When is a text…

not just words written on a page? Traditional literary criticism has itthat there are only two ways of understanding any text, a binaryconception of literary criticism based upon the dichotomy activevs passive reader. As an example of the principle divisionbetween active/passive reader, one can read Rayuela by JulioCortázar; the author presents two ways of reading the text – thepassive one (he uses the word “female”)leads to an understanding of thebook as a story, with characters and a plot, and the second, activeposition leads to a much deeper understanding of the text as ametafictional work about the nature of writing itself.

More recently, however, it has been accepted that there exist aninfinite variation of ways in which to understand texts that lie betweenactive and passive.

What is interesting to me, however, much more than the reader, is thetransformation that the text itself undergoes when read. A text willhave merely one or two levels when read superficially – but then upon the application of an “active” reader the text will open up,fan-like, into a minutely varied composite of subtle meanings, symbols,and overreaching social or political commentaries.

This kind of critical dialogue, this engagement with the text, isessential to grasping an understanding of it – the minutiae ofdifferences in techniques of reading texts will dictate the eventualplethora of critical outcomes that the text submits for understanding.It is only in dialogue with an active reader that a text may achievethis opening of itself into a critical space; realize thispotential becoming of ideas rather than story; that theconcepts it embodies lift themselves from the words on the page toengage in an intellectual intercourse with the reader. The text transforms itself from the passivity of words on a page to the activity ofan encoded concept, hiding and baring subtleties of meaning to thecritical mind.

All this sounded a lot more intersting and entangled in my brain… thenJosh walked in and started talking about brewing, and it flew away. Damn. Be it said, however, that it was neat and that itwas heading somewhere. Only my hope that no one will ever, ever read this blog allows me to post this entry. :)

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