Love Sonnet Generator
The Love Sonnet Generator is pretty straightforward and easy to use. On the main page there is a brief description that explains the purpose behind the generator, which is to help people create their own Shakespearean love sonnet. Shakespeare can be difficult to interpret, so form on the landing page asks visitors to respond to four different questions to try to identify how the person perceives and understands love. Additionally, visitors are asked to include their own name and the name of a loved one, which allows the Shakespearean sonnet generated to be even further customized to the individual. Including all of the questions on one page makes the production of a sonnet much quicker than it was in the first iteration of The Love Sonnet Generator where each question was on its own individual page. While the process of navigating the generator and actually generating a personalized sonnet is quicker than before, there is still the opportunity for the visitor to restart the generator if they are not satisfied (or even if they want to create a sonnet for a different person). Additionally, those who wish to learn more about the project can use the "background" link to bring them here so that they can learn more.
Deformance is apparent in the use of questions about love to try to identify stanzas from Shakespeare's sonnets that reflect an individual's own perspective. Traditionally, a reader would read a single Shakespearean sonnet from start to finish. However, through this generator I "deform" the reader's experience. McGann (as cited in Ramsay, 2011) uses reading a poem backwards as an example of deformance because it alters the way in which the poem is read. McGann explains this as "turn[ing] off the controls that organize the poetic system at some of its most general levels" (as cited in Ramsay, 2011, p. 33). The outcome of this, according to McGann (as cited in Ramsay, 2011), is that "we are brought to a critical position in which we can imagine things about the text that we didn't and perhaps couldn't otherwise know" (p. 33). This is particularly applicable, I think, to The Love Sonnet Generator because of how it pairs a particular response to a question to an excerpt of a Shakespearean sonnet. For many readers, Shakespeare can be difficult to read and interpret in part because of his use of Early Modern English, so deforming the text allows another entry point for readers since the question and their response is written in plain English. They can take their understanding of the question and response and use that to make meaning out of the excerpt that is populated. Additionally, Shakespeare's sonnets are deformed in another way because each potential response to a question populates a stanza from a different Shakespearean sonnet (8 in total). This results in the final sonnet populated being a mash up of 4 different sonnets. Taking this approach provides opportunity for readers to use their own experiences to make sense between the disparate stanzas. Ramsay (2011) describes this as "fill[ing] in gaps, mak[ing] connections backward and forward, explain[ing] inconsistencies, resolv[ing] contradictions, and, above all, generat[ing] additional narratives in the form of declarative realizations" (p. 62). In addition to the use of question and response for generating the poem, and consequently for the readers to make sense of the poem, visitors are also asked to include their name and the name of the person the sonnet is for. To this end, readers are further encouraged to make sense of the generated sonnet in the context of their relationship to a specific individual. This approach allows for the sonnet to more fully reflect the person's perspective and experiences.
Using this question and answer form to discover a person's perception of love is similar to the electronic logic found in hypericonomy where "the intuitions are not left in the thinker's body but simulated in a machine, augmented by a prosthesis" (Ulmer as cited in O'Gorman, 2006, p. 88). This emergence of intuition outside of the thinker's body is reflected in Freud's and Lacan's discussion of "deferred understanding" (p. 89). They discuss this through the lens of psychoanalysis where a person initially describes a conscious recollection and by doing so they come to terms with an unconscious revelation that emerges. O'Gorman (2006) describes this as "deferred understanding, an understanding-too-late, arrived at by means of a detour through the realm of nonsense..." (p. 89). Although The Love Sonnet Generator does not make use of images or visuals, which are typically associated with hypericonomy, it does still utilize this conscious method of asking questions and receiving responses as a means for discovering the unconscious, or perhaps more accurately something that is difficult to pin down and define, like love. Their own understanding of love is then articulated through a Shakespearean sonnet so that their perception of love can be manifested in some fashion outside of the body.
Through responding to the questions, people are able to discover their own perspectives on love that they may find difficult to articulate through alternative contexts. Essentially, users of the generator are handing over the task of defining love to a machine. Using the form on the main page gives agency to the machine to define what love is for the individual, as the machine is limited to "evaluating the situation according to the logic and rules programmed into them" (Norman, 2009, Kindle Locations 268-269). In this project, the class titled "sonnet" contains the rules and logic by which the machine abides. To that end, each visitor's responses to the questions reveal that there is no single definition of love, just as Bogost (2012) argues after providing 15 different definitions of the video game E.T.. Bogost (2012) explains that "E.T. is never only one of the things just mentioned, nor is it only a collection of all of these things" (Kindle Locations 447-448). Since different user responses create different sonnets, love, too, is never just one of the sonnets generated. Neither is it all of them at once.
Bogost, I. (2012). Alien phenomenology, or what it's like to be a thing. [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Norman, D. (2009). The design of future things. [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
O'Gorman, M. (2006). E-crit: Digital media, critical theory, and the humanities. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
Ramsay, S. (2011). Reading machines: Toward an algorithmic criticism. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.