Intentio Lectoris: The State and Art

Google Penance time.*  The Search Engine Juggernaut has been referring more than a couple people looking for information on Umberto Eco’s essay to Ye Olde Humble Blogge, so I guess I should probably give those people a hand.

First, at least part of the essay is on Google Books.  Have a looksee there—Eco’s a good writer, and, in this case, the horse’s mouth is as good a place to hear things from as any.

You’ve read Eco now?  Yes?  Good.  No?  Do it later, you won’t regret it.

Interpretive theories—especially those relating to “constructive” interpretation**—have many applications, most notably in aesthetic criticism and, thanks to Ronald Dworkin, jurisprudence.  Now, while I think Dworkin overstates how far you can take interpretation in law, language, and aesthetics (I may explain why later, for the three people who would ever be interested in hearing why), I do think he raises an important point: the kind of interpretation one does in legal practice is very similar, formally speaking, to the kind one does in aesthetic criticism.  Thus, before I start ranting about Hart, Kripkenstein, and rule-guided behavior, let’s have some art. Continue reading

The Medieval Ebook, Part II: Writing in the Margins

As I mentioned last time, the odd writings you find in the margins of medieval books (and, for that matter, in between the lines or on loose sheets of paper inserted between the pages) are often of great importance.  Known as marginal or interlinear glosses (or, if on loose paper, extras), these notes, asides, and corrections took on a life of their own, sometimes rivaling the importance of the book they were written in.  Perhaps the most famous collections based largely on these writings would be the Catena Aurea of Thomas Aquinas, one of many such catenae aureae compiled by late antique and medieval authors, and the four books of Peter Lombard’s Sentences—though most any Scholastic writing on philosophical or theological  matters will cite glosses or extras at some point or other.

Royal 10 E IV   f. 59v   Rabbit shooting

We've lost a lot since we decided "*" was good enough.

Which brings me to the point I was making at the end of my previous post.  If you have a copy of the books/papers being cited at your fingertips, in parallel with a paper or essay using them, then, rather than having some artifact of scholarship divorced from its roots, you can see the organic growth and web of relationships between source text and new work.  Though this would be helpful enough if you could click on a citation in a paper and be taken directly to the location cited, the reverse—reading a book or paper and seeing who and what cites it as you’re reading it—could be more interesting and fruitful. Continue reading

A Thought on Electronic Publishing, Returning to Form (Part 1)

This post is part 1 of (at least) two; the second part is located here.

“Everyone” in publishing (well, other than at my small academic press where people still submit things in WordPerfect) seems to be all excited/worried/up-in-arms about the Impending Ebook Revolution.  It may happen, for obvious reasons.  It may not happen, again for obvious reasons.  I’m not a tech blogger, nor an industry pundit, nor even a cranky old emeritus professor who causes Bossman to say things about people who submit in WordPerfect before dumping it onto the production editor, so I’d suggest finding one of those if you want to know why ebooks are The Next Big Thing/The End of the World.

Rather, I was thinking about why someone would prefer electronic reading material to print.  Much of this will be addressed in later posts, but one thing that struck me as a potentially interesting consequence of electronic book downloading is how similar it is (or could be) to how reading materials were bound in the middle ages.

Yes, really. Continue reading