Textual Interventions

“By ‘re-writing’ is here chiefly understood such strategies as parody, imitation, adaptation and, especially, intervention. This last is the activity of re-writing a text from a deliberately off-center position, in some way ‘against’ or ‘across’ the grain. It corresponds in part to what Umberto Echo calls ‘semiotic guerrilla warfare,’ Alan Sinfield calls ‘dissident reeading’ along ‘faultlines,’ and Robert Scholes and others call ‘ghosting’.

In order to make these processes explicit, every re-write must be accompanied by a commentary. The commentary is the space set aside for critical analysis and comparison of the text as you found it with the text as you re-made it. It is also an opportunity for the explicit marshaling of research, and for reflection on the problems and possibilities encountered in the process of re-writing as such. Its particular function here is cultural and historical: to focus upon what this, the most recent moment of re-production, helps show about the nature of the text in its initial moment of production. More generally, if the re-write is at the implicitly ‘creative,’ performance-based end of the interpretive spectrum, the commentary is at the explicitly ‘critical’ end. In fact, the whole enterprise of ‘re-write + commentary’ results in a clearly differentiated yet distinctly hybrid discourse: creative-critical, theoretical-practical and academic-pedagogic. To which may be added the terms featured in this chapter’s subtitle and the second epigraph: work-play. In yet another words, it’s about a complex of serious-fun – with equal emphasis upon both terms.” – Rob Pope, “Re-writing Texts, Re-constructing the Subject: Work as Play on the Critical-Creative Interface”

Due: December 2, 10:00 PM

Submission: via Scalar

General Assignment

For this project, you will create two separate textual interventions, one “major” and one “minor,” to accompany your group’s Electronic Edition. Therefore, the base text you use for this textual intervention project will be the same text you will use for the Electronic Edition project. As for that project, your options are:

Each of your two textual interventions, which will be within Scalar, will consist of three sections (see below). Each textual intervention should include a Scalar path that leads a reader through the entire work. The three sections are:

  • an Introduction page,
  • the Textual Intervention, and
  • the Commentary.

The introduction should provide context for your textual intervention by doing the following:

  • identify the base text and provide a link to your group’s electronic edition,
  • explain what kind of intervention you have made (N+7 machine, entropic poem, playlist, rewrote a narrative poem as a play, created an image collage, rewrote the scene from the perspective of a different character, etc.) and provide a brief explanation of the procedure if necessary, and
  • identify you as the author (your Scalar pseudonym are fine).
Textual Intervention

Depending upon the size of your base text and the kind of intervention you do, you may need to divide your textual intervention into multiple Scalar pages just as you might need to do so for your group’s electronic edition. Likewise, depending upon the kind of intervention you are making, you might want to focus on just a section of the base text rather than the whole text. If you don’t work with the whole text, please clear it with me  by letting me know what kind of intervention you are making and exactly what part of the base text you wish to work with .


As Rob Pope explains in “Re-writing Texts, Re-constructing the Subject: Work as Play on the Critical-Creative Interface” and as I explain in the lecture “On Rob Pope’s Textual Interventions,” it is the commentary of a textual intervention that makes the rewriting a form of critical-creative practice used for analysis rather than a rewriting for creative purposes. To this end, using a comparative approach that examines the base text in light of your textual intervention and your textual intervention in light of the base text, your commentary should use your textual intervention to comment upon the base text in some way.

For instance, if you create an image collage or create a playlist exploring a character, you will want to explain how the various elements of your collage or playlist refer to and illuminate the portrayal of the character in the base text.

Or, for instance, if you apply the N+7 machine to your text, you will want to compare a section across a number of the versions including the base text (say 20 or 40 lines of a poem or three of four paragraphs of a story – but also include the full texts for the versions you examine). Likewise, if you rewrite the text from the perspective of a different character or fill in a scene that is missing from the base text, your commentary should point to specific elements within the base text and/or any research you have done that leads you to make the rewrite that you make. And, as a final example, if you remediate the base text into a different genre (a story into a play or a poem; a poem into a video or a play; Hamlet as a TV soap opera or a talk show; “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” as a ballad; “The Garden of Forking Paths” as a Twine; etc), you should explain the changes you had to make in order to remediate the text from one genre to another.

As Pope explains in the “Preludes” section of Textual Intervention, the purpose of the intervention is to examine how the base text works, and the focus of your commentary should, in some way, offer an explanation of how it does work. For instance, if you apply the N+7 machine to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” how do the various version change the meter, versification, and rhyme? Or how does your rewriting from a different point of view tell you about what the narrative perspective of the base text focuses our attention upon and directs our attention away from?

Regardless of what you do, in your commentary you will want to be specific, making use of direct quotations from the base text and from your textual intervention.

Commentary for a major textual intervention will likely run 3-5 pages in length, including liberal use of quotation from both the base text and the intervention. Commentary for a minor intervention, on the other hand, will likely run 1-2 pages in length.

Types of Interventions

In addition to the types of rewriting Rob Pope discusses in “Preludes” and “Review of Theories and Practices” (especially sections 5.2 and 5.3) from Textual Interventions and “Re-writing Texts, Re-constructing the Subject: Work as Play on the Critical-Creative Interface” (all three of which can be found in the Week 9 Readings), you might also draw upon any textual hacking and remaking strategies we’ve looked at this term, from remix to the cut-up method and the N+7 technique; from Daniel Anderson’s playlist, collage, and mash-up assignments discussed in “The Low Bridge to High Benefits: Entry-Level Multimedia, Literacies, and Motivation;” or from the entropic method Ramsay discusses on pages 36-37 of  Reading Machines. Other possibilities might include using a simple word cloud visualization tool like Wordle or Tagxedo (or both!). Or you might use a digital storytelling tool such as Fakebook, EasellyGoogle Story Builder, or PowToon. (These tools raise interesting questions: What might P. Burke’s Facebook profile look like? How might you “tell” Act 4, Scene 5 of Hamlet as an infographic? Or, how might you turn “Renacence” or “Damon the Mower” into an animated film?)

Getting Started

The best way to get stared, after reading your chosen text, is to look back over Pope’s three texts “Preludes,” “Review of Theories and Practices,” and “Re-writing Texts, Re-constructing the Subject: Work as Play on the Critical-Creative Interface.” The “Preludes” section 1.2 (“De-centering and Re-centering a Literary Classic”) walks you through a series of questions and activities to help you start thinking about your chosen base text.

Research is also another useful way to help you get started. If, for instance, if you decide you might want to rewrite A Midsummer Night’s Dream from a feminist, psychoanalytic, or speculative realismist perspective, a good place to start might be with some research and draw upon the ideas from scholarship as inspiration for your textual intervention.

Major and Minor Interventions

As noted a the beginning of the assignment guidelines, you need to create one major and one minor intervention. The difference between a major textual intervention and a minor one is largely a question of scale – the amount of work required on your part.

For example, Minor textual interventions might include running your text through the N+7 machine; creating a word cloud using Wordle or Tagxedo (or maybe both); creating an entropic version of “Damon the Mower;” rewriting Act. 4, Scene 5 of Hamlet so that we get a series of monologues instead of dialogues (that is, start with the first character who speaks and present all their dialogue in one go, then do the same thing for the second character who speaks, and so on for each character in the scene); permutating the verbs or playing around with the pronouns in “The Garden of Forking Paths;” or writing a series of 3 or 4 or 5 paraphrases of “Renascence” from different perspectives.

On the other hand, Major textual interventions might include creating image collages to represent each of the main characters in a text (especially if you’re not experienced with using image manipulation software); creating an animated video; rewriting “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” as a play or ballad; retelling Hamlet Act. 4, Scene 5 from the perspective of the ghost of Hamlet‘s father or rewriting that scene to be a slapstick comedy.

Other interventions may fall somewhere in the middle. For instance, if you want to use Fakebook (see above) to create a Facebook profile for P. Burke from “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” or Bottom or Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you might want to begin with that one and see how much effort goes into it.

If you’re unsure, ask. Tell me what you think your intervention might be (major or minor) and tell me why, and we’ll figure it out.

Remember, a major textual intervention should be accompanied by 3-5 pages of commentary and a minor textual intervention should be accompanied by 1-2 pages of commentary.

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