Keynote Talk: Implications of Textuality

Implications of Textuality
Timothy Morton
UC Davis

"I'm going to talk about the ways in which writing can encode itself, or imply itself, within itself. I'm using the word “implicate” to suggest this reflexive operation, which I see as a form of enfolding. Other scholars have called it enactment, but there's a metaphysics in such a concept that I suggest we drop. Enactment assumes that there is a reality definitely distinct from writing which writing, under certain circumstances, can embody directly, in a kind of short-circuiting immediacy. I'm interested in how this notion of enactment, promoted by the Cambridge school of literary criticism such as F.R. Leavis and still alive today, is very similar to cognitive theories of “enaction” posited by Francisco Varela and others. While they dispense with the idea that the mind has to contain representations of everything it does and perceives (thus giving rise to an infinite regress), enactive theories of consciousness do suffer from the same syndrome as literary critical enactment—they suppose an immediate creation of actor and acted-upon that already presupposes the very world that enaction has created. I've talked about this elsewhere (and if you want to see it there's a lecture on this on iTunes U). Today I want to show how, if we go with a model that uses implication rather than enaction, we can achieve a more subtle sense of how textuality works, thus helping us to do better close readings."

You can find the talk here.

Professor Timothy Morton is the author of The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP 2010) and Ecology Without Nature (Harvard UP 2007) and many critical essays concerning Romanticism, ecology, and poetics. His essay "Queer Ecology" appears in the latest issue of PMLA (March, 2010).