Context over Text

"Another's discourse, when introduced into a speech context, enters the speech that frames it not in a mechanical bond but in a chemical union. . . the degree of dialogized influence, one on the other, can be enormous. For this reason we cannot, when studying the various forms for transmitting another's speech, treat any of these forms in isolation from the means for its contextualized (dialogizing) framing--the one is indissolubly linked with the other. The formulation of another's speech as well as its framing. . . both express the unitary act of dialogic interaction with that speech, a relation determining the entire nature of its transmission and all the changes in meaning and accent that take place in it during transmission (The Dialogic Imagination 340)."

When a word is dialogized, it is implanted in a semantic milieu constructed by the author. The essence of Bahktin's re-conceptualization of meaning rests on the preeminence of context. According to him, the meaning lies not in the word's isolated signifying value, but in the way in which it is framed. To extract words from their context is to transform them into objects, sheer means of representing. This process inevitably meets its end in consumption by the reader--and in this situation, there cannot be understanding, claims Bahktin. In contrast, words must be represented. They must be admissible in a world of practical interaction, the distinction between process and practice here underlined. All social interaction takes shape in context, and so must novelistic discourse.

Meaning can be bent in many ways, depending on its frame. Hypertext reveals the pliancy of meaning by producing multiple frames, as long as one is willing to think of the reader's individually selected reading trail as a frame continuously being built. The power to choose one's own reading trail offers up the power to experience many different contexts. If context can be modified by the reader, meaning itself is loosened from the strictures of denotation and is allowed to be more creatively evaluated.

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