Reading Response 5

Summary: Drucker’s article “Experimental Typography as a Modern Art Practice” is about the rise and evolution of typography in the early twentieth century. She divides typography into two groups: unmarked and marked. Unmarked is the traditional literary text that is not broken up with pictures and does not have much white space. Marked is broken up text that contains more white space and pictures and/or graphics.

Important Points

  1. “Unmarked texts, the text in which the words on the page ‘appear to speak themselves’ without the visible intervention of author or printer.” 95

This expert explains what unmarked text is which is discussed for the remainder of the article. It is interesting to think of text that has the most words on it as “unmarked.” It also made me think of the bookrolls that contained no space breaks or punctuation.


  1. “…marked typography. Different sizes of type were used to hierarchize information to create an order in the text so that different parts of it appear to ‘speak’ differently, to address a reader whose presence was inscribed at the outset by an author in complicity with the graphic tools of a printer who recognized and utilized the capacity of typographic representation to manipulate the semantic value of the text through visual means.” 95

This quote explains unmarked text which is also discussed further in the article. I think it is interesting that this typography is associated with hierarchical classification while in earlier readings we discussed how writing in general was used for classifications. I also think it is interesting that this one focuses on rhetoric and this seems to imply that unmarked texts do not.

  1. “Such language, which I am calling public language, relies less upon syntax, and more upon rhetoric, than literary language.” 97

Again this quote seems to suggest that literary and unmarked text does not utilize rhetoric. I am interested to see how elements of satire and themes and morals in stories come into play for Drucker, if they do at all.

Confusing Points:

  1. “A muddying of distinctions between image and language and a subversive attack on their fundamental properties as representation and an even more systematic attack on the conventions of literary and visual symbolic form.” 92

This excerpt is confusing to me because it seems to say that images and language, text specifically, are incapable of cohabitating on a page. The earliest examples of reading for me always included pictures, so it is hard for me to see how the two conflict with each other.

  1. “All language is public to some degree by definition—it is the symbolic system which produces and reproduces the social order—but the language used in advertising has characteristic features designed to make it communicate more efficiently in accord with the purpose it necessarily serves.” 97

This excerpt was confusing to me because I do not see how marked text can, in general, be more efficient in communication that just text. I believe it is possible for unmarked text to be just as clear as marked text though it would depend on a very good writer to produce it.


Question: After reading a book like House of Leaves, which in my opinion seems to be a blend of both marked and unmarked style, does combining both styles lead to easier understanding for the reader of the writer’s message, or does a combination of the two styles hinder the message?