I hope, here, to myself deform this study, simultaneously creating its form (as a semi-interactive webtext) and deforming it (as it necessarily breaks into pieces as opposed to a single, finished product). In doing so, I have been inspired both by recent work in Digital Humanities and work in composition studies on embodiment, queerness, and form. Stacey Waite, for example, calls for “queer forms” in both the composition classroom and in composition scholarship:

I argue for and employ what I call ‘queer forms’— non-normative and category-resistant forms of writing that move between the critical and the creative, the theoretical and the practical, the rhetorical and the poetic, the queer and the often invisible normative functions of classrooms.

-Teaching Queer (Composition, Literacy, and Culture) (p. 7). University of Pittsburgh Press.

The construction of this webtext troubles normative approaches to composition that prioritize a finished product. Rather than attempting to prescribe forms to the text, to some extent, this study and its form must emerge, reflectively and reflexively, and perhaps poetically (rather than hermeneutically) out of the affordances of the web design tools I’ve employed (primarily WordPress and HTML).

Robert McRuer’s “Composing Bodies; or, De-Composition: Queer Theory, Disability Studies, and Alternative Corporealities” (2004) argues that instructors and writers often approach composition and writing as straight, routinized, and homogenizing. He asks:

How, then, do we acknowledge and affirm the experiences we draw from multiple academic and nonacademic communities where composing (in all senses of the word) is clearly an unruly, disorderly, cultural practice?...If composing is, as the dictionary definition suggests, somehow connected to labor, is it possible to resist the impulse to focus on finished products (the highlight routinized, ‘well-made’ essay; the sonnet sequence; the supposedly secure masculine or heterosexual identity) and to keep that labor in mind as we inquire into what composition means and into what it might mean in the future?

-p. 49

McRuer argues that composition necessarily always engages the body, and if we assume that a composition must be straight or linear, then we assume that the body composing it must also be straight and linear—composed.


My approach here will attempt to decompose, or deform, or disfigure, both Shelley’s work and my own. Like the figuring and disfiguring mirrors discussed by de Man, this twenty-first century webtext forms Shelley’s poetry at the same time that it deforms it; I approach particular passages from Shelley’s poetry, as opposed to whole or finished poems, in order to both highlight particular forms or areas of interest and to avoid viewing it as a “whole.” I am interested, particularly, in the moments in Shelley’s poetry where forms deform gender and sex, and where sex deforms form—both of these movements necessarily happening simultaneously. Likewise, my text, here, will be disfigured, disjointed—yet it functions as an interactive embodied figure of thoughts and ideas spanning over two centuries.

Midst others of less note, came one frail Form,
A phantom among men; companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm

Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
Had gazed on Nature's naked loveliness,
Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray
With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,
And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,
Pursued, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.

-Adonais, Stanza 31

Click below for audio recording.

I have also incorporated multiple media and composition types—particularly the use of my own voice:

I have additionally used a digital concordance tool in order to explore the relationship between form, alliteration and assonance: AntConc. Rather than attempting to gather numerical data, I’ve used AntConc to locate trends and passages of interest. My focus in discussing Shelley’s poetry will primarily be on alliteration, assonance, and consonance because these repetitions of sounds can be reflective, deforming, and forming; repeated vowel and consonant sounds across words may function as reflections. Yet, despite the sounds’ similarity or repetition, the words they are attached to or found in are different, and at times, the meanings or implications conveyed by the repeated sounds may not always cohere with the meanings of the words, or they may change the words’ meanings slightly.

I explore my use of AntConc and the relationship between form and repeated sounds below:

The passages selected from Shelley all feature the confluence of form, sex and sexuality, and repetition. They do not necessarily address all of these in content, and, indeed, as Shelley did not separate bodily and aesthetic form, so my readings will focus themselves on the forms of, not merely in, Shelley’s poetry.

[For more on the significance of alliteration, assonance, and consonance in this study, and especially of assonance, click here for a further discussion.]