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Glitching the Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Malfunction

July 22, 2019 @ 12:00 pm


July 22, 2019
12:00 pm


Seminar Room G010, Hardiman Research Building


Justin Tonra



While the word “glitch” is often still used to connote catastrophic failure, videogamers have come to view glitches opportunistically, as chances to intervene in game texts in ways unforeseen (and often unforeseeable) by their developers.

My presentation draws on a variety of game glitches and the alternate modes of textual navigation they enable to demonstrate how the glitch forces us to rethink even such basic concepts as plot, character, temporality, and point of view, ultimately showing how the resulting “narrative of malfunction” blends and reshapes digital studies, narratology, and queer/disability theory to establish brokenness, error, and failure as baseline states within which narrative “function” is at best temporary and often actively to be avoided. All texts are thus potentially glitched, and much can be learned and accomplished within them by reading for the glitches.


Andrew Ferguson is a visiting assistant professor of digital studies in the Department of English at the University of Maryland. His work—located at the intersection of media-textual studies, cultural theory, and popular culture—may be found in Textual Cultures, Hypermedia Joyce Studies, and Science Fiction Studies among others. His ongoing projects include collections of essays on born-digital horror and “bad” art, a critical biography of the Irish-American science fiction author R.A. Lafferty (soon to appear from the University of Illinois Press), and the manuscript on glitches and narrative theory from which this talk is adapted.