Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Henry Sussman
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Around the Book: Systems and Literacy
    Book Description:

    Amid radical transformation and rapid mutation in the nature, transmission, and deployment of information and communications, Around the Book offers a status report and theoretically nuanced update on the traditions and medium of the book. What, it asks, are the book's current prospects? The study highlights the most radical experiments in the book's history as trials in what the author terms the Prevailing Operating Systemat play within the fields of knowledge, art, critique, and science. The investigations of modern systems theory, as exemplified by Gregory Bateson, Anthony Wilden, and Niklas Luhmann, turn out to be inseparable from theoretically astute inquiry into the nature of the book.Sussman's primary examples of such radical experiments with the history of the book are Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book (both the text and Peter Greenaway's screen adaptation), Stphane Mallarm's Un coup de ds,Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project, Jacques Derrida's Glas, Maurice Blanchot's Death Sentence, and Franz Kafka's enduring legacy within the world of the graphic novel.In the author's hands, close reading of these and related works renders definitive proof of the book's persistence and vitality. The book medium, with its inbuilt format and program, continues, he argues, to supply the tablet or screen for cultural notation. The perennial crisis in which the book seems to languish is in fact an occasion for readers to realize fully their role as textual producers, to experience the full range of liberty in expression and articulation embedded in the irreducibly bookish process of textual display.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4915-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxvi)
  5. ONE Introduction: Around the Book
    (pp. 1-48)

    There is something congenitally troubled about the history of the book. Always at its wit’s (if not virtual) end, the book is forever actively engaged in its own disappearing act. Even in its various heydays (the papyrus scroll, the illuminated manuscript, the movable-type imprint, the mass paperback), the book informs of, even illustrates, its immanent outmoding. The reader is free to speculate along with the rest of us about the full cultural and environmental impact of Amazon’s Kindle and related electronic reading and scrolling systems: whether these spell a definitive break in the history of the book or a cybernetic...

  6. TWO Extraterrestrial Kafka: Ahead to the Graphic Novel
    (pp. 49-84)

    There is always something out of this world, by which we probably mean radically weird and inexhaustible, about Kafka. The weirdness arrives in broad strokes and tiny splashes. It encompasses the earth-shaking fictive premises ofThe Trial, “The Metamorphosis,” and “The Burrow,” which have given rise to innumerable extensions and adaptations in fantastic literature, sci-fi, and the graphic novel, but also such specific touches as the servants’ uniforms inThe Castleand the hum of the Castle telephone system. Often in Kafka’s writing there is no greater weirdness than a minor detail. Or a creature that may not exactly be...

  7. THREE Kafka’s Imaginary: A Cognitive Psychology Footnote
    (pp. 85-106)

    This was an even poorer neighborhood, the houses were still darker, the streets filled with sludge oozing about slowly on top of the melting snow. In the tenement where the painter lived only the wing of the great double door stood open, and beneath the other wing, in the masonry near the ground, there was a gaping hole [war … eine Lücke gebrochen] out of which, just as K. approached, issued a disgusting yellow liquid [eine widerliche, gelbe, rauchende Flüssigkeit harausschoß], steaming hot, from which some rats fled into the adjoining canal. At the foot of the stairs an infant...

  8. FOUR Booking Benjamin: The Fate of a Medium
    (pp. 107-137)

    It’s time, as we say in English, to throw the book at that polymorphous miscreant of reading and writing, Walter Benjamin, to book him, in the patois of American film noir. We can see already that in English there are some hang-ups between the book, whether a material object or a volume or space of writing, and the notion and conventions of legality. But in German a bookseller, the manager of a market or trading place in which the historical Benjamin spent a good number of his happier hours, is aBuchhandler, someone who handles and touches books—it might...

  9. FIVE Pulsations of Respect, or Winged Impossibility: Poetic Deconstruction
    (pp. 138-162)

    Among many images for the difficult freedom into which Jacques Derrida led us by the text is the alternation between the opening up of a vast field of linguistic transgression and the constraints upon authentically rigorous decoding and exegesis. The task of interpretation under the aegis of deconstruction is to alternate, like systole and diastole, between the sublime array of ideological manifestations and aesthetic products placed in mutual communication by the scene of inscription and transgression and a rigorously limited set of interpretative acts and interventions rendered apt by their ethical mindfulness of the specific context at hand.

    There has...

  10. SIX Hegel, Glas, and the Broader Modernity
    (pp. 163-193)

    1.Glasis nothing if not an exceptional book, a book whose architecture and scope place it at the farthest reaches of book culture. Yet its highly singular bicolumnar format not only establishes a textual modality of reverberation, supplementarity, chiasmatic reversal, and constriction. In its persistent recurrence back to Hegel as synthesizer of a Western metaphysical mainstream and to Genet as the poet of an amoral and homoerotic counter-culture, whose text nonetheless interweaves many of the images and figures pivotal to the Hegelian enterprise, this outlandish book on the verge of being a nonbook also brackets two decisive if not definitive...

  11. SEVEN Systems, Games, and the Player: Did We Manage to Become Human?
    (pp. 194-217)

    Systems are under siege—in their tangible capacities, their delivery, their resilience, and their conception. We find ourselves at a sociocultural juncture when reading the daily newspaper has become an ordeal. The panoply of the liberatory functions, institutions, and settings in the infrastructure of culture is in a disabling state of social marginalization, its credibility and credence seriously overdrawn. A global condition of religious hyperthyroidism is merely the symptom of a general withdrawal from freedoms of an intellectual, secular, communicative, and psychosexual dimension, constituting a stopgap solution to our world’s proliferating and competing complexities (in such domains as demography, ecology,...

  12. EIGHT Atmospherics of Mood
    (pp. 218-243)

    The present flâneur, whose promenades these days are more often on the channels of the Worldwide Web than on the boulevards of the odd constellation of cities that he frequents, whether Buffalo, Baltimore, Berlin, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Chicago, or Paris, poses the following questions to himself, as he sets out on an unusually chaotic route:

    Why Walter Benjamin’sArcades Project?Not only because of its elaborated themes of weather and fashion at the outset of Euro-American modernization but because of the ethics as well as aesthetics of citation that it radically sets into play. The strategies of...

  13. NINE Thinking Flat Out: Back to Bateson
    (pp. 244-276)

    Nowadays, we would characterize “Marcel’s” grand revelation inTime Regained, the culminating volume of Proust’sRemembrance of Things Past—a discovered conjunction between two landscapes, moods, and mini-climates, if you will, which the narrator had always considered mutually distinct—as a feedback loop on a very high plane of computer design. This is not the place for an exhaustive review of the geological rift articulating the landscapes of the Île de France around Illiers, the basis for the imaginary Combray in Proust’s biography. For “Marcel,” even during his youthful wanderings, the terrain is forever divided between the Guermantes way, with...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 277-308)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 309-320)