My long term engagement with and work on the subject ‘materiality’ has resulted in a new publication, and I am glad that it is again in an open access, online journal! The article ‘Meaning and Materiality in Literary Studies’ (pp. 39–60) is part of the 2nd issue of the newly established series / thematic journal ‘Schriften zur Kultur- und Mediensemiotik‘, edited by Martin Nies and the Virtual Centre for Culturo-semiotic Research (VZKF), of which I became an associate researcher recently.

Recently, non- and paraverbal properties of literary texts at the level of documentary inscription (i.e. materiality), seen individually or as aspects of a so-called ‘material text’, that is, the union of materiality and verbal sign systems, received an increasing amount of attention in textual scholarship and literary studies. Here, ‘meaning’ or at least ‘semantic potentiality’ has been attributed to both or either and physical features of texts have been construed as hitherto neglected aspects of literary communication and literary aesthetics. In what follows, I will present a brief conspectus of the current debate and then try to provide a reconstruction of underlying ideas by answering the question ‘how does a material text mean?’. Taking a descriptive meta-perspective and focusing on conceptual and methodological clarification, I try to clarify the somewhat blurry expressions ‘meaning’, ‘to mean’ and the like by translating them into the distinct terminology of semiotics and transferring them into the theoretical framework of an instrumentalist notion of signs.

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@ Martin Nies / VZKF – www.kultursemiotik.com

You can read, download, and distribute the complete article as a pdf-file here!

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03. March 2015 · Comments Off on Video Game Framings – Examining Paratextual Theory and Its Applications in Digital Culture · Categories: Game Studies, Research Dissemination · Tags: , , ,

Finally!!

My chapter contribution to the anthology “Examining Paratextual Theory and Its Applications in Digital Culture“, edited by Nadine Desrochers (Université de Montréal, Canada) and Daniel Apollon (University of Bergen, Norway) has been published by IGI Global (promised for April 2014, actually accessible since January 2015). The book which contains 16 chapters and an introductory part by the editors tries to cover a broad variety of disciplines (mostly in the humanities with some social sciences and information science) and tackles the often rather vaguely employed concept of paratext or paratextuality, respectively, in ‘digital culture’, meaning anything from electronic literature, to new media, from video games to online pornography platforms and from digital ‘objects’ to fanfiction in online forums.

Here’s the original abstract to my 35 pages long chapter titled “Video Game Framings

This chapter discusses the applicability of the concept of ‘paratext’ (as coined by Gérard Genette) to audio-visual media in general and to video games in particular. In the first section, some potential elements of a video game’s ‘paratext’ are singled out by means of ‘auto-ethnographic’ description of the introductory sequence(s) of the first-person shooter game BioShock Infinite. Several segments of the game’s ‘threshold’ are differentiated employing a rather tentative ad-hoc terminology. In the second section, Genette’s definitional stipulations, posing the point of reference for everyone actually using the term ‘paratext,’ are reconstructed, clarified and constructively criticized. Here, the author also discusses potential objections to Genette’s definitional criteria and briefly touches upon some media-theoretical constraints of his approach. Ensuing from these meta-terminological considerations, the author turns to the questionable use of ‘paratext’ in video game studies. As critical examination reveals, the terminology in this field of research is rather vaguely connected to, and sometimes even completely detached from, Genette’s definition. As an objection to such redefinitions of the term, the chapter suggests (1) that its use be restricted to communicative signals meeting the following criteria only: (a) functionally subservient to (which obviously implies specifically referring to) ‘the game proper,’ (b) authorized by entitled members of the game’s production collective, (c) verbal, (d) (at least partly) extra-diegetic. Additionally, (2) the chapter proposes supplementing ‘paratext’ as an analytical tool with the higher-order umbrella term ‘framings’ (as coined by Werner Wolf).

The chapter is a close reading of Genette’s main terminological contributions to the concept of ‘paratext’ and an in-depth, analytical discussion of it and it’s appropriation, especially in new media studies. It will thus, hopefully (I dare say!), be an incentive to a discussion that is notably absent but necessary nonetheless. – If you’re only interested in the terminological clarifications and the discussion of the concept and its appropriation, you can skip the first part. However, if you want to follow me along entering the video game world of Bioshock Infinite™ in an auto-ethnographic narrative, you should definitely immerse yourself in part 1!

You can purchase the article or the complete book at IGI Global’s webshop. But I suggest that if you’re interested in my contribution and don’t want to or simply cannot afford to purchase it, to ask me and I will gladly provide you with a personal copy! Just send me an email!

07. August 2014 · Comments Off on Published: co-authored article in collection on typography, materiality, literature, and meaning · Categories: Research Dissemination, Textual Scholarship · Tags: , ,

Few days ago I received the print edition of long-awaited collection of articles (or: edited conference proceedings)

Text – Material – Medium. Zur Relevanz editorischer Dokumentationen für die literaturwissenschaftliche Interpretation. Ed. by Wolfgang Lukus, Rüdiger Nutt-Kofoth, Madleen Podewski. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter 2014 (Beihefte zu editio. 37). 303 pages.

The collection contains 16 original articles in six thematic sections, and a comprehensive introduction (pp. 1–22) by the editors. (A link to the pdf-file of the table of contents can be found here).

My (co-authored) article is one of two in the opening section “Aspekte zu Theorie und Geschichte” (theory & history),

Annika Rockenberger, Per Röcken: Wie ‘bedeutet’ ein ‘material text’. In: Text – Material – Medium. Zur Relevanz editorischer Dokumentationen für die literaturwissenschaftliche Interpretation. Ed. by Wolfgang Lukus, Rüdiger Nutt-Kofoth, Madleen Podewski. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter 2014 (Beihefte zu editio. 37), pp. 25–51.

In the article, I investigate how a material text (or: materiality in general regarding works of literature, be they printed, handwritten, engraved, painted, or even digital) means, that is: I shed some light on the notoriously vague and ambiguous term ‘meaning’ and its use, and following this clarification I tie the term to a production-oriented (communicator/sender-oriented) sign theory. Ensuing from this, I distinguish three classes of signs and show where, when, and how they are to be used when analyzing or ‘interpreting’ material aspects of (literary) texts. I exemplify, reconstruct, and critically discuss a couple of cases from (German) literary studies where material aspects have been part of or are the main focus of the interpretation of a literary text.

Once I am in the possession of a pdf-version of the printed collection, I’ll send it to anyone interested upon request! The pdf-version is accessible via the De Gruyter website (paywall) here.

The other thematic sections of the collection are: “Skriptografische Materialität: Entwurfshandschriften” (scriptographical materiality: draft manuscripts) with articles by Almuth Grésillon, Burghard Dedner, Johannes Barth, Johannes John, Gabriele Sander, and Kai Bremer. Followed by section III “Typographische Materialität I: Buch” (typographical materiality I: book) with contributions by Thomas Rahn, Gabriele Wix, and Franziska Mayer. Section IV “Typografische Materialität II: Buch vs. Zeitung/Zeitschrift” (typographical materiality II: book vs. newspaper/journal) with articles by Barbara von Reibnitz, Michael Scheffel, and Gustav Frank. The last two sections have only one contribution each: section V “Nichtschriftliche Materialität I: Audiophone Varianz” (non-scriptural materiality I: audiophone variants) with an article by Andreas Meier and section VI “Nichtschriftliche Materialität II: Die ‘Schreibszene’ jenseits des Textes” (non-scriptural materiality II: the ‘scene of writing’ beyond the text) with a witty essay by Bodo Plachta about writers’ desks, inkpots, pens, and paperweights.

You can buy the collection via de Gruyter (hardcover/e-pub) or seek out a library that has a copy. If you’re interested in my article, just send me an email and I will provide you with a pdf-version!

P.S. Due to a rather long production process of the collection (the conference was held in February 2011), I was not able to include any references to literature newer than 2012. Last changes to my article were made in October 2012!