Fabricating Failure: The Professional Reader as Textual Terrorist
Hanna’s review article participates in the same distortion in the professional reading process as that of an unreliable medieval scribe. The errors of fact or judgment he finds in Iconography are in fact illusions created either by strategic use of suppression, ellipsis, over- hasty reading, or conflation of independent statements. Nowhere does Hanna disagree with a single one of the book’s central arguments, and he has apparently been convinced that both the Douce manuscript and its contemporary Anglo-Irish milieu are worthy of serious study. Hanna’s hostility to the book seems motivated by an English-based model of Langlandian codicology, a preference for textual culture over material culture, and a post-romantic notion of the centrality of the author in literary studies. Iconography adopts a more democratic approach, treating text and images with equal force, an approach which threatens the old critical hegemony, whose representatives want only literary writing to be creative, but who want reading(s) to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ But reading is creative, and creates cultural artifacts itself.