Seminar Notes: Meeting 6 (Deformations and Transformations)
Responses to "Deformance"
A few remarks, by Samuels and McGann, to consider:
Responses to "Algorithmic Criticism"
- "We will argue that concept-based interpretation, reading along thematic lines, is itself best understood as a particular type of performative and rhetorical operation." (26)
- "In this perspective, the critical and interpretive question is not 'what does the poem mean?' but 'how do we release or expose the poem's possibilities of meaning?' Dickinson's reading proposal has nothing to say about 'meaning' at all, new or old. Her thought, her idea, is not a re-imagined meaning but a project to reconstituting the work's aesthetic form, as if a disordering of one's senses of the work would make us dwellers in possibility." (28)
- "But perhaps those differentials signal the critical point: the meaning is more a dynamic exchange than a discoverable content, and that the exchange is best revealed as a play of differences. Indeed, the exchange gets exposed most fully in forms that are as self-alienated and nontransparent as Dante's beseeching sonnet. And we want to remember that the sonnet itself does not pretend to possess its own meaning. Meaning is what it goes in search of." (31)
- "imaginative work has an elective affinity with performance: it is organized as rhetoric and poiesis rather than as exposition and information-transmission." (33)
- "Reading Backward is a highly regulated method for disordering the senses of a text. Its turns off the controls that organize the poetic system at some of its most general levels. When we run the deformative program through a particular work we cannot predict the results." (36)
- "Deformance does want to show that the poem's intelligibility is not a function of the interpretation, but that all interpretation is a function of the poem's system intelligibility. Interpreting a poem after it has been deformed clarifies the secondary status of the interpretation. Perhaps even more crucially, deformance reveals the special inner resources that texts have when they are constituted poetically." (40)
- "Open the poem to its variable self." (45)
- "In our view, however, we may usefully regard all criticism and interpretation as deformance. Scholars murder to dissect, as Wordsworth famously observed, and as naive readers–typically, young students–often tell us when they recoil from our interpretative operations. 'You've ruined the poem for me': that kind of comment, academically infamous, illustrates something far more important than a protest against scholarly sophisticates. Often coming as a kind of blanket judgment on reflexive interpretation, it implicitly asserts the deformative status of critical method in general." (46)
- "our 'experimental analyses' place primary emphasis on the preconceptual elements of text. We do this because social and historical formations seem to us far less determinate, far more open to arbitrary and imaginative construction, than they appear in della Volpe's Marxist frame of reference." (48)
- "'Meaning' is important not as explanation but as residue. It is what is left behind after the experiment has been run. We develop it not to explain the poem but to judge the effectiveness of the experiment we undertook." (48)
- "In a hermeneutic age like our own, illusions about the sufficiency of interpretive meaning before the work of art are especially strong. At such a historical moment one might rather look for interpretations that flaunt their subjectivity and arbitrariness, interpretations that increase their value by offering themselves at a clear discount." (49)
A few remarks, by Ramsay, to consider:
- "Text analysis arises to assit the critic, but only if the critic agrees to operate within the regime of scientific methodology with its 'refutations' of hypotheses."
- "There is no experiment that can verify the idea that Woolf's 'playful formal style' reformulates subjectivity or that her 'elision of corporeal materiality' exceeds the dominant western subject. There is no control group that can contain 'current feminist reconfigurations.' And surely, there is no metric by which we may quantify 'pertinence' either for Woolf or for the author's own judgment."
- "The 'facts' of Woolf–however we choose to construe this term–are not the principal objects of study in literary criticism. 'Evidence' stands as a metaphor for the delicate building blocks of rhetorical persuasion."
- "Tools that can adjudicate the hermeneutical parameters of human reading experiences–tools that can tell you whether an interpretation is permissible–stretch considerably beyond the most ambitious fantasies of artificial intelligence. Calling computational tools 'limited' because they cannot do this makes it sound as if they might one ay evolve this capability, but it is not clear that human intelligence can make this determination objectively or consistently."
- "We might want to say that the purpose of these procedures is to confirm or deny the 'serendipitous reading' of literary critics."
"We might even long for a 'scientific literary criticism.' We would do better to recognize that a scientific literary criticism would cease to be criticism."
- "Woolf critics are not trying to solve Woolf. They are trying to ensure that discussion of The Waves continues into further and further reaches of intellectual depth."
- "If algorithmic criticism is to have a central hermeneutical tenet, it is this: that the narrowing constraints of computational logic–the irreducible tendency of the computer toward enumeration, measurement, and verification–are fully compatible with the goals of criticism set forth above. . . . This is possible, because critical reading practices already contain elements of the algorithmic."
- "The critic who endeavors to put forth a 'reading,' puts forth not the text, but a new text in which the data has been paraphrased, elaborated, selected, truncated, and transduced."
- "Algorithmic criticism would have to retain the commitment to methodological rigor demanded by its tools, but the emphasis would be less on maintaining a correspondence or a fitness between method and goal, and more on the need to present methods in a fully transparent manner."