Image from page 315 of “The elements of astronomy; a textbook” (1919)

Every document, every moment in every document, conceals (or reveals) an indeterminate set of interfaces that open into alternate spaces and temporal relations.

Traditional criticism will engage this kind of radiant textuality more as a problem of context than a problem of text, and we have no reason to fault that way of seeing the matter. But as the word itself suggests, “context” is a cognate of text, and not in any abstract Barthesian sense. We construct the poem’s context, for example, by searching out the meanings marked in the physical witnesses that bring the poem to us. We read those witnesses with scrupulous attention, that is to say, we make our detailed way through the looking glass of the book and thence to the endless reaches of the Library of Babel, where every text is catalogued and multiple cross-referenced. In making the journey we are driven far out into the deep space, as we say these days, occupied by our orbiting texts. There objects pivot about many different points and poles, the objects themselves shapeshift continually and the pivots move, drift, shiver, and even dissolve away. Those transformations occur because “the text” is always a negotiated text, half perceived and half created by those who engage with it.

Radiant Textuality by Jerome McGann