Polymorphous
Perversity
AND Texts
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A useful overstatement: We subject ourselves to texts. We know that the text, fully appreciated, will bring us pleasure. We train ourselves and each other in appropriate ways to approach texts (eyes downward, quietly and respectfully). We learn increasingly sophisticated procedures and rituals. We build stately buildings in which to study texts, to write and talk to each other in an effort to increase the sophistication with which we take pleasure from our texts.

We learn to channel our polymorphously perverse enjoyments. Once we crumpled delicate pages in our small hands, chewed on the corners of bindings, scribbled across pages in primary wax colors. Now we literally marginalize our pleasures, writing around the text, away from the text, at a distance.

A wild overstatement to be sure, but still it holds a grain of truth. After the insurgencies of reader response criticism, post-structuralism, feminist readings, and even hypertextual weavings that decenter the textual object, we still maintain relative physical separation from our texts. The text is out there, on the shelf or on the screen.

I want to ask what happens when we begin to take less-authorized, polymorphously perverse pleasure in our texts, when we begin to treat texts less as objects out there and more as objects that we—literally—transgress the boundaries of, fragment, unmake, and remake.

Here's the tricky part: If we teach ourselves and our students that texts are made to be broken apart, remixed, remade, do we lose the polymorphous perversity that brought us pleasure in the first place? Does the pleasure of transgression evaporate when the borders are opened?

In a sense, yes: What matters is not simply that texts can be taken apart—such was always the case. What matters is what that transgression indicates about our relationship to textuality itself, to a culture that celebrates ownership and an imperial sense of authorship.

In our brief recognition of this ideological construction, in that moment before we repress the pleasure and return to our normal relationship with text, we retain the possibility to change things.

I think that, as our society changes, at the very moment when it is in the process of changing, the author function will disappear, and in such a manner that fiction and its polysemous texts will once again function according to another mode, but still with a system of constraint—one that will no longer be the author but will have to be determined or, perhaps, experienced [exp√©rimenter]. (Michel Foucault, 1977, p. 14)

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