The notion of text and the notion of document. What difference does it make?
The notion of text has a long tradition inside the human science. A broad definition of this concept considers all man-made products as systems of signs and thereby as texts; but often not “as the physical manifestation as such, but as the abstract representation of a work” (Gunder: 2001, 86). Considering that everything – including sculpture, music, photography and film – can become a text, either a written text – like literature in a traditional sense – or a verbal text, one can at least wonder whether the concept is useful or not. The notion of document with roots back to ancient times can be considered as multifaceted as the notion of text, but today’s literary critics or art scholars would probably hesitate to use this concept on literary texts or works of art. Speaking about literature as documents, art as documents, food or cloth as documents and so on, Documentation science at the University of Tromsø provokes many humanists. But if anything can be a document as well as a text – what difference does it really make if we are using the one or the other concept? In this paper I will investigate the notion of document in comparison to the notion of text by means of some literary examples. Focusing on different aspects of literary works, I will try to argue that both concepts can exist side by side.
Paper presented at DOCAM ’04, University of California, Berkeley, October 22-24, 2004
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