The materiality of the printed page can lend meaning to language that is not explicit in the language itself. When material elements of a book are made more deliberate and extreme, the act of reading becomes a performed construction of the text. Here, language is divorced from its habitual role of conduit for meaning and instead treated as an object to be interacted with. Both the word and the book itself become visible.
Using the section “Food” in the Modernist text Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein, these methods are applied to extend engagement with its language, providing a radically new experience of a famously difficult and unusual text. Originally very short in length, Food is extended across two volumes, with the title divided between—a gesture to two apparently dissonant words (tender, buttons) combining to make new meaning, mirroring the form of the language within. Strategies of Stein’s text such as rhythm, repetition, and unfamiliar word pairings are visualized spatially through design, broken up in decisive increments that exert pressure on the individual word and its role within a larger structure. Pauses and duration are extended and made material, while shifts in pacing, emphasis, and tone further expose the body of the book.