Bornstein: Reading a Page

Bornstein gives a very detailed account of what it means to "read a page" through different examples throughout his piece. I thought it interesting to place myself in this mindset while reading through the June 1918 issue of The Crisis. What an interesting way to delve into a text that allows one to look beyond the "linguistic code" as Bornstein puts it, and instead focus on the "bibliographic codes" as well in order to develop a broader range of meaning that helps with the interpretation of the text.

Bornstein mentions that in order to read a page effectively, it is important to "recognize that the literary text consists not only of words, but also of the semantic features of its material instantiations." With this in mind, I chose The Crisis as my guinnea pig for this unique approach that I had not used prior to reading Bornstein's work. Rather than merely focusing on the words I dove into the text to look for "clues" that would bring the text alive for me. Bornstein suggests that looking at the "cover design, page layout, or spacing...other contents of the book or periodical in which the work appears, as well as prefaces, notes, or dedications that affect the reception and interpretation of the work," these "bibliographic codes," provide an "aura" that a reader can not establish when simply looking at the "linguistic code."

Even though my first thought was to jump straight to the text, I spent my energy and focus on breaking down the different elements of the magazine edition, starting with the cover design and art to see what added meaning I could uncover. I took note of the lone soldier placed on the cover and read on to see that the cover design was influenced by a poster painted by another individual. This prompted me to look and research further into this dynamic, contributing to my sense of the historrical presence and aura.

I next looked at the page layout and when bold print came up in the text I zeroed in on the purpose behind it. Large, blue, bold text that stated "The Moorefield Storey drive for 50,000 members" placed me into context of the significance of this magazine, a venture that aims to gather a community that fights for justice. "DO IT NOW" allows for a sense of urgency, showing that this magazine means much more than the words on a page but a catalyst for change in this historical time period.

Finally, I would like to touch on the other contents of the magazine that contributes to this "aura" presented in the text. The Ads that are placed periodically throughout the magazine lend a much needed sense of honor and dignity to the overall impression of the magazine. The ads give readers a much more in depth perception of the meaning and emphasis of this work. "Prideful", "dignified", and "prominent" are terms that come to mind as the magazine becomes filled with these positive trinkets placed throughout that cast African Americans out of the lens of oppressed and into one of strength.

Although I could say more, this journey of "reading a page" was enlightening for me. It helped broaden my perspective in analyzing a text through multiple modes and opened my eyes to a different perspesctive of thought about this particular text.


The statement, reading between the lines, is quite relevant when discussing the topic of Bornstein and his deliberations of the text's aura. You don't just look at the text anymore when identifying all the layers. One must also take in whether the text is digital or 'real', the year that it was published or re-published, the editor, what was added or censored from public view. Was the format the best possible one, and what was it lacking even then? Taking into account all the other verzions will take a lot more effort and change the meaning of the context to have more than one possible right answer. The possibilities are dizzying and threaten to overwhelm the scholar/historical recorder. How do the professionals compensate for so many different answers? When they finally choose the 'best' text, do they still leave something out, and what was their reasoning? It may be logical choice to edit certain parts, but it may also be a fundamental human response to the words of the past. Those that preserve writings must choose carefully how to handle the texts or the author's changed words may become the recorder's meaning and intent instead.