The reincarnation of wonder
April 4, 2016 - Spaces and Practices
When I studied literary theory for my undergrad degree we started the course reading Barthes seminal essay. You know the one. The one about texts gaining meaning through the culture in which they exist, and more specifically through the reader that lives in that culture in which the text exists. That one that when I introduced it’s concepts at home my stepmother was horrified and quite angry at the thought: of course there is an author, no question about it. Are you trying to say that Shakespeare did not exist? Hmmm. Not quite. More about his perspective, and our perspective, and continual change and re-interpretation of old ideas and established knowledge.
I’m rereading that essay again now and trying to imagine what the opposite of the death of the author would be. (I’ve done enough deconstructing in my brief encounter with critical theory and feel that reconstruction is more my bag)
Maybe it could be a continual process of re-living wonderment; a curiosity of the text; fresh perspective on old ideas.
Maybe it could be a reincarnation of wonder.
Some other things:
I’ve been reading about authorship recently which has been interesting. Firstly, the author was an 18th century concept (quite late in the history of books).
“the codex book became the dominant form for preserving and transmitting the written word in the West almost a millennium before the advent of moveable type or the emergence of the notion of the individual author as source of ideas. And while it is clear that the introduction of printing accelerated, intensified and extended the reach and exchange of literature culture, there is no evidence of any clear link between the advent of printing and the emergence of the notion of the individual author as the source of knowledge and truths. This idea seems much more clearly linked, rather, to the changing political, institutional, and cultural demands of the renaissance states and their absolute successors, which developed the need for new sets of skills and a new notion of individual accountability. Indeed, while the Renaissance elaborated a new discourse celebrating man as creator, a discourse which contributed to the social elevation of the artist and the intellectual, it was not until the eighteenth century that the author was recognized in Western Europe as a legal entity. And even then s/he was not seen as the proper creator of his or her ideas, but rather as a handmaiden chosen by God for the revelation of divine truth. It was slowly over the course of the eighteenth century, that the author became legally recognized as the originator of his or her works (in England in 1710; in France in 1793; and in Prussia in 1794).”
(Hesse. C (1996) ‘Books in Time’ in Nunberg, G (ed), The Future of the Book, University of California: Berkeley)
Secondly, maps (also a text of sorts, that have authors) used to tell stories, until around the same time the concept of author was established.
“medieval maps, which served as memorandum of itineraries, providing directions and advise for the traveler who would undertake the same journey (de Certeau 1984:120). In the history of writing as in that of mapping, remembering gradually gave way to representation over the same period – from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century – that also saw the rise of modern scientific discourse. De Certuau has shown how, in the course of this transitions, the map ‘slowly disengaged itself from the itineraries that where the conditions of possibility’. For some time maps would continue to be illustrated with pictures of ships, land-forms, people and beasts of various descriptions, winds and currents, and the like. Subsequently dismissed as quaint decorations, these figures were really fragments if stories telling of the journeys, and the incidents that took place along them, from which the map resulted. But eventually the map won out over there pictorial figurations, eliminating all remaining traces of the practices that provided it (de Certeau 1984: 120-1). Thus the making of maps came to be divorced from the experience of bodily movement in the world. The cartographer has no need to travel, indeed he may have no experience whatever of the territory he so painstakingly seeks to represent. His task is rather to assemble, off-site, the information provided to him.”
(Ingold, T. (2000) The Perception of the Environment, Routledge: London/NY.)