Reading Response 4

Summary: Manuel’s “A Brief History of the Page” attempts to define what a page really is. He also shows the evolution of pages from clay tablets to the endless scrolls of the computer. He also seems to feel like there is a deterministic element to the pages and says they enslave us in some ways.

Important Points:

  1. “The page limits, cuts, extends, censors, reshapes, translates, defuses, bridges, and separates our reading, which we arduously attempt to reclaim” pg. 120

I felt like this was a very technological deterministic view that Manuel was sharing. This passage seems to indicate that the page controls how we interpret the text as if we depended on it. I find this to be interesting because I never thought of my dependence on a page before and only saw the page as something that had the writer’s message on it.

  1. “Whether through shape, interior space, marginalia, or reshuffling, the page’s characteristics were to be constantly altered. In the struggle over the supremacy of the text, the writer and the reader decidedly wanted to be in control.” Pg. 122

This quote shows that readers do not want to be controlled by the pages and that writer’s do not want the reader to be either because it limits their message. I have never really thought of being limited by a page whenever I have been writing unless I only have a certain amount of pages in which I must work with.

  1. “The scrolling text… unfurls at a pace that is not dictated by the dimensions of the page and its margins.” Pg. 126

This quote is describing digital media which is more similar to Greek and Roman scrolls than book’s pages. It is interesting to think of digital media being less limiting than pages because you can scroll down seemingly forever online without having to worry about margins or whitespace which makes it possible to scroll on as far as the writer needs.

Confusing Points:

  1. “On the page the strings of words are cut off by the blank space of the margins and trail away in order to resurface on the next page, thereby forcing the reader to hold the text’s meaning in constant suspense.” Pg. 123

This confused me because although I see how this can limit the reader, I do not see how it limits the writer. By creating suspense, the reader is coerced into continuing their reading to find out what happens next. This seems like it would work to the advantage of the writer.

  1. “Borges suggests that the vast library is useless: one single volume would suffice, if that volume were made up of an infinite number of infinitely thin pages.” Pg. 120

I do not understand why someone would want a single massive book instead of a library full of different ones. This does not makes sense because people would want to access different parts of the book but would not need other parts that others would need. I also do not see how this works in favor to Manuel’s argument about pages controlling us.


Question: Are pages really a form of technological determinism that influence us due to their format and also hinder what the writer is trying to convey? Is it also fair for Manuel to say that because it can go on forever, the digital medium is superior to pages?