Axiomatic to our sense of literary modernism is the notion of textual self-consciousness: the understanding that one function of modernist language is to turn our attention to language itself, the very material out of which writing is made. A century of prompts to reflect on the literal constitution of the literary, however, has yielded only sporadic and fleeting consideration of what a reader equally attuned to truly concrete textual elements—paper, ink, thread, and glue—might discover. Even though materiality, media, and related terms have recently become central to much critical endeavor, they have largely directed us to the production, promotion, and circulation of literary work (often within the rapidly changing media environment) rather than to the integration of a book's physical attributes and the project of its interpretation. John Lurz pursues this latter conjunction, emphatically expanding the purview of both media...
BENJAMIN WIDISS, associate professor of literature at Hamilton College, is the author of Obscure Invitations: The Persistence of the Author in Twentieth-Century American Literature (2011) and is now completing a book titled “Material Effects: Textual Metaphors and Textual Presences in Contemporary Narrative.”
Benjamin Widiss; Convergent Evolution. Novel 1 May 2019; 52 (1): 170–174. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-7330380
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