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The Materiality of Reading

From: New Literary History
Volume 37, Number 3, Summer 2006
pp. 607-629 | 10.1353/nlh.2006.0000

Abstract

Reading and other meditative activities affect bodily functions and feelings because reading is a material practice. Its social forms derive from the materiality of language, a perspective derived from the Nominalist tradition that has been recently reread by Wittgenstein, Austin, Bakhtin, Whorf, Kristeva, Derrida, and others. In this sense of reading and interpretation, abstractions and generalizations are provisional, applicable in local and instrumental contexts rather than as scientific laws or permanent truths. To read is to describe and/or re-say, while explanation is understood to be a pragmatic action rather than a fixing of knowledge.