Books as material, virtual, and metaphorical entities

  • Monika Schmitz-Emans
Keywords: Book, Bookness, Codex, Metaphor, Material, Matter, Raymond Queneau, Marc Saporta, Bryan Stanley Johnson, Tom Phillips, Konrad Balder Schäuffelen, Jonathan Safran Foer, Marcel Broodthaers, Stéphane Mallarmé, Keri Smith


To talk about books can be a metaphoric operation. Because books have always been conceptualized as metaphors for the texts they carry, it is easy to see them as both ‘real’ and ‘symbolic’ objects of a complex semiotic nature. This article shows several ways in which the book is exposed as a material object used for the production of manifold semantic layers. Apart from metaphors, the codex itself can be worked on like in Queneau’s Cent mille milliards de poèmes or altered like in Tom Phillips’ A Humument. The effects of alteration and destruction on books can be shown on the book’s body or in artwork or comment surrounding the (invisible) book as in Gérard Wajcman’s L’interdit or Keri Smith’s This is not a Book.

How to Cite
Schmitz-Emans, M. (2017). Books as material, virtual, and metaphorical entities. Book - Material - Text, 1, 11-27.