Salvage Operations: Deformance, Breakdown, and Repair in the Humanities

Duke University (Durham, NC)
February 11, 2015

“Deformance” has gained traction in recent years as an alternative mode of humanistic inquiry. First proposed by Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels in 1999, deformance is premised upon deliberately misreading a text. In this talk I couple deformance with Nick Montfort’s more recent call for “exploratory programming” in order to challenge what counts as scholarship in the 21st century. In particular I argue that digital humanists need to create work that theorizes and thematizes breakdown, maintenance, and disrepair—all states of being we must necessarily grapple with if we truly want to understand the way the world works, and the way it doesn’t.