Return to Resources

Textual Practice Assignment (25% of final grade)

Assignment: Textual Practice (15 minutes, with 20 minutes of class studio time)

From week to week, students will teach the class through demo presentation or interactive lessons (whichever is feasible) a “textual practice.” Options may include coding in Processing or Python, encoding with XML or HTML, scholarly editing, composing with typewriters, crochet, needlepoint, cross stitch, knitting, tapestry, the art of tattooing, calligraphy, grave rubbings, letterpress, mimeograph, etc. Please see the specific TP assigned to each week. Creativity in your presentation method is encouraged.

GOAL: The goal of this assignment is to draw directly from the week’s assigned readings to present a related textual practice; teach how it works, who uses it, and upon what concepts of authorship, writing, reading, and storage it operates.

Due Dates: rolling according to the week that you select. A week before your presentation I highly recommend that you make an appointment to discuss the TP and readings with me via an appointment (in-person or phone). No later than 24 hours *before* your presentation date send me an email to say that you have uploaded to your Personal Submission Folder the following: an approximately 100 word abstract (a description in your own words of your TP), written outline of my presentation which includes a bibliography of works consulted and a written statement (should be concise and does not need to possess elaborate rhetorical flourish) that specifies answers to questions 1-6). I’ll add the abstract to the wordpress page for that week.


Text [a term that gains ascendancy in critical fields in the 1960s. a science of writing or grammatology (the science of the study of the politics of the systems of signification). A text is not the same as a book, a work, or for that matter an essay, a poem or a novel. Some of these are containers of material objects and some are forms/genres—nothing in and of themselves. A text signifies in more than one way (to varying degrees of explicitness) A critical reading should produce the signifying structure (see quote on xv of Derrida’s Of Grammatology) A critique of the text does not ask, what does this statement mean? It asks, but where is it made from? What does it presuppose?]

Practice [ b) the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to the theory or principles of it; performance, execution, achievement, working, operation; activity or action considered as being the realization of or in contrast to theory c) the action or doing something; method of action or working (from the OED)

Textual [Defining “textual” is in large part the work of this semester. Derrida argues that writing aka inscription is fundamental to human being. He points out that though this is the case, western metaphysics privileges speech over writing as if one is present and real and the other (writing/inscription) the lack of the former. This binary mis-logic accounts for a whole host of other binaries that privilege the first over the second term. Deconstruction seeks to “put under erasure” aka expose how these binaries are constructed, and are not inherent. Binaries distribute social and political power. Jerome McGann emphasizes a theory of writing and production as a material and social phenomenon. For McGann, textuality displaces the author as the ultimate authority on the meaning of a text. Hence, McGann’s theory of textuality is in part a (deconstructionist) critique of power. Roland Barthes offers a theory of textuality that focuses on reading and interpretation. McGann follows Barthes in insisting on the importance of differentiating between the concepts of text (“a methodological field”) and work (a historically specific and spatially located object). Barthes is most interested in reading and interpretation that can free itself of doxa or ideology so he celebrates the text that allows the reader to be active in the process of meaning making aka the writerly text. In other words, he proposes “text” as signifier the death of the authority of the author (to determine and limit the ultimate meaning of a text).

Time Limits: The presentation should take approximately 15 minutes. This does not include the demonstration, though you should not let demonstrations sprawl to the point of impinging on the time needed for discussion of the assigned reading. Remember, as your TP week approaches, write to Dr. Konkol to meet and plan the experiential/hands-on element.

1.     What material does the TP utilize?
2.     What methods does the TP utilize? How do I relate these methods to the readings assigned this week?
3.     What does this TP tell us about writing technology? Reading technology? What is the significance of the
sameness or difference between writing/reading technologies with this textual practice?
4.     When was it created and by whom? By whom was it used?
5.     What idea of the author is assumed by this TP? What idea of the reader is assumed by this TP?
6.     How has the TP changed over time? Is this TP still in use?
7.     How will I engage the class in a hands-on experiential demonstration?
8.     Have I been creative and critical or have I reproduced merely repeated doxa on this TP (hint: doxa would be a
repetition of platitudes often made about this TP.)
9.     From which critical and authoritative sources have I drawn?
10. Have I given Dr. Konkol a written outline of my presentation which includes a bibliography of works consulted and a written statement (should be concise and does not need to possess elaborate rhetorical flourish) that specifies answers to questions 1-6)? Have I prepared and submitted an abstract and slides?
11. Have I prepared my presentation by practicing it first? Have I timed myself to make that it fits within a 15 minute