N.B. This is a break from my usual outpouring of wannabe literature, dipping more towards the critical side of things. Or at least, it’s a humble attempt. Inspired by the following snippet from Chomsky: “The general public doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”
The problem with this trend in literary/communications theory that EVERYTHING IS A TEXT. EVERYTHING. THAT TABLE CAN BE A TEXT IF YOU REALLY WANT IT TO BE. is that it’s just feeding into the loss of language our culture is experiencing. People are writing more but becoming less literate, and partly because of this insane loosening of what it means to be a “text.” If anything can be anything and can have any meaning because everything just depends on how the reader/viewer/listener interprets it — the world turns to soup.
It’s a definite symptom and effect of the “me” generation. Look at our poetry, our prose, our art and our music — no longer is a “text” something that begins with a personal seed but is used to make a significant comment on the world (or at least one aspect of the world) at large. It is now “me”-based. It’s all about the author and what the author thinks and how the author thinks and how the author feels, which, in a way, is kind of universal because odds are if the author is thinking or feeling this, there are at least a million people out there who have thought or felt the same way (hey, it’s a big world out there).
But literary commentary? Not so much. And if there is, it may just go completely unnoticed because the population at large isn’t aware of enough of the external world, is too caught up in personal problems — personal problems that may not be petty, but they are certainly not pertinent. I am all for Reader Reception Theory, to a degree. Absolutely, the reader must interpret the information being conveyed. But there is also a limit to what CAN be conveyed and how it can be conveyed and that is inherent to the medium. AKA, the text. But a text is not the only way information can be conveyed, and that’s my point. Not everything is a bloody text. Sometimes it’s a piece of art, sometimes it’s a piece of music, but for god’s sake a text is never a piece of cake (literally OR figuratively). A piece of cake can certainly be a SYMBOLIC object — a signifier — but it is not a text that can be “read” in the same way one reads a piece of fiction or the way you’re reading this blog post.
I get it, I do: “text” is just morphing into a blanket term to mean anything that can be interpreted meaningfully. And that’s great, yes, I agree, anything CAN be interpreted meaningfully — but I am also a huge proponent of FORM. Of medium. HOW you choose to say something should not be arbitrary, and how something is being presented — its MEDIUM — strongly influences not only how it is perceived but even what can be said. Poetry achieves different aims than prose. What can be said through words may not be achievable through a painting. What can be said in watercolours might not translate into acrylics. You may not even be aware of how much the medium of a work of art affects how you perceive it — and that’s something I fear might be lost entirely if this all-encompassing “text” persists.