On the Self-Reflexive Page
Louis Lüthi’s exquisitely authored and designed book On the Self-Reflexive Page (2010) documents the history of the page as a material arena to be foregrounded and exploited. This discourse of the page began with Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in the eighteenth century and was revived with the explosion of “metafiction” in the 1960s, continuing today in the work of Jonathan Safran Foer and others who dare to violate the verbal purity of literature. Lüthi’s book presents selected pages directly reproduced as whole objects. He writes, “Tristram Shandy marks what could be archly called the ‘invention’ of the page—the page not as the recto or verso of one of the leaves of paper that when bound together make up a book, but as a determined space at a specific point in a narrative.” The self-reflexive page has long attracted the distrust of critics, who view the incursion of non-linguistic elements into the space of literature as an indulgent diversion. —EL
On a side note: As a junior paper marbler geek (we’ve got a club), I’ve been obsessed with the legend of Tristram Shandy‘s marbled page—even ordered some back issues of The Shandean to read about the production requirements necessary to create 1000s of unique pages for the early runs of the book. So I was really excited when this book came out. The end. Oh and I’ve been interviewing an amazing master marbler for a while now, so look for that post coming soon.
Also in the show: Visual Edition’s rerelease/redesign of Tristram Shandy. There will probably be a post about that as well.