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Text – definition
Text literally means ‘a piece of writing’.
It has now acquired the meaning ‘the object being studied’.
Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House is a text.
A letter from the Gas Board is a text.
The caption to a picture is a text.
A painting by Picasso can be a text.
The term is most used in literary studies, where it was originally used as a synonym for ‘book’.
But it could just as easily be a poem, a letter, or a diary.
It is now in general use in other branches of the humanities such as cultural studies and film studies – where its meaning becomes ‘the thing being studied’.
So — in these other fields it could also be a video film, an advertisement, a painting, or a music score.
It is used so as to concentrate attention on the object being studied, rather than its author.
The term ‘text’ is most likely to mean a piece of writing which is the subject of study.
It is important to remember those elements which are the substance of textual analysis.
These are all relevant to analysing a text or piece of writing.
audience form function genre layout subject structure style syntax tone vocabulary
The term ‘text’ is used in other areas of enquiry to mean ‘the item being studied’.
This contemporary usage reflects a concentration on the object of study, rather than on its author.
This is another point at which the study of language blends into literary studies or ‘critical theory’.
© Roy Johnson 2004
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