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.


@ Martin Nies / VZKF –

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

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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!