Benjaminian ethics that works to recuperate that which the powers that be would like you to forget. I take to heart the threat of an insidious strand of eternal presence of the spotless mind going around. The mainstream media that so efficiently captures and captivates the young and old, hungry to be the only legitimate re-mix machine, depends on strategic amnesia in order to peddle its warez.

      • There’s a great book by Rebecca Schneider on this force of preservation/force of ephemerality conundrum called “Performing Remains.”

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  6. I always love reading your posts, Mark.

    I think your desire for an antinormative academy is shared by many. And the key is, of course, figuring out how a) to displace current norms without reinstating new ones [a normative "deformance," or a normative undoing and unknowing, for example], and b) how to understand the enabling as well as the oppressive consequences of any given normative structure [i.e. I think we want to avoid unintentionally valorizing a kind of liberterian free-for-all by evacuating our humanities vocabulary of anything that can avow the solidity of structure and the abridgments of individual agency that institutional cooperation demands].

    This is a political problem with resonance far beyond the academy…not sure we’re anywhere close to solving it…so maybe for the time being what you propose is a useful strategy…

    I do worry that the particular metaphor you’ve highlighted (“deformity”) is going to cause a lot of discomfort for scholars working in disability studies…I’m interested in hearing if others have any comments on that score?

    • Beth – thanks for stopping by. Likewise, I always appreciate your comments. Of all the possible criticisms people might make of my notion of the Deformed Humanities, the uncomfortable resonances of the deformity metaphor is the one I’m most sensitive to. In fact, this post has been mostly finished for weeks, and I kept hesitating on pushing the publish button, precisely because I was aware of the implications of using the language of deformity.

      I’ve spent hours thinking about better metaphors and, like any desperate student, scouring thesauruses. But I keep coming back to deformation. Partly because the word fits with the pivot I’m trying to make off of Samuels and McGann’s deformance, and partly (mostly) because it’s a word I think we ought to reclaim. I want to valorize deformative work, and that involves valorizing the word itself. After reading Tobin Siebers’ wonderful Disability Aesthetics, I came to peace with the metaphor. Looking across a range of cultural sites and artifacts, Seibers concludes that disability-inflected aesthetics show the full range of physical and mental diversity in the world. “The figure of disability,” Seibers writes, “checks out of the asylum, the sick house, and the hospital to take up residence in the art gallery, the museum, and the public sphere” (139). And, I would add—in the physical form of our scholarship as well.

  7. As a disability studies scholar, I’d invite you to take a look at my use of the term “deformance” in my book The Ugly Laws and my discussion of the ideal of a “deformed nation” in my article “Carlos Montezuma and the Normal Body of the (Native) Citizen” in Social research.

  8. I agree with everyone that the post is very interesting. I’m not convinced, though, that you’ve satisfactorily established the innovation Hacking the Academy represents against a McGann-Samuels-type deformation. The two practices seem similarly reliant upon the “original intent.”

    Really, where is the “departure”? Where is the “something new”? Right now, these terms come across to me as inflated, if not empty. If we were really talking about something new, its contours would be more describable ad we would be talking about it right now. As far as I can tell, the only “something new” that matters is new knowledge. That’s got to be the question: what new are we able to learn and to know. And more than new, what different are we learning andf knowing? Or maybe we don’t actually want either new or different, after all?

    I hope my friendly, constructive, and searching intent is coming through–even as, I know, a short blog comment cannot unpack everything it means to say. The final point I’ll make to summarize is just that I think deformance in its entirety keeps us playing in the same sandbox we’ve been in for many, many years.

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  10. Susan’s book is great. I think disability studies has a lot to bring to this discussion, having been working on bodily deformances, normativity, narrative prosthetics, etc.

  11. Thanks to Patsy Baudoin for recommending your wonderful post and blog, and to everyone for your provocative comments. Mark, your proposal for a Deformed Humanities parallels my conjoined critical and creative practices, particularly manifesting in my evolving Galerie de Difformité. Indebted to many disciplines, including Disability Studies, this collaboratively-evolving “book” engages DS interventionist methodologies across the arts and sciences, to aesthetically and collectively materialize “deformity”—to reframe “deformations” but more: to reconsider how we read and represent deformity. Rereading seems an important angle to add to your already compelling conversation here.

    By rereading, I don’t mean reading again, exactly—perhaps it might be better to say de-reading or un-reading. By way of analogy, Lennard Davis has described the Venus de Milo (with her time-severed arms) and Mary Duffy (the Irish performance artist who was born without arms and who imitates the Venus) to emphasize a disconnect in reading these similarly-shaped bodies: “more a question about the nature of the subject than the qualities of the object, more about the observer than the observed.”[1] Disability Studies has grown up alongside other identity discourses, where “deformity” has been used to qualify a range of “unruly” bodies, stemming from race, gender, sexuality, age, and other markers of identity (back to antiquity, for example, Aristotle characterized women as “deformed” males).[2] Rather than shy away from the stigma of deformity, your inclination to advocate a Deformed Humanities seems productive as it embraces the word’s haunted and haunting history, not to mention its ability to function as both noun and verb: as form-in-motion rather than something stagnant.

    Disability Studies offers a good example to follow, given its vital cross-disciplinary intersections across the Humanities: from music to anthropology to literature to art to history and beyond. You mentioned that Tobin Siebers’ work was instrumental to your thinking, as he was to mine, along with a range of imaginative scholars in different fields (Rosemary Garland-Thomson, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, David Mitchell, Sharon Snyder, Joseph Straus, many more).[3] I agree with Susan Schweik’s cautionary clause about “deformance” (which she defines essentially as “dramaturgies of impairment” involving paternalistic, orchestrated public exposures of the deformed—“that is, always about to be reformed”) and remember being curious upon first reading The Ugly Laws to find her usage, having come from Samuels and McGann’s performative slant, and before that, my own detouring path to deformity hinged in part to the eighteenth-century.[4] Derivations of “deformity” and the term’s long-lived tensions seem, to me, what makes it such a productive site to question discourses and disciplinary bounds.

    My project, Galerie de Difformité, draws on the example of Crip Culture to explore how historical notions of deformity can be appropriated, aesthetically, to turn the term against itself: proactively.[5] Deforming historical notions of deformity (and related terms like monstrous, ugly, freakish, asymmetric, degenerate, handicapped, disabled), the book aims to educate the reader to (re)read its form—a deforming object and subject, both book and body—through (in)accessible con(vent)ions and con(texts): to reinvent texts. These reinvented texts are not mere acts of deformance that reinscribe themselves or return attention back to the “original” (which is already a deformation of historical texts), but deforms further, as participants deform the book through image, video, music, and other media into so-called “deformations” (populating an online gallery of crowdsourced contributions, an electronic library/archive of collaborative chapbooks, and ultimately a traveling exhibition, among other offshoots; early documentation can be found here: http://difformite.wordpress.com). As the sub/text of Galerie de Difformité is collaboratively unmade over time, the book (a remixed, hybrid, choose-your-own adventure novel, functioning in part under Henry James’ categorization of the genre: a “baggy monster”) aims to illuminate our strategies of reading both books and bodies, actual and virtual architectures, notions of author(ity) and (in)accessibility, among other themes.

    There is a kind of culpability in performing deformation, which might be construed as reformation—however, by layering the categories of deformity/difformité and considering this activity (activated or active, rather than passive, reading) in varied contexts, across a range of disciplines and media, through conceptual and contemporary arts, I hope to avoid—and leap into!—that trap, so the project opens up more questions and suggests productive tensions to address (in pedagogy, scholarship, art, etc.). To experience disability (or other difference, for that matter) is to learn adaptive strategies for navigating and reading environments and situations, engaging with varied types of prosthetics (whether as part of a body or a building) that prompt creative methods of participation through “somatic engagement” (to borrow a term of Petra Kuppers).[6] These strategies can reshape “normative” society, whether or not traced back to their origins (for instance, the now-mainstream touch technology of iPads and iPhones began as an assistive technology keyboard called Fingerworks, and the voice-activation of Siri can be traced to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, etc.) that continue to deform along with the changing world. Deformity is all around us; it is us. We are deforming.

    What is possible if we take into account these multiple and ranging strategies of navigating and rereading, imagining and living, as we consider the potential of Deformed Humanities? Can we consider these tensions as creative “constraints” (in the vein of the Oulipo) that help us envision generative ways of engaging, sharing, thinking, theorizing, practicing, making—and unmaking?

    There’s much more to say, but this post already seems too long (pardon and thanks!), so here are the cited sources for anyone who is interested. Thanks again—

    [1] Lennard J. Davis, “Nude Venuses, Medusa’s Body, and Phantom Limbs: Disability and Visuality,” The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability, eds. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997) 52.

    [2] Quoted in Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997) 20.

    [3] One of the first books that helped me learn about the field was Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities (New York: MLA, 2002), whose title seems apropos in the context of this discussion.

    [4] Susan Schweik, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (New York: NYU Press, 2009) 47.

    [5] James C. Wilson and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson, Embodied Rhetorics: Disability in Language and Culture (Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2001) 3.

    [6] Petra Kuppers, ed., Somatic Engagement (Philadelphia: ChainLinks, 2011).

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  17. I am late coming to this discussion: I just discovered it after attending a SAMLA 2012 session on DH. I feel compelled to wonder, though, what this addition might mean for thinking about “deformance” as a model and metaphor. Whenever I see an origami crane, I am reminded of the thousands of them that adorn the statue of a child victim of Leukemia at the Hiroshima Peace Museum. Indeed, the origami crane has become a symbol of peace. (I also head home from the conference early on Sunday to attend the ceremonies of the 2012 Dayton Literary Peace Prize). How might thinking about nuclear destruction and the resulting human disease and “deformity” –and/or military violence and its legacies more broadly and recently–enrich and/or problematize this digital metaphor?

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