Literature, History, and the Materiality of the Text

This article forms part of an intra‑Marxist debate on the materiality of the text. Easthope argues that although a text only takes on significance in its various (historically determined) readings, it has a material existence in two crucial aspects, the phonetic and the phonemic. The phonetic materiality, the written marks on the page, may differ in different versions of the same text (i.e., with different typefaces) but the phonemic materiality (a.k.a., the signifiers) is largely static. It is the variability of the signifiers which accounts for the variability of the readings. Easthope goes on to argue that "literariness" derives from the polysemy of the signifiers, which allows for universal applicability (or continual re‑interpretation) of literary texts. (Steve Koerner)