Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Synopsis

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 System" at 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 des, 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 bookseems 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.

Excerpt

The book you are about to read is the product of a lifetime spent both in freely consorting with other books and in negotiating a rich and diverse, if not comprehensive panoply of systems. The latter have included systems primarily familial or communal, legal, technological, and cultural in their primary impact and thrust. They have been organized over time in order to regulate, within the jurisdictions I have inhabited, such phenomena as political and economic life and opportunity, travel and residence, public order, domestic cohabitation, education, and aesthetic and sexual expression.

The intense and volatile loop in which books and systems are involved in mutual communications, feedback, and revision and adaptation is by no means obvious or intuitive. Systems would at first glance seem inimical to books, especially to ones of cultural elucidation and critique. In their very architecture, they would seem to foreclose the expansive proliferation of logical, speculative, scientific, imaginary, informational, and skeptical possibilities that such books barely manage to contain within their bindings. Systems, by the same token, would seem to annex books among the other things and phenomena that they regulate, characterize, order, select, and, through multifarious methods, efficiently or not, bring under control. This striking dissonance, which is also a communications highway for needed messaging, is both the starting point for the following study and an investigative topography that it will not abandon.

I spend a disproportionate amount of my time and life’s blood (qi, in Chinese medicine, as we shall see in Chapter 8) in circulating among and between various systems. I am hardly alone or unique in this regard. These in turn play a decisive if not absolute role in calibrating the possible qualities and outcomes of the interactions in which I am involved. Time and experience have conditioned me, in no irrevocable way, concerning what to expect . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.