The physical aspects of texts – their existence as textual artifacts – may assume a particular prominence that is independent even from the contents of the texts themselves. Circulated and contextualized as objects, texts and inscriptions may impart dual meanings, which may either be complementary or contradictory. As such, manuscripts, inscribed amulets, ornamental objects, and similar artifacts draw complex ‘biographies’ as the attention alternates between the artifact’s textuality and materiality. The biographies of these artifacts invite a variety of interpretive and analytical models, the application of which is dependent on the different degrees of distinction and integration between the two aspects.
The interplay between the material and textual aspects of an inscribed object may manifest in a variety of ways, ranging from a competitive to a complementary or even harmonious relationship. Moreover, the visual aesthetics of certain objects attract special attention and invite artistic manipulation on different levels, from the incorporation of ekphrastic pictorial or plastic elements together with written elements, to the preference of different scripts for the recording of text, up to the point of calligraphic art. Certain acts and rituals might also accompany the production of such objects, delimiting the framework of their contextualization and marking those moments of transition: from word to object and from object to word. Furthermore, the material lives of textual objects also enable their physical destruction, erasure, and other forms of manipulation as means of contesting or censuring the texts they contain.
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