This space is the repository for the papers, presentations (slides, videos, etc) that will form the basis of the CSDH-SCHN 2021 online conference, to take place May 30-June 3rd.

Spec Ops: The Line: Recontextualizing Heart of Darkness

As a theoretical tool and framework, recontextualization has traditionally been used within the humanities in order to study the themes, symbols, and motifs of western mythology. Within this framework, scholars have translated and analyzed narratives through various forms of media production (i.e. poetry, plays, pottery, novels, films, etc). Over time, this framework has been advanced and developed by linguists, anthropologists, and sociologists (e.g. Per Linell, Richard Bauman, and Charles L. Briggs). The process of recontextualization posits that signs, motifs, and meaning can be authentically extracted and transferred from one text/context into another. Furthermore, recontextualization allows for this transference to occur between different mediums over large gaps in time. The question of how and why this transference occurs, and what is meant by “authentic transference” can be explored and answered by reviewing Bauman and Brigg’s “political economy of texts.”

This presentation will explore the process of recontextualization by analyzing Yager Development’s Spec Ops: The Line, a third-person shooter video game released in 2012. As a video game that purposefully recontextualizes Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Spec Ops is an excellent case study for the digital humanities that situates itself as both a key possibility regarding its narrative design and a key problematic regarding its corporatized development history. More specifically, despite the corporate expectations set by Spec Ops’ publisher (2K Games) and its release within an established mainstream franchise, Spec Ops: The Line transcends its limitations by recontextualizing Conrad/Coppola’s Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now through an aesthetic and narrative lens that is culturally prescient and inherently unique to the participatory nature of video games as a medium. To that end, Spec Ops: The Line calls to attention the need for games analysis within a digital humanities context in order to open new ways of understanding recontextualization as a useful framework for the study of video games.

Here is the video presentation:

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