Not a case of words?

Thus far, I have tried not to let my personal feelings about the reading affect my ability to construct a critical response, but with this week’s reading it seems unavoidable. Like Noelle, I found the Young-Hae Chang “readings” extremely grating and difficult to follow. And the actual content of Between Page and Screen was somewhat disappointing. I thought the entire idea—the multimaterial configuration as outlined by Ortega—was brilliant, but the content itself, while quirky and certainly tongue-in-cheek, did not provide me with much to take away.

For Ortega, it seems that the lack of substantive content is to underscore “the material configuration of the project…emphasi[zing] its process of mediation, and the eccentric enactment of the reading experience.” I totally get that, and that’s fine, but I just wish that the experiential aspect of the readings were doing some deeper work than just highlighting their own materiality. If page and screen both “share text’s fleshy network,” I suppose I was expecting more flesh, more text… more fleshy text. In House of Leaves, for example, the calls toward the text’s own materiality are working in conjunction with the story itself, so one’s experience with the interface does not overshadow one’s ability to make meaning of the story, and vice versa.

I wonder if my reactions mean I am fulfilling the type of reader that these texts seek to challenge. That may be true, but if so, what is the project here? I understand that every “textual environment produces its own meaning-making logic,” but I wonder if Between Page and Screen tries to resist meaning-making in a similar way to Pynchon or some of the other authors we’ve engaged with. This is sort of the only conclusion I can come to as to why the text itself is so sparse. Perhaps it truly is “Not a Case of Words” as Ortega utilizes as a foundation for her argument. But is it an effective act of resistance to make a reader do a bunch of “work” for no real payoff? And if so, what does this prove, other than working as an attempt to dispel the authority/fetishization of the written book object?

One thought on “Not a case of words?

  1. I agree. The content aspect of BPaS left me mystified. The piling up of puns, one on top of another, made me feel that the text-as-content was inaccessible, and not just because I am, perhaps ironically, one of those people who don’t typically find puns funny. Word play amuses me to an extent, but at some point it felt like overkill and, as you said, I’m not really sure what it was attempting to accomplish (though I’ll readily acknowledge that this type of material is not my forte and I might be missing something obvious).

    I’m curious about your idea of doing “a bunch of ‘work’ for no real payoff.” Maybe the “work” is the payoff and the payoff is the work… After all, it is only the process of “reading” that allows a text to make sense to us. Is BPaS trying to direct our attention to that process, that “work,” rather than the work of an “author”? I’m doubly interested in that question because it seems like the authors get radically distanced from the project and it becomes far less about some form of the author–reader–text relationship than some other relationship that might be something like: reader–reader–reader, with the author erased (disappeared?) and the text somewhere in the dashes…

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