(Update: the text of my talk is available here: Glitches and Green Worlds)
The ten-minute paper is an odd genre: all suggestions, allusions, hints, and prestidigitation. Here I want to provide a few further thoughts on sonnets, databending, failure, glitches, and video games. (I’ve uploaded the slides from my talk here.)
An interview with Howard Scott Warshaw on the programming of Yars’ Revenge describes the process of programming the “Neutral Zone”:
DP: The Neutral Zone was a neat effect too.
Howard Scott Warshaw: Do you know what that is? Here’s a great piece of trivia! It’s the actual program code, laid out vertically, and counter-scrolling over each other. I almost had a problem with Atari over it, because they felt it was a copyright violation to show the code on the screen. But I explained to them that first, besides the scrolling, there was some X-Y and random color processing being done to it, and second, if somebody could get the code from that, then they deserved it!
Contemporary “databending”–opening and manipulating a file with a program designed to work with a different format–similarly involves confusing the data of the image with the formatting codes that structure it. You can see an example below. To make that file, I changed the file ending of an image of Shakespeare from .jpg to .txt, made several revisions to the gibberish that resulted, and saved the file, and then changed the suffix back to .jpg.
My thoughts on “failure” and “play” are very much influenced by Merritt Kopas and Naomi Clark’s keynote, “Queering Human-Game Relations” for the 2014 Queerness and Games conference. Kopas and Clark offer an account of and a response to contemporary writing on “queering” games and play. To me, at least, their work suggests a critique of our preconceptions about the Green World as a liberating space of play. See, in particular, pages 41-43.
Because I’ve been thinking about staging poetry alongside Scott Trudell and Tom Ward’s “Staging Poesis” session, I also want to flag Lana Polansky’s work on the intersections of poetics and play. See in particular her “Approaching the Poetics of Play, Part 1” here.
Matthew Zarnowiecki’s book Fair Copies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014) came out after I submitted this talk, but his chapter on Shakespeare’s sonnets is similarly interested in taking seriously the rhetoric of “fault” and “error” that surrounds them. But where my overarching metaphor is the “glitch,” his is the textual error: he concludes, provocatively: “Poetics is reproduction with a difference” (130).
Finally, my piece “The Rude Poet Presents Himself,” in Spenser Studies 29, attempts to think through Spenser’s relation to ideas of bad poetry. While that issue of Spenser Studies is not yet digitized, I’ve uploaded the paper to my academia.edu page temporarily.
Simon Mack’s Glitch Shakespeare is drawn from the “Shakespeare 450” website.
My paper opens with an observation from David West’s 2007 edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Duckworth: London, 2007). The three quotations that follow (about the conventionality of Shakespeare’s self-deprecation) are drawn from Carl Atkins (ed.), Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Farleigh Dickinson, Madison, NJ: 2007) and Helen Vendler (ed), The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.: 1997).
I briefly mentioned Jack Halberstam’s Queer Art Of Failure (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2011). Halberstam proposes to “read failure, for example, as a refusal of mastery, a critique of the intuitive connections within capitalism between success and profit, and as a counterhegemonic discourse of losing” (11).
I should also mention Catherine Bates’s Masculinity, Gender, and Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), which describes and critiques the editorial tendency to recuperate accounts of authorial abjection.
My thanks to Laura Kolb, Sara Saylor, Emily Vasiliauskas, and Ana Harrison for suggestions on drafts of this talk. Michael Lutz offered an initial provocation.
Many thanks as well to the SAA Organizing Committee, Holly Dugan, Bailey Yeager, Mario DiGangi, and to my fellow Next Generation Plenarists.