Deformance as Remix
Curatorial note from Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Paul Benzon teaches students how altering the materiality of a source text refigures how and why it means something. Such an interface invokes theories of "deformance" by McGann and Samuels and by Sample, which students read in advance of doing this assignment. Benzon suggests the following potential deformances and encourages students to invent their own: "reorder the book's pages, white out every page and rewrite it, staple in your own
... staple in your own writings, make origami out of its pages and scatter them across Philadelphia, encase it within another text, mail its pages to random people, scan it to Google Books and set the hard copy on fire." I remixed Benzon's assignment using as my source texts T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and contemporary poet John Beer's The Waste Land. These we studied in various media forms: paper, audio, the Poetry Foundation Web site, Google Images. My students deformed the source texts into a role-playing game; a remixable, combinatory poem made of lines pasted onto cardboard multiplication flash cards (by Portland State University undergraduate student Ivy Knight; a Twine hypertext story; an interactive, redacted poem; a video with originally composed music, glitch effects, and spoken word; a handmade zine; and a hand-drawn spiral of words, photographed and uploaded to a class repository (this by a retiree auditing my class who had never used a smartphone or seen a blog comment). The generic diversity of my students' deformances led to bold and exciting conversation anchored in Jessica Pressman's assessment of medium-specific close reading in Digital Modernism: Making it New in New Media (2014).