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Combining Close and Distant Reading: Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes and the Aesthetic of Bookishness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Any analysis of reading today must consider contemporary writing practices. The epochal shift from print to digital texts has been under way for some time. Indeed, print books are now so interpenetrated with digital media at every stage of their production that they may more appropriately be considered an output form of digital texts than a separate medium. Much has been written about the end of books, but, as Alan Liu observes, they have been deconstructed almost from the beginning, from the remixing of Bible excerpts according to the liturgical calendar to the experimental fiction of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy to Raymond Queneau's Cent mille milliards de poèmes (“End” 509-11). This tradition notwithstanding, Jessica Pressman correctly detects in some contemporary novels anxiety about the continued life of books and a desire to reassert the book's authority in the face of the exponential expansion of the Web and the ongoing conversion of books into digitized texts, including the several million now available at Google Books and other online venues.

The Changing Profession
Copyright © 2013 by The Modern Language Association of America

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