Exemplary reading and immanent reading: these are different architectures of the reading event, different postures of how one stands in and towards and with the world. The exemplary is the domain of the expert who stands between things, the uninformed, and sanctified knowledge. The expert emerges from the culture of the priest and his church where there is first the word of god, then the priest who grasps it and who, in turn, brings it to the flock. The way to knowledge, to god, is through the expert-priest. The architecture is a hierarchical pyramid that moves towards a singular point while cascading down to the mob. Particularities are subsumed by generalities. And only the master, well heeled in his learned ways, can decipher the vicissitudes of particularity and give them a proper home — this book belongs in this genre, this one doesn’t.
Immanent reading, meanwhile, is rhizomic and four-dimensional. There are multiple ways into a text, multiple ways of making one’s way through it, and the whole thing — text, reader, world — is moving. There is no front door. Nor is there a back door. And the text won’t stay still long enough for the reader to exhaust it once and for all. Pick your point, wherever it may arise, and see what happens. There is no privileged access and an immanent reading is never definitive (even if thoroughly persuasive). This is the jurisdiction of the amateur who is not tethered to a discipline or knowledge community but is free to follow the text wherever it goes.
Immanent reading is radically democratic. It eliminates the need for a learned expert, empowering the individual standing in front of a Jeff Koons to make sense of it. Isn’t this the power, the threat, of bottom-up media? The rise of the web and its network structure undoes the very pyramidal architecture of the expert. Many decry the nonsense spouted by the masses and long for a certified word from above. But, in the network, a reader must decide which reading works best for him. It’s no longer a matter of going to the library and citing some source with the appropriate letters after his name. There is no recourse to the expert to close discussion. All there is is the reading. And then another reading. And then another. It’s readings all the way down.
In any case, the immanent reader does not need the master’s word to reckon his experience. He needs skills, not knowledge. He needs attention and engagement — participation, not expertise. Immanent reading is an open invitation.