TEXTile by Jean Shin


"What is to be said of Languor, of the Image, of the Love Letter, since it is the whole of the lover's discourse which is woven of languourous desire, of the image-repertoire, of declarations? But he who utters this discourse and shapes its episdoes does not know that a book is to be made of them; he does not yet know that as a good cultural subject he should neither repeat nor contradict himself, nor take the whole for the part; all he knows is that waht passes through his mind at a certain moment is marked, like the printout of a codeā€¦" (Barthes A Lover's Discourse 4)

Theories of intertextuality, as discussed here and elsewhere by Barthes and by nearly all major critical theorists (Kristeva, who gives us this term), even when they do name intertextuality, invariably recall the trope of weaving and the fibrous material nature of paper and books. (A noteable exception, Derrida writes extensively on the permeable borders between texts, the involutions and "invaginations" that divide and yet do not divide texts from one another ["Living" 267]; and thus his intertextual metaphor of choice-at least in that essay-involves human tissue.) D. F. McKenzie reminds us of the latitude inherent in the Latin root of "text," which means simply "'to weave,' and therefore refers, not to any specific material as such, but to its woven state, the web or texture of the materials. Indeed, it was not restricted to the weaving of textiles, but might be applied equally well to the interlacing or entwining of any kind of material" (13-14).

Here theory and book history converge. In employing textual metaphors in their performative criticism, thinkers such as Barthes manifest an awareness of the materials that house language, of the materiality of language in its visible forms. McKenzie draws from this same imaginative way of thinking about the interconnectedness of things, even though his approach to the study of texts will insist on more concrete modes of analysis (sociology, history, bibliography) and more culturally pragmatic ends (criticism in service of actual social and political justice).

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