On fonts, mind control, contexts

Aug 16, 2012 | Random Convolutes

Fonts control our minds. Everyone knows that. I feel like Roland Barthes’ Mythologies really needs a chapter on The New Yorker‘s font and its connotations/myth.


Did I read The New Yorker? This question had a dangerous urgency. It wasn’t any one writer or article he was worried about, but the font. The meaning embedded, at a preconscious level, by the look of the magazine; the seal, as he described it, that the typography and layout put on dialectical thought. According to Perkus, to read The New Yorker was to find that you always already agreed, not with The New Yorker but, much more dismayingly, with yourself. I tried hard to understand. Apparently here was the paranoia Susan Eldred had warned me of: The New Yorker‘s font was controlling, perhaps assailing, Perkus Tooth’s mind. To defend himself he frequently retyped their articles and printed them out in simple Courier, and attempt to dissolve the magazine’s oppressive context.

–  Jonathan Lethem, Chronic City p. 12-13


Often when we’re reading stories, and thinking about them and editing them, we’ll say, “Let’s go ahead and put it in the font.” It’s a sort of test marker. It makes things much more official. You get it in there and suddenly it looks much better, or sometimes it looks much worse.

–  Deborah Treisman, New Yorker fiction editor, qtd. in “Jonathan Lethem on the New Yorker Font


We all know that we are influenced in many, many ways — many of which we remain blissfully unaware of. Could typefaces be one of them? Could the mere selection of a typeface influence us to believe one thing rather than another? Could typefaces work some unseen magic? Or malefaction?


I have often wondered about the visual element in text. Yes, we read the word “horse,” but we also see the letters, the typefaces, the shape of the word on the page. Is this not part of the meaning? It seems evident that we respond to different typefaces in different ways, but how many experiments have been done to determine the effect of typefaces on our perception of truth? Do we more readily accept (as true) sentences written in one typeface rather than another?

–  Errol Morris, “Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth (Part One)” at The New York Times: Opinionator


the most common type of image macro is a photograph with large text superimposed in Impact font, using all upper case letters and coloured white with a thin black outline

–  Wikipedia


I can has cheezburger?

–  Internet Meme


Think about Derrida’s infamous line “il n’y a pas de hors-texte.” Happily, Gayatri Spivak gives us two translations. The second, parenthetical translation is the one I prefer: “there is no outside-text.” In other words, not everything is reducible to pure language, as is the case with structuralism, which indeed reduces things to their relations. What Derrida is saying, by contrast, is that a text is an operationally closed system (in the terms of Roy Bhaskar) that is founded on some kind of externality that it both includes and excludes, that it can’t talk about, but that it can’t help referencing in the negative. A word, for example, depends upon an inscribable surface, ink, and a history and culture of writing . . . The existence of a text is its coexistence with at least one (1+n) withdrawn entity.

–  Timothy Morton, “An Object-Oriented Defense of Poetry” in New Literary History, pp. 218-219


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