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Reforming, Deforming, and Performing: Remixing Digital and Traditional Approaches to José Agustín's La tumba



Reforming Deforming, and Performing: Remixing Digital and Traditional Approaches to José Agustín's La tumba


Claire Elizabeth Ihlendorf Burke

This dissertation focuses on the novel La tumba, by Mexican author, José Agustín and explores this 1960s text through a digital lens. La tumba, written by Agustín when he was just seventeen, follows the life of a young, urban, upper-class protagonist who is disillusioned with his life and society in Mexico City in the beginning of the 1960s. What my re-reading of La tumba aspires to contribute to the existing critical landscape is summarized by three goals.

Firstly, my reading demonstrates a new degree of investigation, examining previously undiscovered perspectives of this classic text. I base my analysis of a re-mapping of the text by combining new and traditional hermeneutics. Where previous scholars have limited their scope purely on linguistic elements of this text, I offer new outlets for analysis that extend beyond the existing readings. Through this work I explore the relationships in the text, specifically those between the female characters and the protagonist.

Secondly, my work acts as a model for the study of other texts. Agustín has never been examined with a computer-assisted close reading and my dissertation acts as an example of what can be done for future study of other texts and further investigations of Agustín's work. I explore case studies in which I used both deformances and performances of the text in a classroom setting to gauge the pedagogical implications of these methods. My research demonstrates the new perspectives and insights gained by using digital tools and visualizations, and while doing so, I demonstrate how these methodologies can be employed in the study of other texts.

Lastly, this dissertation connects the fields of Digital Humanities and Hispanic literature. Recent trends in literary criticism, which were previously labeled as "non-normative" methods of study, are now considered acceptable. These methods include different types of computer-assisted or machine readings as well as textual visualizations. However, there is a lack of representation of using these digital tools in the field of Hispanic literature; this dissertation responds directly to this void.

The framework for my textual experimentation comes from the concept of deformance by Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels. For the purposes of my investigations, I extend this concept from poetry (as McGann and Samuels outline) to an entire novel. I combine my analysis of the deformances with traditional textual analysis/close reading scholarship. I also explore performances of the novel through social media platforms in order to consider the text in a modern-day format. This structure supports the secondary goal of my work, which is to propose new methodology that can be applicable in the study of other novels, regardless of language. The tools and methods I use can be adopted for literary analysis, but also have utility in a teaching capacity.

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