Does a literary text remain the same object across time? This essay answers no and bases a defense of literature on that answer. Temporal extension, a phenomenon neglected in contemporary literary studies, makes some meanings unrecoverable and others newly possible. A text endures as a nonintegral survivor, an echo of what it was and of what it might become, its resonance changing with shifts in interpretive contexts. Since this resonance cannot be addressed by synchronic historicism, I propose an alternative, diachronic historicism, inspired especially by scientific theories on background noise, by Einstein's account of the relativity of simultaneity, and by critiques of the visual bias in Western epistemology. I try to theorize the text as a temporal continuum, thick with receding and incipient nuances, exercising the ears of readers in divergent ways and yielding its words to contrary claims. Literature thus encourages a semantic democracy that honors disagreement as a crucial fact of civil society.