The Book of Kells

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Book of Kells Samantha Gorman

About The Book of Kells

Deconstruction is a weaving of historical study, literary theory, travel narrative, meditative prose, mystical contemplation, and academic inquiry.  All elements are united by research and reflection on The Book of Kells, an illuminated Latin version of the Bible circa 800 AD, and the techniques that produced it.  The prose of Deconstruction is informed by my travel and close survey of The Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin.  Additionally, Deconstruction touches upon the evolution of how writing is disseminated from manuscript culture to Gutenberg and the Internet, as well as how these media are implicated in the increasing liberation of the reader, both in terms of social access and the reading practice itself.

As a motif, The Book of Kells asserts its presence within this work, often folding back on itself recursively.  A reference to The Book may simultaneously indicate both the icon in Trinity and Deconstruction itself.  Notably, Deconstruction is a meditation on the medium, theory, and writing of hypertext. Insular Design – the geometric interweave of recurring patterns – is used as a conceit throughout Deconstruction to represent the writing of hypertext webs, and the free associations between texts that occur in the mind of the reader.  Hypertext authors’ careful construction and layout of webs mirrors the monks’ meticulous creation of knots.  Although readers may enter at any node and thus carry some of the onus of the authoring process, the author arranges the lexias (units of texts) according to the associations intended. Reading the weave reveals literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin’s multi-vocal novel “constructed as a whole formed by the interaction of several consciousnesses.”  The lexias are written and arranged with the medium in mind.  Passages are constructed so that associations change in response to the trail of previously visited links.  At any point, the “narrator” may be a scholar, traveler, a medieval scribe, or The Book itself.

Reflecting on the original manuscript’s hypertextual melding of text and image, the icons of The Book prompt the texts of Deconstruction: lexias emerge from and are symbolized by designs on the manuscript’s folios.  Overall, the work is a study on the original manuscript within the scriptorium of electronic media and methods.


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