Move 1: Wait a minute, what’s this book about?

This week we look at McGann’s Radiant Textuality, a book now more than decade old; returning to the book this week, I must say I was struck chiefly by how relevant it remains in many regards. Other readers, though, noted some other things—some were attracted/fascinated by the IVANHOE game, others by questions of interpretation and deformance; and others found that decade’s distance a more profound gulf:

  • Adam offers some reflections on the lamented (by McGann) divide between “critics” and “editors”, before launching into an IVANHOE game of his own. (Will anyone play?) Adam intervenes in the IVANHOE game collected in the appendix of Radiant Textuality, in the character of ” John Booby. The descendent of the much famed Squire Booby who acted as a model for Fielding’s character of the same name, John is a red-faced, coursing gentleman who can run down texts with hart-like tenacity.” While Adam wonders “is what I did the IVANHOE game, or have I missed the point and written fan fiction”? (Are those categories mutually exclusive?) He certainly seems to have the spirit of the thing…
  • Staci wonders whether the decade since the publication of Radiant Textuality might not have complicated the (enormous? inflated?) opportunities hypertext offers for literary study (that is, for the state of literature after the world wide web). Does the diversity of platforms available on today’s web beyond hypertext (can I say Web 2.0? or would I thereby have branded myself a charlatan foreverafter? or merely as a relic of an era now five years gone?) complicate (or even undermine?) the possibilities that McGann explores and seems to extol? Does an age of transmedia (and Staci here invokes Henry Jenkins) mean that literature’s textuality isn’t quite so radiant?
  • In a dizzying post which capitalizes on and continues the most dizzying flights of abstraction in McGann’s book (questions about “what is text” and “what is interpretation”), EM presses on the relationship between interpretation and deformance; between the text as incarnation and the text as vehicle; between the intelligible and the sensible. (The post also features the use of the word caboose as a verb. This is no small achievement.)
  • Jordan happily notes, in McGann’s book, a tendency that moves in a contrary direction from the focus on quasi-scientific, statistically grounded data crunching that we might associate with DH: “despite all the apparent scientific rigor of digital experimentation, there is something delightful, almost Proustian, about the kinds of accidental aesthetic discoveries that newly mechanized recombinations of analog works, whether literary or otherwise, might enable. There is something refreshingly serendipitous about the whole affair.” For all that, however, he notes how very far McGann’s proposed game, IVANHOE, is from the world of video games available to us now. What should we make of this gap?

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