Longer Essay #2 – Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw

I was browsing through I ♥ E-Poetry.com, and I came across what is described by the author, Donna Leishman, as an “animated interactive graphic” (Leishman).  It is titled “Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw,” and it is based on the historical account of the demon possession of an 11-year-old girl named Christian Shaw in 1696 during the witch trials.  The landscape of this piece of “literature” is presented almost entirely in a non-textual way, although there is one instance of text at the very end which tries to explain the historical background underlying the graphic.  The user “reads” this graphic by clicking and hovering over certain graphics which open up separate screens and tell part of Christian’s story.  Although the real story takes place in 1696, the graphics are modernized.  Many of the images or videos are quite disturbing — appropriate for the subject of demon possession.  Many of the graphics are various plants that seem to serve no purpose to the story but change as your mouse hovers over them.  I got to go through the story four times, and each time I found new things to click on which revealed more parts to the story. There’s no way of knowing if you’ve ever explored all of the possibilities!

The graphic starts out with a blank screen with a clickable picture of what looks like an upside-down tree:
Deviant 3

After clicking this image, a scene of the town of “Balgarran” appears and a sad melody plays in the background.  The windows of the skyscrapers emit eerie tones that harmonize with the melody when your mouse hovers over them.  Among the things you can click on are the cross steeple of the church and a ladder that seems to be emerging from a tree (there may be more that I am not aware of).  Here’s what the opening page looks like:
Deviant 4
I first clicked on the cross steeple on the church and a window popped up with a repeating video of a  preacher sleeping at his desk. If you click on one of the drawers of his desk, a Bible appears. The first page of the book contains some of the only text in the program which says, “I am the right Reverend James Brisbane minister to Kilmacoim. I am new to Balgarran.” Upon further clicks, the “Bible” turns out to be a secret case that holds a voodoo doll of who you expect to be Christian Shaw:Deviant 5There are various other paths that can be taken from this screen, but the first time I “read” this graphic, I clicked on the alarm clock which presumably wakes up the reverend and sends you back to the graphic of the town.  Now there are several items to click on, and the story of Christian Shaw begins.  There is an image of two fires burning in barrels over which Christian warms her hands.  To click to different pages within the pop-up box, there are little X’s that are easy to miss.  Upon clicking the X, Christian turns into a scary old hag:
deviant 6

Not many questions are answered about why certain things happen to Christian.  One video shows the reverend taking her into a room of scientists.  She inexplicably spits out a burning coal.  Another video, presumably after she has been “possessed” shows her with red eyes and bending over backwards at an impossible angle:

deviant 7

One of the final “episodes” in the graphic includes Christian standing before a panel of what look to be religious figures and scientists.  As she is standing there, you can click on people that pop up on the bottom of the screen.  As you click on them, they are thrown in a jail cell.  When all six people are collected, a scene of a burning building appears.  As your mouse wanders over the building, windows appear and you realize that the people you captured are now burning alive in the building.
Deviant 8

This disturbing video concludes the graphic, and a page pops up with text that explains the history of the 1696 possession of Christian Shaw and how this graphic tries to tell her story.

The text explains that Christian’s case was one of the most well-remembered cases of “demonic possession,” and that 6 people, 3 men and 3 women, were put to death as a result of being accused of causing the possession.  The account recorded many of the strange happenings that are depicted in this graphic.  The doctor examining Christian supposedly saw her spit out a burning coal that was too hot for anyone to touch. There were also documented accounts of Christian contorting her body into impossible positions and retrieving her glove from the ground just using her mind — both of which are shown in the graphic.  Christian’s case was found to be written by anonymous author and very much in the style of many of the accounts of Salem witch trial cases just four years prior.  Recent historians speculate that the author of the case may have been influenced by the witch trial accounts and may have been fabricating Christian Shaw’s case in order to “prove” the existence of the Devil and God. While it is still very much a mystery as to what actually happened to Christian, it has been confirmed that 6 men and women were killed in the little town of Belgerran on June 10,  1697 (Leishman).

Leishman concludes her graphic with this explanation:

“My personal response on hearing this tale, was one of curiosity, something rang untrue about this 11-year-old, daughter of a Laird, who mischievously conned all these erudite adults. Then the visual aspects of the story – the eyes retracting into her head, her body bending double… seemed horrifically ridiculous and impossible, but my overall intuition led me to feel that Christian, our cultural memory of her had been unjustly distorted, ‘Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw’ is my sentinel to who I think Christian might have been, a re-imagining of her world.” (Leishman)

Because our image of Christian Shaw is so distorted by the unreliable account of her life, Leishman felt the need to reconstruct Christian with this interactive graphic story.  While it is only an account of who Leishman imagines her to be, it gives us an alternative and somewhat sympathetic view towards Christian Shaw and those who were killed — a strikingly different point of view from the anonymous author, who tried to incriminate Christian and the 6 men and women as evil and demonic.  Leishman’s work also retains the aura of mystery that still surrounds Christian’s case by not fully explaining the strange graphics throughout the story.  The “reader” is still left wondering what is actually happening to Christian.  Is she actually possessed? Do the 6 people have something to do with what is happening to her? What are the strange creatures that periodically pop up throughout the graphic? Just like we will never know the accurate historical account of Christian’s “possession,” we will never know the significance of many of Leishman’s graphics.

     It has been difficult for me to view this graphic as a piece of literature, much less some form of poetry. I can see that it has narrative elements, but it acts more like an interactive movie than a piece of literature. I didn’t feel that I was “reading” so much as I was “watching” what has happening to Christian.  However, the many pathways that reveal different parts of the story reminded me of the choose-your-own-story narratives or the Garden of Forking Paths that we read at the beginning of the semester — both of which I would consider works of literature. On the other hand, we never looked at “literature” in this class that was purely graphics, so I hesitate to say that “Deviant” counts as literature.

     It’s been fun to play with the graphic multiple times.  Each time I have discovered a new piece of Christian’s story, but unfortunately each new piece seems to be weirder than the ones before it.   I think this graphic is definitely worth exploring, and I’d love to hear others’ opinions on whether or not this would count as literature.


Leishman, Donna. “Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw.”
Retrieved from http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/leishman__deviant_the_possession_of_christian_shaw.html






Long Blog Post 2: Anipoems

For some reason only a few of the gifs are working in the post. Click on the image to see the poem or follow the link provided to the collected poems. 

Something Old Something New: Placing the Anipoems of Ana Maria Uribe in a Literary Tradition

The poems of Ana Maria Uribe are simply a collection of animated gifs. Initially I hesitated before picking choosing this particular work; poetry has never been my forte and Ana Maria Uribe is a Spanish language poet. However, the electronic literature directory listed her as Spanish and English so I decided to click through and see what the poems were all about.

Conceptually Uribe’s poetry has its roots in the concrete poetry of the early 1900s. The words of the poem are arranged so that form literally mimics content. Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes are a great example of concrete poetry. Even though the text of the poem itself is in French, you do not need to understand French to understand that the poem “Il Pleut” is about rain. (To see more of Apollinaire’s work I have provided a link to a site not unlike the e.e.cummings site we looked at in class together.) Similarly the language which the text of Uribe’s poems is written in becomes irrelevant.  The text is arranged in such a way to resemble the subject of the poem itself. The Anipoem “Dry Red Leaves” features the words “hojas rojas secas” (which, according to Google Translate translates to “dry red leaves”) in autumnal colors. The “s”s tumble down the white background of the gif mimicking the motion of leaves falling to the ground in an autumn breeze.

Il Pleut (It Rains) by Guillame Apollinaire
Il Pleut (It Rains) by Guillame Apollinaire
Dry Red Leaves by Ana Maria Uribe
Dry Red Leaves by Ana Maria Uribe

While Apollinaire’s text is French and understanding of French is ultimately essential for a thorough understanding of the poem, Uribe takes the idea of concrete poetry and pushes it a step beyond simple content-form equivocation. In traditional semiotics a sign indicates a signifier. What this breaks down to is a word represents a concrete material object. What Uribe’s poetry does is have the letter become the sign. Singular letters become the ideas around which Uribe builds her poem. Those letters are then arranged into the forms of traditional concrete poetry.

The letter itself as art is then an extrapolation of the word as art or text as art. Like concrete poetry, this is a concept that goes back well beyond the tech boom of the 1990s (the animpoems were written in 1998). Illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages illustrate the blending of the literary arts with the visual arts. The blending of the two media allows the artists to express ideas with more exactitude than available outside of the mixed media platform. The broadened range of expression derives from the manipulation of the sign and signifier.

Chi Rho page from The Book of Kells
Chi Rho page from The Book of Kells

Uribe adds yet another layer of expression by animating the text. The poems are a collection of animated gifs with the text moving in simple patterns. The animation of the letters allows the viewer to realize, and to further explore, the ideas behind the letters. For example, the poem “A Herd of Centaurs” consists of a footed letter “h” moving right to left across the screen. The counter-intuitive motion of the letter transforms the character into a simulacrum of a centaur.

Centauros en manada 2 (A Herd of Centaurs 2) by Ana Maria Uribe
Centauros en manada 2 (A Herd of Centaurs 2) by Ana Maria Uribe

Without the animation Uribe’s poetry would lack the form which creates the content. The herd of centaurs, if simply written down in plain text would read: “hh hhhhhh hh hhh hhhhhhhh h,” or something which very closely resembles that grouping of characters. Perhaps the suggestion of the centaur form is present based on the shape of the letter, which is the basis of Uribe’s semiotic pun, but the poem would be essentially unreadable without the inclusion of motion to solidify the connection between form, text, and title.

Similarly, in Uribe’s “Pas de Deux” there is no way to separate the text from the animation and retain the poetic integrity of the work. The letters “R I P” cycle through continuously, side by side. In every other cycle the R and the P are flipped into mirror images of themselves. The cycling of the feet of the letters allows them to resemble the positions of the ballerinas which would be dancing the pas de deux side by side. Without the animation, the text is never spelled out. The function of the work as a whimsical mediation on morbidity is removed without the inclusion of the digital aspect of the work.

Pas de deux by Ana Maria Uribe
Pas de deux by Ana Maria Uribe

In the realm of digital literature Uribe’s work is rather simplistic in execution. A large part of the simplicity has to do with the technology available in 1998 that Uribe was working with to create her anipoems. However, even with the comparatively basic level of animation Uribe was still able to integrate the digital world into her work so thoroughly that the animated text cannot be separated without sacrificing the integrity of the work. The playfulness of the poems relies on the visual artistry of the animated gif. And, while the anipoems are a work of digital literature, they draw upon and reinvent a long literary tradition.

Longer Blog Essay #2: Girls’ Day Out

I chose to explore the electronic work of literature called Girls’ Day Out by Kerry Lawryonovicz. It begins by letting the reader pick one of three sections that comprise the work: “Poem,” “Author’s Note,” and “Shards.” To access these sections, the reader must click on one of the pictures, which are of different parts of a horse (legs, neck, head). When one hovers over each picture, the colors become inverted, transforming the images into their ghostly counterparts.

Continue reading Longer Blog Essay #2: Girls’ Day Out

Long Blog #2- Pieces of Herself

Pieces of Herself is a piece of electronic literature created by Juliet Davis. The interactive digital media, that I discovered through the website I Love E- Poetry, provides a commentary on the role of women and gender roles in society. The collaborative experience is created through the use of images, text, and sound. On the opening page the reader is met with a cut out of a gray human figure with no gender determining features. The text on this page flows in line by line to leave the message “Her friends said she needed to find herself. And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere…”

When the reader clicks “enter” they are transported to a black and white bathroom scene and the instructions to “Drag and drop pieces onto the body. Then, reposition them as you like.” The line of the poem about the bathroom reads “In the SHOWER ROOM, where women slip behind curtain, in perfect synchronicity, to remain invisible to each other.” As the reader places the cursor over the black and white image they can navigate the room and cause the image to react. These reactions vary from opening a door to making a noise when scrolled over. Colored items are also scattered around the room and when they are dragged onto the cut out body image there is an auditory response. An image of an eye when dragged elicits the response of a song about the “naked eye”, an inscription on the bathroom door responds with a woman saying “he said he loves me”, thumbprints on the trashcan replies with a woman saying “I don’t even let my kids see me naked”, and the image of hair by the shower answers with a women complaining about her graying hair. I think it is interesting that the room we are automatically taken to is the most primal of rooms where the body is the main focus and privacy is valued. At the top of the page there are links to other rooms and places for the reader to explore. Then next room on the list is the bedroom.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.29.21 AM

When we click on the bedroom link the reader is subjected automatically to a man, clearly the woman’s boyfriend, leaving her multiple messages on her answering machine voicing his concern about their relationship. The next line of the poem reads, “In the BEDROOM, where the mind would sometimes float to the ceiling.” The objects in this room were somewhat un-responsive in comparison to the bathroom. There is a storm cloud that produces thunder, a frog that responds with incessant ribbits, a key that replies with what I would describe as princess music, and some clouds over her pillow that plays a song about dreams.

The next link is to the outside. The reader is met with the image of a church with the image of a fetus to be dragged onto the body. This action is met with a song about a little girl wondering about her future and the mom saying, “whatever will be will be. The future is not ours you see.” As the reader scrolls to the right they see a neighborhood with a daycare and a road that is blocked by a closed road sign. The image of an apple in a tree when dragged onto the body is met with a quote of from the bible when God says the husband should rule over women. The verse and the apple allude to the story of Adam and Eve. The last link is another outside image called Main St. where we see a hospital, a cop car, a high school, and a Dairy Queen. With the interactive items we are met with sound bites of the importance of social lives and appearances. Both outside and Main St. have the same line of poem: “As if she could ever really get ‘outside’” These two images are clearly a powerful commentary on the relationship between outside influences on a women’s life.

After the outside link we come to the kitchen with the line: ”In the KITCHEN where she was forever looking for the right ingredients.” Here the items respond with quotes like “sometimes I want to be spicy” and a woman complaining about her weight. Next is the living room where the poem reads: “In the LIVING ROOM where she sometimes imagined she was someone else.” The television shows reality TV playing and an item of a masquerade mask responds with a women speaking about how her designer clothes and goods that her husband buys her don’t actually represent her on the inside. The next room is the office where the poem says: “In the OFFICE where she fought to keep them all.” At first I was confused about what this line meant, but as I clicked on more items that said things about how showing emotion in the workplace is unacceptable and that women were trying to integrate all the roles in to one, the meaning became clear. The office exemplifies the women moving out of the sphere of the home and housewife and into a working woman. However, these women still try to do it all, be the homemaker, mother, and worker, and are losing a part of themselves in the process.

There were two interesting elements of the interactivity in the entire piece. The first was that once you put an item on the body it could not be removed. To me this represents the author’s idea of the permanence of the effects that society has on a women’s identity. Secondly, on most of the images there was one item that when put on the body would produce a sound on repeat. The constant dripping of a faucet for example was incredibly annoying and caused me to refresh the program and start over. Overall, Pieces of Herself was a successful commentary on the gender role of women.

Long Post #2

The piece of electronic literature that I choose to examine was, Carving in Possibilities, by Deena Larsen, with sounds from Matt Hansen. It was published in 2001 to frAme: Online Journal of Culture and Technology issue 6. This work of electronic literature was made in the format of a flash video.


The flash piece works off of the movement of your mouse. As you move around the page with the curser, a blurry image of the face of the statue of David appears. The face starts out as a big grey blur but slowly reviles itself to the user along with various quotes. The quotes seem to follow no coherent pattern. Some examples of these are “When is Real real,” “The body…reservoir for energy…,” “What makes your polished stone different then one tumbled in a riverbed.” And “I knew only before.” This is just a small sample of the type of text that comes up. From what I have seen every inch of the screen supplies you with a new quote but you are sill able to visit old quotes by going back to the old location. The quotes are four main colors green, blue, pink, and yellow. At my first examination I believed that maybe the colors linked together and made a story but upon further examination I have found that they do not.


Each mouse movement is accompanied with a sound. The flash piece also produces an eerie ambient noise to accompany the flash when you are not moving. Sound that is produced with the mouse’s movement is very jolting. It is something like a loud bang and makes for a disturbing experience.


The use of the seemingly random quotes creates an interesting dichotomy within the flash piece. While it may seem like these random strings of text might create something that can be processed they do not. In a way this seems to be the point of the piece. The piece is meant to unsettle the view and make them think. It accomplishes this with very vague and arguably aggressive quotes. The text creates a very accusative atmosphere in which the reader feels a sense of discontent and responsibility.


Compared to some of the other forms of digital literature we have examined I believe that this work is particularly effective. This work is able to capture the attention of is view as well as create a space where they feel vexed by the meaning of the piece. In a sense I feel that this is in fact the meaning of the piece it is meant to create these feelings and in doing so it accomplishes its goal.


Other works that were located on the Electronic Literature Collection volume 1 and 2 seemed not to accomplish their goals. Some of the works were able to tell a story, but none of them really seemed to create an emotional effect upon me. I feel that Carving in Possibilities was truly able to do this.


Another piece of the flash work that helps to create emotion in the view is the face of the statue of David. The face that is used is a close up shot of the statue of David. The statue looks almost as if it is in tremendous pain. Something about looking into the eyes of this statue is very unnerving to the viewer.

As for the digital objects of this piece it is clear that it could only be accomplished through a digital medium. If this were to be reproduced and made into a print medium it would not carry the same weight or have the same effects. The fact that it is digital allows for the viewer to have some semblance of control. If the viewer were simply flipping pages then that feeling of control would be gone. The viewer would not be creating his or her own story but rather following one that has already been set in place. The act of creation felt in the flash piece even if it is minimal is what helps to get the effect of the piece across.


This piece is a wonderful example of how digital or electronic media is able to transform an experience for a viewer. The piece is able to create both the illusion of choice while in turn casting a feeling of unease. This piece also captures the attention of the viewer through its relative simplicity. There is no overly complicated set of instruction or random string of nonsense words. It simply allows for the viewer to experience the text that the author has created in a more vivid and bonding way.


Flarf Poetry

Indigo Girls



It really bothers me /

The remaining copies of the s/t lp

Its almost out of print /

Indigo Girls.  Do they still have mullets

Win prize and support our vets /

This knucklehead will be spinning the jammmmms /

That CRU record got out of hand /

Yum! / What the Fuck /

This makes me cry / European Tour starts in 2 weeks!!!

Must.Happen /

Pittsburg is a dump


I made this flarf poem by simply scrolling down my Facebook news feed and recording full status updates or just parts of updates from the first couple of friends/bands. I had no intention of having this poem make any sense, and to a certain extent it doesn’t. I was interested to find that the updates of the first 5 to 6 people all had to do with music or were updates by particular bands I follow, so it seems to have some sort of theme, except for the last line which I am sure is a reference to the Pittsburg Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers game that occurred Saturday night.

Flarf Poem: Into Out of

Into Out of


Into university partnerships

Out of African furnace milk

Onto linear algebra lessons

Off the hookah, Richmond?


From up on poppy hill

To kill a ,pvlomhnotf.

Around the horn

Amid the falling snow


Beside the dying fire, themselves

Between the raindrops



I looked up google search suggestions of prepositions to look for interesting phrases. I really had no other intention other than to make this poem as vague and confusing as I could, to hopefully induce some sort of wacky thought in my reader. According to Lydia Moyer, my new media teacher, the artist has claim to whatever the viewer gets out of the artist’s work, whether or not it was his or her intention in the first place. Perhaps, someone will make sense of what I put so little of my own sense into. Also to add to the whole idea of having no idea, I tried to make the ending abrupt, as it was never intended to develop a complete thought.


Intention: When learning about Flarf poetry the idea of collage came to my mind. It seemed to me that the technique of taking pieces of already existing material and juxtaposing it to make different, more charged meaning, was also occurring in Flarf poetry. As a result, I decided to arrange together eleven distinct lines of poetry from a website that claimed these were some of the most famous lines of the poetic tradition. I wanted to see if juxtaposed an even more epic poem would be created, since after all, these lines were are claimed to be so monumental.

 Shall I compare thee to a summers day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

We face the path of time

A narrow fellow in the grass

I wandered lonely as a cloud

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

It seems like I’m always getting stuck

But I have a promise to keep, and miles to go before I sleep


And when wind and winter harden

O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

For if dreams die/ Life is broken–winged bird


I choose to opt out of this assignment, because (aside from the fact that I have always hated writing anything besides articles and analytical essays) I do not believe that Flarfing has any intrinsic literary value. I do admire the masterful way which Kasey and Gary Sullivan used Flarfing to expose the fraud behind Poetry.com’s contest. The genre of Flarfing, and uncreative writing in general, is useful as an educational tool in discussing what sort of texts have literary value. Yet each singular text lacks literary value. There is nothing to be gained by studying one work of uncreative writing that could not be gained by studying any other work of uncreative writing.

The democratization of language through internet mediums such as AIM, texting, and Twitter has led to a new paradigm of language, in which the reader/listener is expected to understand what is communicated, rather than expecting the author/speaker to communicate effectively. This promotes a lack of restraint and self-reflection.  Additionally this new paradigm encourages appropriation as opposed to production, which retards innovation and original thinking. I believe uncreative writing glorifies this new paradigm, which in my opinion accompanies a decline in language and culture, to which I do not wish to contribute.

Flarf Poem

Maximilian Sunflower

flower heads turn to follow the sun as it moves across the sky,

fruition, insurmountable, fatal —

plateaus were worn to low-lying foothills by running water,

optimum percentage for snout beetles

enriching life and beauty through extinction.


mmmm, mmm, BBQ

stay committed to tradition but find your own stamp.

it is the golden age of recipes for the oldest, most primitive reptiles


fascinated, magnificent imaginations

a facade in London on posters of cosmetics…


I feel as though this poem does not completely encompass the search “limestone, dinosaur, sunflower.” However, it does speak to the vast distinction of the terms. I found it hard to draft the poem merely because I found a lot of environmental posts and I did not want the theme to be as consistent and fluid throughout. If I were to write this poem again, I would mix up the order in which I searched the terms in order to see if there would be a greater sense of variation among the posts.