Monday, September 21, 2015

Texts, Printing, and Keeping them Alive

"The Altar" and "Easter Wings" are beautiful poems on their own, but when physically looked at, it adds a new understanding. "The Altar" is actually shaped as an altar, having the words ALTAR, HEART, and SACRIFICE in all upper case letters and placed strategically to suggest that we should sacrifice our hearts to the Lord. Similarly, in "Easter Wings," the actual poems, if turned to the side look like wings and words are emphasized as the shape and form changes. The importance of the printing press and our theme is emphasized in these particular poems because without it being physically available to read, its meaning would not be as deep. There is something about being able to physically read something, as opposed to, say, having the scriptures on your phone at church on Sunday. There is power in the physical image and view of a text (and, as some people think, there is power in physically carrying your scriptures to church) which is why the printing press changed so much of the culture during the Renaissance. 

Physicality of a real book vs. Convenience of an E-Book

In Shakespeare’s sonnet, the last lines reminded me of a theory we learned in my Contemporary Theory class this past summer—Jaques Derrida’s ideas about our natural instinct to preserve archives or texts. Shakespeare says, “Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die,” which definitely highlights the idea of our theme and the idea that through the printing of texts, we keep that text and the author alive. I think that because so many of these texts were preserved through the printing press, we are able to enjoy it today. We have not allowed those copies to die, and we have kept the voices of these authors alive as well. As they printed more in the Renaissance and as we continue to read more of their texts, we have the allowed ourselves to learn about the Typographia conservatrix, the cultural impression that these texts and printing has made on the Renaissance and even in our society today. 

Derrida, Jacques, and Eric Prenowitz. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1996. Print.


  1. It's so interesting how we can learn more from reading these kinds of texts in their original format than we can from, say, seeing them in modern type-- they were arranged in specific ways to deepen the meaning of the actual words through imagery. What a beautiful thing!

  2. Did the printing press make shape poems possible? Would the shapes have been lost if they were written by hand?

    Also, what is the power of a physical book? I have always felt like reading a paper book was a unique experience, but I don't know why I think that. Is there really any significant difference between reading something on a paper sheet and reading it on a Kindle? These are questions I think need to be addressed.


  3. You commented that reading a physical book is a different experience from a digital one (and I agree with that); it brought up the question, though, if hand-written books suddenly became more valuable in the Renaissance. Could there maybe have been "old fashioned" folks who preferred handwritten texts over printed ones? Did some people maybe feel they could better connect to an author in the context of handwriting? That it made the book more real, more human? It'd be something interesting to look into.