Deviant, Mystery, and Defamiliarization

Donna Leishman’s electronic literature Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw is an animated interactive graphic based on the well-known story of the demonic possession of Christian Shaw. Leishman’s animated interactive graphic relies heavily on mystery and defamiliarization to create the overall tone of the narrative. Upon reading the title the reader immediately becomes aware of the piece’s overall dark tone. However, this is intensified via mystery and defamiliarization upon beginning the game. At the start of the game there is no evident objective or course of action. Therefore, the reader/player is forced to hover over the landscape with the cursor in an attempt to find an interactive element. In the process, the background music quickens as if to indicate that the cursor has discovered something of note (though often nothing of note is found). This specific element of the piece creates a strong sense of mystery within the reader. 

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As the piece progresses the reader/player slowly finds interactive elements within the landscape that lead to individual segments of a narrative. It is unclear whether or not these segments have a particular chronological order, however it is easy to deduce that each segment is from a specific point in the narrative of Christian Shaw. The disarray of the narrative segments creates a strong sense of defamiliarization within the player. Defamiliarization within the piece is heightened through the use of floral scenery. In Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw Leishman implements a surplus of interactive floral scenery into the landscape. By dragging the cursor over the scenery the player can either destroy or create gardens of brightly colored flowers.

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The use of vibrant flowers proves contradictory to the initial dark tone that the piece exudes. As a result, the reader begins to question and reinterpret the tone and plot of the piece. That is, until they ultimately stumble across the section of the narrative where Christian Dawn is taken to the doctor. After this particular segment the narrative returns to its previously dark tone and the reader begins to see countless depictions of demons and supernatural beings. Though this is what is to be expected in a narrative concerning possession, Leishman manages to defamiliarize the reader via the use of interactive landscape. 

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Donna Leishman uses mystery and defamiliarization to generate the overall tone of Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw. Though the narrative of Christian Shaw is well known within American culture. However, Leishman manages to uses mystery and defamiliarization to create a newness to the well known historical events.

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