Resource 4 Teachers

If you are a professor or teacher interested in involving your students in this collaborative project, please contact me to ask questions or to share your critical/creative engagements. I will gladly work with you to adapt this project to fit your course syllabus and pedagogical needs. (Note: The book has been adopted or presented in various classes and disciplines, including Creative Writing (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, cross-genre), Literature, Studio Art, Art History, Cultural Studies, Disability Studies, History, Comparative Media Studies, Book History, Theater and Playwriting, and Museum Studies. More documentation will be mounted in coming months.) Thanks to the following colleges and universities for supporting the project in some way, inviting me for talks and/or engaging students in the GdD project:

  • Lake Forest College (IL)
  • Kenyon College (OH)
  • MIT (MA)
  • New York University (NY)
  • Princeton University (NJ)
  • University of Utah (UT)
  • Berry College (GA)
  • Berea College (KY)
  • Pasadena City College (CA)
  • University of Baltimore (MD)
  • University of Michigan (MI)
  • Manchester College (IN)
  • University of Washington-Bothell (WA)
  • University of North Florida (FL)
  • Hamilton College (NY)
  • Temple University (PA)
  • Orange Coast College (CA)
  • Idyllwild Arts Academy (CA)
  • CalArts (CA)
  • Weber State University (UT)
  • University of Victoria (Canada)
  • Louisiana State (LA)

Here are some sample syllabi engaging the GdD:


Some reading questions for the book can be found here. If you wish to introduce the exercise with library resources and/or research methods, see the accompanying list of historical precedents for a few ideas or feel free to contact me. More resources and documentation coming. Some classes also make chapbooks, a gallery of which can be viewed here (including “How to Mail this Book”–click image below):

Alternative distributions and deformations, including being mailed as postcards and floated away as balloons

Below are a few earlier examples of classes that have incorporated this project:

Book Arts (single-class period): At Kenyon College, Ellen Sheffield in the Studio Art Department involved her class on the opening day of her course as a timed exercise, in preparation for an altered book project. In advance, she printed an array of the textual “Exhibits” and distributed one to each student, asking them to experiment with changing not only the text, but also the physical page itself. They had the entirety of the seminar period (about three hours) to apply different altering techniques, including surface treatments either through additions (of ink, paint, graphite, transfers, stamps, collage) and/or subtraction (crumpling, cutting, piercing, tearing, abrading). Structural alterations included creasing, folding, or twisting the Exhibit into a sculptural object and attaching the page to another object or surface with thread or paste. Book Arts (two weeks): Another section of students engaged in a two-week project, working  with the principle of “deformity” to redefine their chosen “Exhibit” in altered book form. These altered books (growing a plant that needed to be watered, parsed into a puzzle to be repieced, sculpted with melted beeswax into a dozen kaleidoscopes, strung with strings to be manipulated like a puppet, to give a few examples) were then curated and exhibited in Kenyon College’s Special Collections and Archives, with a reception to celebrate the student artists, thanks to the Mesaros Fund and Studio Art Department. (Details here.) Afterward, one of the students became an editor/publisher of a chapbook that doubled as an exhibition catalogue for the class works: see “Dictionary of Deformity.” Once the book was published, another class used the actual book as material for an altered book project (see video at top).

Creative Writing (one-two weeks): In the English Department at Berea College, Libby Jones used the exercise in her creative writing poetry course in a different way, choosing a single Exhibit (“L”) for all students to work with, so they could focus on and compare close readings and material deformations of the same text. The assignment took place over two weeks, prefaced by a student-led, in-class exercise based on phrases and images extracted from the Exhibit. Then, students worked individually or in pairs to deform the Exhibit out-of-class, while continuing to participate in a related Moodle discussion. Some rearranged the text into new texts, while others visually manipulated it through photography, drawing, digital imaging, collage, and other techniques of their choosing. Two groups actually designed their deformed poems into constructed sets of wearable wings.

Digital Imaging (final project): At Lake Forest College, Tracy Taylor in the Art Department used the exercise in her Digital Imaging course as the final project. I visited the class in mid-semester to introduce the Galerie de Difformité and to field questions, at a time when students were working on smaller weekly assignments to learn and apply varied digital techniques. The final assignment required them to deform one or more Exhibits, not as a single image, but as a sequence of at least three images, working loosely with concepts of narrative and anti-narrative.

As you look through the site, intermixed with submissions from individuals established and emerging in their respective fields, you will find works by students from varied backgrounds and courses. I will welcome participation from anyone in any field, however defined by a respective participant. (As an extreme example, my puppy participated of her own accord by chewing up a collection of Exhibits when I was out-of-town; see “Exhibit N”). Beyond Stage One of the project’s deformation, which involves the accompanying “Exhibits,” please also refer to Stage Two, which holds another pedagogical possibility: Collaborative Chapbooks.

Historical Precedents: Many historical precedents have shaped this project and include, to name only a few: illustrated collections like medieval emblem books; Renaissance albums that accompanied curiosity cabinets; novels like Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy with its marbled page unique to each printed volume; commonplace books; extra-illustrated and grangerized texts like John Wing’s Bibliomania; scrapbooks like Mark Twain’s patented self-pasting version; Oulipian constraints; cut-ups in the vein of William Burroughs; altered books like Tom Phillips’s A Humument; art catalogues; hypertexts; not to mention the wear and tear undergone by rare books, along with natural processes of deformation and analogous artistic processes involving erasure, recycling, etc.

Another fruitful exercise invites students to write deformation statements and to make maps of their reading strategies through the choose-your-own-adventure book.

To discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to contact me at difformite[at]gmail[dot]com. And if you undertake this project with your students, in whatever way, please share the process with me, so I can post their final works in the online gallery and document your participation.

Looking forward to hearing from you! To view a sampling of deformations from different Exhibits, please download this broadside or visit here.

Published on January 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm  Comments Off on Resource 4 Teachers  
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