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From: "Jeremy W. Crampton" <jcrampto@gmu.edu>
Subject: (urth) Readerly and writerly texts
Date: Thu, 09 Dec 1999 16:29:28 


I've had some disturbing thoughts lately...

A distinction sometimes made in poststructuralist lit-crit is between the
readerly and writerly text. I wonder how/if this could apply to Wolfe's work.

Writerly text: is ourselves writing (eg., surfing the Web, the narrative
that is created). Self-consciously aware of its own artifice and its
(failed) attempts at realism.

Readerly text: meaning is stable, transmitted to the reader, dominating

For you lit-crit types, you know that these terms come to us from Barthes:


If we approach a text as a writerly text it is not possible or desirable to
start identifying fixed meanings or metanarratives ("Wolfe just does track
the gospels"). In a writerly text, the reader is in control. 

--Is it possible to achieve the writerly text or is it dependent on the
prevailing social relations? Barthes is supposed to have identified the
readerly text as the dominant mode under capital. 
--Is this list itself a writerly text?

According to Foucault ("The death of the author," 1969):

..implies that the notion of the author is a historical construct (prior,
we looked at heroes, presumably actors in Greek myth and tragedy)

..efforts to contain a text are problematic..what is a work? is a work that
authored? and when is an author accepted as such? a text is not unitary but
can escape into notes, appendices, and commentaries (cf
Sev. explaining this, or even our disagreement over Vol 5 as being part of
BoTNS or not).

..historically, authors emerged as a category when they became subject to
punishment for their work. Texts were owned (this varied over time and
between different fields, eg between literary and scientific works. at
first, sci works had to have a marker to be accepted as true, even if that
marker was an ancient authority). then in17th/18th C. sci works began to be
received for themselves not by reference to their author, and it was
literary works that now needed an author.
..relevant to today's efforts at erasing the author (double blind peer
review) which is actually just an acknowledgement of the power of the
author (and the author always sneaks back in anyway).

For Foucault, neither texts (discourses) nor authors are "unitary"--neither
the subject nor discourse is stable.

Does any of this apply to Wolfe/us?
Jeremy W. Crampton			http://geog.gmu.edu
Geography and Earth Science [MS1E2]
George Mason University
Fairfax Va. 22030-4444
(703) 993-1210

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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