Text Production

material factors affecting the production, transmission, and reception of a text

Text production offers a series of discussion points from a presentation on literary studies. The points focus on the physical production of a text as it progress from author, via publisher, to reader. These are in fact lecture notes from a post-graduate foundation course on the very nature of literary studies. Course participants are invited to reflect on the entire process of literature as a cultural phenomenon – from its origins in the mind of the author, then through the various physical stages of reproduction until it is consumed by the reader.

By taking a historical, philosophical, and materialist view on the nature of what we call ‘literature’, we are forced to recognise the changing nature of the medium of literature itself, as well as notions of ‘authorship’, the creative process, and the physical consumption of language.


  • carved into wood or stone
  • handwriting on leather, parchment, paper
  • dictation to stenographer, amanuensis
  • written with fountain pen
  • typewriter [from late 19th C]
  • dictaphone [from early 1900s]
  • word-processor [from 1980]
  • World Wide Web [from 1990]


  • legibility of handwriting
  • spelling irregularities
  • punctuation [subjective]
  • revisions to draft
  • multiple versions of a text


  • mis-readings of the text
  • ‘regularisation’ of author’s spelling or punctuation
    * in line with ‘house style’
    * on compositor’s whim
  • commercial requirements of space


  • choice of typeface
  • choice of font size
  • page layout
  • page size
  • paper quality
  • binding


  • choice of copy text
  • editorial policy on corrections, spelling, substantives and accidentals


  • paper and binding quality
  • print run (number of copies)
  • print or digital text
  • selling price
  • number of editions
  • advertising and promotion


  • genre (type) of publication
  • its relation to others of its type
  • social status of such publications


  • readership and its expectations
  • reader’s ‘purpose’


  • Critical comment on the text
  • ‘reputation’ of text
  • context in which it is read

© Roy Johnson 2005

Literary studies links

Text production - Red button Literary studies guides

Text production - Red button Tutorials on 19th century authors

Text production - Red button Tutorials on 20th century authors

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