What is textuality?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Textuality refers to the "text"-ness of a given object, so to understand "textuality," you have to understand what critics mean when they talk about "texts." Simply put, a "text" is any object that contains meaning and can be "read" or interpreted. A book or poem is a text, of course, but so too are movies, symphonies, advertisements, a shard of pottery, clothing—almost anything can be thought of as a text, in that almost anything can be interpreted and have meaning drawn out of it. In this sense, being a text has less to do with what a thing is than with how humans interact with it.

Textuality, then, is a kind of shorthand way of referring to the all the qualities that go into making a text and a way of referring to the potential for a text to be interpreted. This has to do with the physical qualities of the object (what it is), the context of the object (where you found it), its relationship to other "texts", and its "readability" and the various "meanings" such interpretation is able to draw out of the text.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Reference through eNotes gives us a definition:

Textuality is a concept in linguistics and literary theory that refers to the attributes that distinguish the text (a technical term indicating any communicative content under analysis) as an object of study in those fields.

The term textuality comes from linguistics, the study of language and communication. One way that humans communicate is through "texts." You can think of the word text as being roughly equatable with "message." Texts come in many forms--books, magazines, e-mails, eNotes posts, music, sign language... you name it! When you refer to these different forms of texts, you're referring to their textuality. In other words, textuality explains what makes a book a book, rather than a magazine.

The idea of textuality comes along with the assumption that the form in which a message comes to you will influence your interpretation of the message. The textuality of a richly illustrated hardcover book is different than that of an e-book file that you download onto your phone. The words are the same, but the textuality is different. For many people, different textualities also mean different reading experiences. We may encounter this idea more and more as online/digital reading becomes more prevalent and hardcopy materials have to fight for survival.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Textuality is about texts; that is, the written word. However, it is far more. It is also about the interpretation of texts. This is where it gets very interesting, because people interpret texts through different points of views and use different methods of interpretation. In fact, the scope of dealing with texts is incredibly broad.

Let me give a few examples. One of the most intereresting fields is the study of inter-textuality. People who study this try to examine how one text uses another. For example, how does later Greek mythology incorporate earlier mythology. Or how do the Romans use the literary works of the Greeks.

Another example of textuality can be the study of authorial intent or reader response. In other words, does the author make a point through a text or is it about what you as the reader make of the text? These are all questions that we can explore through the study of textuality.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team