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| UCL MA in Comparative Literature | Dr. Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen | 13. January 2010 | >> Next seminar: Textual Studies and the Book |

Seminar description

Throughout the twentieth century the question of what a literary text is (or what are the limits of a text) has been at the center of theoretical debates. This seminar will take a closer look at various positions held by Formalist, Hermeneutic, Poststructuralist, Reader Response and media critics. We shall try to unravel where the theories differ (and suggest why), and we shall discuss what we see as the most workable definition of text/textuality in our own hypermedia, globalised society. The reading list below lists a few texts that we shall explore in detail, but students are advised to revisit the previous seminars in this course and ask what theoretical perspectives on the text they have encountered so far.

Post Seminar discussion: From Text to Hypertext: Textuality in the Computer Age. We are going to ask ourselves how the theories of textuality discussed in the seminar may either prefigure or prove limited in defining the textual condition on the internet. Taking our departure from Landow and Bolter's definitions of the hypertext, we shall explore theories of the text (with special focus on literature) in the context of hypermediality and our own experiences with reading on the web. How does specific textual conditions determine or condition modes of reading, authority, ownership, ethics and the canon of literature? See the links to some explorations in digital literature below for inspiration.

Primary texts

  • Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text", in Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. pp. 155-164. (download the chapter in pdf).
  • Alexander Nehamas, "Writer, Text, Work, Author" in Anthony Cascardi, ed. Literature and the Question of Philosophy. Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. pp. 265-291 (download the chapter in pdf).

Explorations in Hypertext/Hypermedia:

Further Reading

  • Gerard Genette, "Introduction" in Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Cambridge UP, 1997. pp. 1-15 (download chapter in pdf)
  • Roland Barthes, "The Theory of the Text" [1973] in Robert Young, ed. Untying the Text: A Post Structuralist Reader. Routledge, 1981. pp. 31-47 (partly available online in Google Books).
  • Paul Ricoeur, "What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding", in John Thompson, ed. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, 1981. pp. 145-164. or in Ricoeur, From Text to Action. Northwestern UP, 1991 (most of the chapter available in Google Books).


Definitions of Text on the web (Google Search)