“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
This essay, like every other, begins as an empty space. I type the words I am thinking onto this translucent computer screen, and they spill across in shadows: flickering signifiers1 in silver-blue light. In writing, I have a preconceived reader in mind; this is the medium model, for communication requires both a sender and a receiver; the medium—the page—is in between. In typing this text, I am simultaneously invoking its ideal reader; as its editor, I concomitantly exist as a potential reader of the text. In this way, every text begins and ends with its reader.
Yet though this interim post is animated—though the meaning slips from draft to draft,2 from my screen to your screen—when printed, each word will be lifeless: each l e t t e r (my thoughts; their respective symbols) will be fixed to paper and archived in SS1114. The trace of every utterance will be left for future readers to decipher and, ultimately, to reanimate:
Texts produce multiple readings. Shakespeare’s sonnet survives through readers, whose “eyes not yet created” rehearse the cadence of a line. Each reading becomes a layer,
rewriting erasing previous readings until the text becomes a palimpsest: one that “has absorbed all the interpretations to which it has given rise, which in turn make it what it is” (Eco 157). Metaphors grow and fade, as the “infinite readings that the sentence has provoked [are] assimilated,” like citations, “into the original text” (Eco 158). The speaker’s words are not dead, then, but rather pressed, like leaves, into books: for the “deadness of the text, its removal from the living human lifeworld, its rigid visual fixity, assures its endurance and its potential for being resurrected into limitless living contexts by a potentially infinite number of living readers” (Ong 81).3
Perhaps what is most appealing about the hardcover is its demand to be re-read. When we re-enter a book-space, we step into the past—a place of memory. We are haunted by words with extra e’s, evocative passages. We find ourselves reading the same words over and over again. We find ourselves reading the same words over and over again. We find ourselves in the library:
I will go now into the library and take out some book, and read again and look; and read again and look. Here is a poem about a hedge. I will wander down it and pick flowers, green cowbind and the moonlight-coloured May, wild roses and ivy serpentine. I will clasp them in my hands and lay them on the desk’s shiny surface. I will sit by the river’s trembling edge and look at the water-lilies, broad and bright, which lit the oak that overhung the hedge with moonlight beams of their own watery light. I will pick flowers. (Woolf 44)
Re-reading brings new insights; synapses · · · fire; new connections form between words. You think you know something but the text, like theory, “leads you to know it again” (Madison, qtd in Johnson 429). A reader’s mind is like a library; in A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf will introduce you to a female Shakespeare. Texts, in effect, speak to one another. The text that was self-contained and shut releases its potency (wild roses, ivy serpentine . . . ) and transports the reader, stream-like: a blending (as in Woolf) of book, brook, and mind; an open exchange between bodies and material texts:
As an assemblage, a book has only itself, in connection with other assemblages and in relation to other bodies without organs. We will never ask what a book means, as signified or signifier; we will not look for anything to understand in it. We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities. (Deleuze & Guattari 4)
The text that you are reading is a construction: it is produced by me, the Writer, and passed through a · series · of · electronic · impulses · to you, the Reader, and your digital page. I define it in accordance with D. F. McKenzie’s definition: a system of signification constituting “not the presence of linguistic elements, but the act of construction” (43). Readers construct texts according to verbal and non-verbal elements embedded in those texts, and their understanding of materiality. The system of photographs embedded in this blog will alter your experience and interpretation of this thesis; the series of posts and pages constituting this thesis can be read in divers orders: rhizomatic, this text will grow through hyperlinks.
- Credit to Hayles’ Writing Machines for this term. [↩]
- This was a draft. [↩]
- McKenzie also writes that, “texts are perhaps best seen, not as fixed, determined artifacts in a specific medium, but as potential” (51). [↩]
- “Music has always sent out lines of flight, like so many ‘transformational multiplicities,’ even overturning the very codes that structure or aborify it; that is why musical form, right down to its ruptures and proliferations, is comparable to a weed, a rhizome.” (Deleuze & Guattari 12) [↩]