Taking Liberties

Drawing on the encyclopedia, on pornography and on books about music, drama and love, this section explores, on the one hand, how books invited or allowed readers to move beyond the printed text: by supplementing its contents, for example, and so challenging its authority, or by misreading it and disregarding norms of use. On the other hand, it explores how books asked readers to confront and compensate for the liberties that a book itself took when it attempted to represent phenomena that were beyond the scope of print, more appropriately rendered in other media. In contrast to books that anticipate and attempt to control their own use, the concern here is with the unpredictable and often unrepresentable interaction between a book and its reader or a book and its own contents. These are books that have dramatically entered into a "relation with": a relation with authorities beyond their authority; with readers whose non-conformist use might constitute abuse; and with alternative media that offer different sets of representational possibilities from those of text. All of these relations compromise the autonomy and ultimate authority of text. At exactly the same time, they open up a space for the book to emerge as a conspicuously self-reflexive and theorized medium. When the book is confronted with its own limits, in other words, a space for theory becomes possible.