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Print is Flat: Code is Deep

April 16, 2011

“Lulled into somnolence by five hundred years of print, literary analysis
should awaken to the importance of media-specific analysis, a mode of critical attention
which recognizes that all texts are instantiated and that the nature of the medium
in which they are instantiated matters. Central to repositioning critical inquiry, so it
can attend to the specificity of the medium, is a more robust notion of materiality.
Materiality is reconceptualized as the interplay between a text’s physical characteristics
and its signifying strategies, a move that entwines instantiation and signification
at the outset. This definition opens the possibility of considering texts as embodied
entities while still maintaining a central focus on interpretation. It makes materiality
an emergent property, so that it cannot be specified in advance, as if it were a pregiven
entity. Rather, materiality is open to debate and interpretation, ensuring that
discussions about the text’s ‘‘meaning’’ will also take into account its physical specificity
as well.”

N. Katherine Hayles ‘Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis’, Poetics Today 25:1 (Spring 2004) p67.

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