In Samuels and McGann’s Deformance and Interpretation, they argue for different forms of interpreting work, but they mainly want to look at the concept-based interpretation which is a type of performative and rhetorical mean of interpretation.
In addition, the first important aspect I found is on pages 27 and 28. Samuels and McGann describe the importance of “reading backwards” when trying to interpret work; they use an Emily Dickinson poem as an example of this interpretation technique. They state that “This kind of moral or conceptual reclamation of imaginative work is fundamental to what we learn and teach in our schools. Less critical methods…do not try to move against the work’s original grain…Nonetheless, both critical and appreciative interpretation promote some kind of intellectual or theoretical agenda” (27-28). This is important to their overall argument because they believe “reading backwards” is one of the most important and fundamental way to interpret work. This can apply to many English majors in our class because I have had to interpret poems in this way many times before. However, in my opinion, it only made me more confused about the poem’s meaning.
The second important aspect I found is on page 33 when Samuels and McGann introduce “deformance.” They open up the discussion by saying that “First, imaginative work has an elective affinity with performance: it is organized as rhetoric and poiesis rather than as exposition and information-transmission. Because this is so, it always lies open to deformative moves” (33). In other words, in this section, they are going to discuss how the transition from performance to deformance. This is important to their overall argument because they what to show their readers how the transition effects interpretation of works. This is important to our class because we can take advantage of these different forms and apply it to our reading by interpreting it in different ways.
The last important aspect I found is on page 35 when Samuels and McGann state the most important form of deformance. They believe that “Forgery is the most important type of deformative scholarship, nor should its contribution to the advancement of learning be underestimated…” (35). I find it interesting that Samuels and McGann believe plagiarism is a form of work interpretation. In my opinion, this hurts the credibility of their whole argument because scholars are always taught to never plagiarize. Our class should take note to never use deformance when trying to interpret a work because it could hurt our credibility as scholars and get us in a lot of trouble with the university.
Although I enjoyed this reading, there were a couple of statements that I did not understand. On page 34, Samuels and McGann introduce T.S. Eliot’s disapproval of Rossietti by saying, “Eliot’s disapproval of Rossetti is far more to the point, for he understood that Rossetti was using his translations to install a commentary on the relation between pagan and Christian spirituality. If editing is the paradigm of performative scholarship, translation is perhaps the same for criticism-as-interpretation” (34). I understand the last part of the argument, but I do not understand where T.S. Eliot’s disapproval of Rossietti shows how translation is the same for criticism-as-interpretation. The comparison was not clear to me.
Also, another confusing statement I found is on page 40 where Samuels and McGann go into further detail about deformance. They state that deformance “…does want to show that t_he poem’s intelligibility is not a function of the interpretation, but that all interpretation is a function of the poem’s systemic intelligibility_” (40). I am confused about this statement because I still do not understand how deformance is a form of interpretation at all. I believe it goes against ethical standards and am confused how it helps to interpret works.
My question to the class would be “Would you ever use deofrmance to interpret a work such as a poem?”