Inhabitations: A Recombinant Theory Project
Joel Katelnikoff (University of Alberta)

Inhabitations: A Recombinant Theory Project uses techniques conventionally associated with plagiarism and copyright violation in order to establish a collaborative model of critical/poetic writing. The proposed paper, Inhabitation: Steve McCaffery: “the whole torture translates the brain,” investigates Steve McCaffery’s poetry and poetics by applying a cut-up / remix / montage technique to the materials of his critical corpus. The result is an essay that is capable of simultaneously: 1) speaking about McCaffery’s critical concepts; 2) speaking through McCaffery’s language and syntax; and 3) producing a metanarrative theorization of the cut-up / remix / montage process, resulting in a story of reading, writing, and recombination.

Inhabitation: Steve McCaffery: “the whole torture translates the brain” applies the critical concepts of Steve McCaffery to his own poetry. In North of Intention, McCaffery says that, “as we read, see, or scan the poem, we come to feel syntax as the movement of a textual surface without a pre-determined destination.” The focus of textual engagement, then, can move beyond a (terminal) comprehension of textual meaning, and into an (ongoing) experience of mutually-affective interaction between text and reader/writer. My recombination of McCaffery’s work will both theorize and perform this kind of mutual affect, by responding to (and through) McCaffery’s own writing. The project is undertaken with the permission and support of Steve McCaffery.


Exploring Embedded Literature: DH Box and Git Lit
Stephen Zweibel (Graduate Center, City University of New York), Jojo Karlin (Graduate Center, City University of New York), Patrick Smyth (Queens College, City University of New York), and Jonathan Reeve (Columbia University)

In computing, the term “embedded” describes software that runs on systems not usually considered to be computers. These devices—the refrigerators, alarm clocks, and printers of the world—require code optimized and specialized for a resource-constrained environment. Literature, too, is increasingly embedded, linked inextricably to the digital platforms on which words and knowledge are published and shared. This can be a diminishment, as is the case when research is closed behind a paywall or the daily conversation of millions is locked within the walled garden of a closed social network. Yet embedded literature can also allow for transformative experiments that leverage computation to explore digitized texts.

For the “Open Source Lit, Open Source Crit” session at MLA 2016, we propose to examine embedded literature—literature that is linked, for better or for worse, to the platforms on which it is created and disseminated. As a subject of analysis, we will use DH Box, an NEH-funded tool for digital humanities work developed at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Git Lit, an initiative for tracking and sharing text corpora developed at Columbia University. Using Git Lit, DH Box embeds within itself a corpus of over 45,000 books originally shared by the British Library. By including not only a tool, but also book and teaching resources within the platform, the open-source DH Box project makes use of the embedded nature of digital media to make literature and the digital humanities more accessible and more open to algorithmic experimentation and play. This presentation will build on this case study, attempting to show how platforms built by and for scholars in the humanities can provide a path forward for literature and criticism that is open, accountable, and experimental.

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