Bornstein — "How to Read a Page"

I enjoyed the Bornstein reading and his analysis of four different sonnets and their textual meaning based on the surrounding material and how certain editions either historicize or de-historicize the work (p.3). In particular, Bornstein's analysis of Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" and it's evolved meaning through both the poet's intentions and our own interpretation of the work I found to be particularly insightful. 

As Bornstein quotes earlier from Walter Benjamin, the reproductive form of a work cannot account for "its presence in time and space." This idea is complicated when the form of "The New Colossus" shifts from written to spoken to embodying a space on a physical plaque to the textbook of The Norton Anthology. The work's presence in one time and one space mean a different thing. In the textbook, the work is academic, in person, I'd imagine the work functions as emotional. The poem as the auctioned word is an artifact for few and the plaque a piece of architecture for the masses. And yet, the text itself does not change. 

Through looking at what analysis can be gained from reading the poem in different context's Bornstein points out how fallible our words are. Devoid of context, text can be separated from meaning, and still retain function. Our textual environment shapes the work, too. 

When I was about twelve, my family visited Pikes Peak, which famously inspired the song "America the Beautiful." The "purple mountain majesties" of the song is taken from the view from Pikes Peak. At the top of the peak, there's a plaque with the words to the song, and when you get there, you see it exactly as Katherine Lee Bates saw it, there's no ambiguity. The prose isn't driven by some desire to dress up the beauty of the landscape, but to explain it as was seen. While the song is intended to provide some general sense of the sprawling American landscape, it does so in the specifics. Bornstein's discussion of "The New Colossus" reminded me of how my interpretation of "America the Beautiful" shifted when I encountered the work outside of a textbook (or football field!). It now hinges on a shared experience of the natural American landscape and then the application of words.