Text as object

I am revisiting Antony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare is an author I know I should like (or at least pretend to), but I find studying the text a little like listening to Kanye’s Otis without the Otis. I read it in 1991 for school and saw a great production by STC with Marcus Graham and Sandy Gore. I downloaded the BBC Audio book this time around and the production values were amazing. If you ever want to know what the pinnacle of audio book production can and should be, download this version.

Now, here’s the bit where I say something controversial. I don’t think the text should be the primary source for study of plays. It was never the author’s intention for audiences to pore over a page. I have been listening to the audio book on my walk to work each day and have been on the verge of tears on arrival. It is so powerful, and let me tell you, it’s hard to write a pregnant pause or an ironic inflection into written text.

It’s worth making the distinction about what text is. I am starting to feel that text is an object, as much as canvas and paint are objects, or a baritone saxophone and manuscripts are objects. Do we need a better definition? Should we define text studies as utilitarian message-making with words, symbols and language? Unlike with the visual arts or music, there doesn’t seem to have been an avant-garde movement in text. Are we fetishising the book in the digital age? And then are we fetishizing text itself? I want to know what you think.

Image from here.


2 thoughts on “Text as object

  1. Robert Moran says:

    And here I thought all artists and publishers were babies that constantly had a good cry on the floor.

  2. Richard says:

    Many bad things have been allowed to happen to Shakespeare’s works. Perhaps one of the worst was the enthusiastic embracing and ultimate dissecting of it by scholastic institutions and particularly the attack by zealous schoolmasters, insistent upon it conforming to neat sets of examination questions.

    Only in the hands of cretins such as Thomas Bowdler, did the text suffer more cruelly than at the hands of enthusiastic school masters.

    Othello’s “I took by the throat the circumcised dog” became ” I took by the throat the damned heathen dog” and “be thus when thou art dead and I will kill thee and love thee after” was considered for censorship on the grounds that it suggested necrophilia.

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