Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Nuance of "Aura"

George Boornstein’s “How to read a page: modernism and material textuality” posits a thoughtful examination of Walter Benjamin’s concept of “aura” (6). In understanding Benjamin’s argument I found myself questioning the thinness of his position on reproduction and aura. His position seems to assume too much about the reader of an original text, or reproduction. The reader isn’t just seeing the bibliographic codes which may be unique to an original text—they are in effect interpreting the text for themselves, perhaps relating the many textual elements, including the bibliographic codes, linguistic codes, semiotic codes, etcetera to their own experiences and social “presence” in their unique place or presence in time (6).

I actually see the reproduction of texts—not as loosing or denigrating the aura of that text’s unique position in time and place—but as providing the conditions for a nuanced meaning of aura—which only reproduction may afford. Thus original texts through their reproduction and distribution are experienced pluralistically by many readers existing in their own unique presence in time. Here each reader interprets the text for his or herself—bringing new, and more varied meanings to the original text. Many of those readers will further employ concepts from reproduced texts in their own essays, poems, critiques, and reviews—thus rearticulating and sharing their thoughts and understandings of the reproduced text within the context of their unique presence in space and time.

Although, reproduction does lose some of the unique aura of the original text—what it provides is arguably much more powerful. Reproduction affords the opportunity for a nuanced recreation of textual auras where readers engage actively with texts to rearticulate its essences (plural form) for themselves.


  1. I agree completely. I found Boorstein's apparent belief in the wholly objective value of art objects to be both incorrect and overly thought out. It's through dissemination and appreciation that art comes to be called immortal, not through the preservation of some original.

    I mean, considering that the Odyssey was originally spoken, and probably expanded and changed the more times it was told until it was eventually written, the case could be made that there IS no original, or rather too many varied originals of varied types (written and spoken).

    1. I love what Abram is saying about the lack of an actual original. I mean, what is the original - the first draft, the outline an author makes, the first edition? It's all open to interpretation.