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The Watchman in Pieces

The Watchman in Pieces: Surveillance, Literature, and Liberal Personhood

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Watchman in Pieces
    Book Description:

    Spanning nearly 500 years of cultural and social history, this book examines the ways that literature and surveillance have developed together, as kindred modern practices. As ideas about personhood-what constitutes a self-have changed over time, so too have ideas about how to represent, shape, or invade the self. The authors show that, since the Renaissance, changes in observation strategies have driven innovations in literature; literature, in turn, has provided a laboratory and forum for the way we think about surveillance and privacy. Ultimately, they contend that the habits of mind cultivated by literature make rational and self-aware participation in contemporary surveillance environments possible. In a society increasingly dominated by interlocking surveillance systems, these habits of mind are consequently necessary for fully realized liberal citizenship.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15664-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    A man drives to the airport. From the moment he leaves his motel to the instant he boards the plane, closed-circuit cameras—at gas stations, stoplights, private businesses—record his every move. Databases register his most trivial purchases and, in turn, supply monitors with information about his personal history. At no point is he truly alone, as GPS tracking systems follow his automobile, and perhaps his very person, indoors and out, with exquisite precision. At no point is he truly anonymous, as voiceprints, thumbprints, retinal scans, facial recognition software, and easily collected bodily fluids instantly lay his identity bare to...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Retreat of Allegory
    (pp. 18-52)

    Others there are

    Who, trimm’d in forms and visages of duty,

    Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,

    And throwing but shows of service on their lords,

    Do well thrive by them; and when they have lin’d their coats,

    Do themselves homage. These fellows have some soul,

    And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir,

    Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago.

    In following him, I follow but myself.

    Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,

    But seeming so, for my peculiar end;

    For when my outward action doth demonstrate

    The native act...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Liberal Panopticon
    (pp. 53-104)

    A man walks into a casino. As soon as he passes through the door, his image is captured by hidden cameras and compared, via an advanced biometric system, to a vast international database. Any resemblance to known cheaters or other undesirables at once alerts a team of security professionals. As he sits at the card table, his mannerisms are observed and recorded, analyzed for signs of stress or abnormality, his various feints and wagers compared to normal patterns of betting and play. At one point, all of this work would have been done manually, by pit bosses or by men...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Inviolate Personality
    (pp. 105-156)

    When nicole kidman married keith Urban in the spring of 2006, all of the usual precautions were taken. Out of fear that paper correspondence might fall into the wrong hands, the attendees were contacted solely through e-mail. Shortly before the ceremony, they were summoned by phone and told where unmarked cars would pick them up; the drivers were only then themselves paged and informed where to take their passengers. Originally scheduled for midday, the event was pushed back to nighttime, so that the proceedings might take place under the cover of darkness. Nevertheless, as an additional safeguard, a special budget...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Return of Allegory
    (pp. 157-222)

    A man walks intoasmall social gathering at his hotel, hoping to meet a respected playwright and novelist he has long admired from a distance. Finally introduced to the author, he is at first impressed by his idol’s verbal facility—his ability to talk endlessly on any topic of current events, his impressive command of the latest gossip, and his evident social connectedness. Only after further conversation do these gifts begin to rankle: the author’s views turn out to be repetitive and dismayingly conventional, showing none of the profound insights of his published material. Still more disturbing, the author...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Towards a Theory of Liberal Reading
    (pp. 223-282)

    A colleague relates the following anecdote about teachingThe Waste Landto first-year students:they were all gifted, but none had previously read the work. We got through the first two sections without incident, but when we hit part 3 there was trouble; it involved, specifically, Eliot’s depiction of the typist’s late afternoon tryst with the young man carbuncular, one of the less pleasant passages in the poem. As she “lights/her stove, and lays out food in tins” in preparation for the assignation, it transpires that she already has company:

    I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs

    Perceived the scene,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 283-342)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 343-357)