A “text” can be an actual text or more or less anything else, including a TV broadcast, movie, comic book, album, painting, statue, advertisement, postcard, back of a cereal box, etc… Click here for more details.
Booshwa. It’s not meant to be understood. It’s meant to separate the game-players, the chasers of tenure, constructors of castles in the air and keepers of the mystique, from the retrograde old clucks who can’t even think until they figure out what things “mean.”
That sounds pretty good to me, although I’d leave out “informative”. The message of a text is not necessarily educational or instructive, and there are forms of writing that contain information but that would not normally be considered “texts”.
In literary criticism then “texts” includes books, stories, essays, articles, plays, poems, and published letters and journal entries. It does not include something like the list of nutritional information on a cereal box, although it could include the promotional text on the back of a cereal box.
In a broader sense then a text could be any expressive work that has been recorded in some fashion, not necessarily in writing. As Wikipedia notes, in film studies then movies are considered the text. Not the movie script or the dialogue from the movie, but the entire movie including visual and aural elements. Musical recordings, television programs, paintings, sculptures, etc., could all be considered texts. However, an unrecorded live performance of a dramatic or musical work would not normally be considered a text. A text is a thing that you can come back to again and again and study, it isn’t a fleeting experience.
Disclaimer: I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in English and I’m employed in that field, and even I get lost in criticism sometimes.
The best answer I can give is that when you distill all the various theories, the “text” that is left over meets 3 guidelines:
It was created–by an author, auteur, painter, advertising consultant, etc.
It exists outside of its creation (wrapped up in the whole ‘death of the author’ thing) and outside of the experience of it (the rejection of reader-response criticism.)
It can be experienced.
That’s the best I can do.
(I can recommend a textbook called, IIRC, “Literary Criticism - A User-Friendly Guide.” That was my text in grad school, and it was infinitely easier to understand than the Norton anthology of theory and criticism that we used in college.)