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A broad theoretical agreement exists about the aesthetic and cognitive functions of elementary non-semantic literary materials (paper, ink, graphic design, and typefaces). Nevertheless, very few practical demonstrations exist of a critical method for elucidating these functions, which are especially important for defining the performative operations of literary works.
Herbert Horne's 1891 book Diversi Colores offers an especially lucid case study in this context. This essay develops a close reading of the non-semantic elements of Horne's book and reflects upon the general interpretive methodology that this case study illustrates. Its ultimate purpose is to elucidate the heuristic character of the metadistinction between content and form, and thereby to establish a more solid theoretical and methodological foundation under any investigation of genre.