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Text, textuality and interpretation: An interview with Michael Riffaterre

Mishra, V. (1985) Text, textuality and interpretation: An interview with Michael Riffaterre. Southern Review, 18 (1). pp. 109-119.

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Riffaterre: The text is a given. Criticism and literary theory would have no raison d'etre if there were no text. They are a reflection on a reading experience. Texts have no mystical primacy. They are factual, concrete starting points, the most basic elemental feature of what we call literature. I will not except even oral literature; oral literature (a contradiction in terms, etymologically) exhibits the same kind of permanence and regularity that we observe in the text. To put it otherwise, oral literature is characterised by repeatability: the successive oral renditions of the score of an oral story or poem regularly run the gamut of basically unchanging components in an unchanging order. They follow a memorised model as faithfully as if the recitant were reading, except for some points he may gloss or expatiate upon. Thus I am not trying to give greater importance to the text, but simply to point out that the text is physically present first, or it is presupposed.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: English Dept., University of Adelaide
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