Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Digital humanities and sexy Harry Potter: The one post to rule them All

The following is a fan-fiction.

It was a warm evening, and I was feeling adventurous. I didn't have a jacket, but for some reason the reassuring thought that I would soon see my lover kept me warm. This whole day felt weird, not like a typical day.

My steps through the woods were hesitant, but eager at the same time. I stepped with determination, but with grace. I wanted to preserve myself for my true love.

It was only a quarter past ten but I felt reassured that the watch would all be asleep by now, and my worries of being caught lazily slipped aside beneath a blanket of excitement. I arrived at the wooden cabin with a smile that ached from my cheeks down through my body. I knocked on the door.

“Hello, Harry!” said the sensual Ron upon answering the door in his bedtime apparel.

“Hello, Ron,” I said with my sustained smile. I stepped inside the cabin, with each creak of the 
wooden floor filling me with Pavlovian satisfaction, I had been here before.

“Harry, I’m eager to begin our evening of adventures,” said Ron.

“Me too!” I said.

“But before we begin, I must tell you something that may disturb you a bit.”

“Oh dear, what would that be?”

“You may want to sit down, it’s going to take a lot out of you.”

I complied, of course. Perhaps this was one of the games he had prepared, I thought.

“You see, you came here this evening believing you had been here before, but actually you haven’t.”

“What are you saying Ron? You’re not making any sense.” I was completely befuddled at this point.

“Just listen,” Ron said. “You felt weird coming here today right? Like it wasn't your usual day.”

I nodded. How did he know?

“You see, you're not Harry Potter, you're only Harry, and feel like Potter. I’m not Ron Weasley, I’m just Ron, and I feel like Weasley. We have their memories, but we’re actually new creations based on their lives. I've been looking into it, and it all makes sense. It’s called Deformed Humanities. We are like broken versions of the original Harry and Ron.”

This made so much sense, it’s why I felt weird coming here in the first place. It wasn't that I had forgotten the feeling, it’s that I lived with a sense of déjà vu that this was supposed to have happened before, but I was a broken yet vibrant product of the ideas behind Harry Potter. I felt constructed by words, formed by imaginations. I lied broken, my yolk spilled out. But I feel that I understand much, I am not Harry, but I am so much more.
At that I touch the tip of my wand to Ron’s and the sparks flew and spewed between us.

This fan fiction shows two things: a forbidden romance between Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, and also not the recreation, but the creation of something out of nothing. Deformed humanities means to see a new work from the ashes (or egg shells) of an old work – it is not to analyze a work and see it the original differently. Fan fiction is a form of deformed humanities because it does not look at the text (i.e. Harry Potter) differently, it recreates something from the essence of the text. I created a new Harry and Ron, who pay no homage to original characters – and to deformed humanities field, that’s good I guess.

Digital humanities complements but also contrasts with this theory. It does not deconstruct Harry Potter, but it might create an accessible field for multiple readers to edit the story of Harry Potter, post hyperlinks to similar stories about Harry Potter within the text, and spread the creativity across the internet/world.

What’s so poststructuralist about the two theories is that is replaces the meaning of authority. Digital humanities are poststructuralist because they not only replace the author with the reader, but actually unify and singularize the author and reader to the point where the two are indistinguishable. This is was Derrida would call a contradictory coherence. How would the author be the reader, and vice versa? Well it’s contradictory, but it makes sense. Deformed humanities are poststructuralist because are built on the idea of bricolage: to construct something out of junk – to let broken Humpty Dumpty be its own thing; to make a rope of bras from one building to the next.  Both of these ideas replace our definitions of authority and material, changing the center of meaning. Here, deformed humanities are no longer the world, but “things that explain how things make their world,” the art is the material itself. Therefore, the meaning of what we mean by the text, the story, or the sign is always changing.
I think this is a revolutionary theory. Saussure would likely love this theory, as it flips the binary of control for theorizing to the reader, which then becomes the author. And what would Butler say? The reader is now the author, or the copy of the author, and there would be no author if there were not reader, and who will be the “original” when the two become one? The future of open source and community exchange will reevaluate literary fields, and it will open up a new field of theory, similar to poststructuralism. As theory evolves to analyze new works, and “becomes aware of its object of study,” it too will begin to “make a contribution to a range of studies that will be of interest to almost anyone.”


1 comment:

  1. LOVE! Not sure about your use of Saussure here (he is a structuralist, not a poststructuralist, and I am not sure he's into flipping binaries or reader empowerment), but other than that, it's a terrific post, especially in the way you link fanfic to Sample's "deformed" humanities. Awesome!