Around the Book: Systems and Literacy by Henry Sussman

By Henry Sussman

Amid radical transformation and swift mutation within the nature, transmission, and deployment of data and communications, round the publication bargains a standing document and theoretically nuanced replace at the traditions and medium of the booklet. What, it asks, are the book's present clients? The research highlights the main radical experiments within the book's heritage as trials in what the writer phrases the present working Systemat play in the fields of information, paintings, critique, and technology. The investigations of contemporary structures idea, as exemplified by means of Gregory Bateson, Anthony Wilden, and Niklas Luhmann, become inseparable from theoretically astute inquiry into the character of the book.Sussman's fundamental examples of such radical experiments with the historical past of the e-book are Sei Shonagon's Pillow e-book (both the textual content and Peter Greenaway's reveal adaptation), Stphane Mallarm's Un coup de ds,Walter Benjamin's Arcades undertaking, Jacques Derrida's Glas, Maurice Blanchot's dying Sentence, and Franz Kafka's enduring legacy in the global of the photo novel.In the author's fingers, shut interpreting of those and comparable works renders definitive evidence of the book's patience and power. The booklet medium, with its built in layout and software, maintains, he argues, to provide the pill or reveal for cultural notation. The perennial trouble during which the publication turns out to languish is in reality an celebration for readers to gain absolutely their function as textual manufacturers, to event the whole diversity of liberty in expression and articulation embedded within the irreducibly bookish technique of textual demonstrate.

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Extra resources for Around the Book: Systems and Literacy

Sample text

In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture. All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage. A book is an assemblage of this kind, and as such is unattributable. It is a multiplicity—but we don’t know yet what the multiple entails when it is no longer attributed, that is, after it has been elevated to the level of a substantive.

Yet it is within the binding of the book that a constant, desperate, and hopefully critical grappling with systems of power, ideology, technology, and the social administration of goods and resources can transpire. In them, critical and theoretical bearings can come to coincide with books’ transmission, display, and registration of Prevailing Operating Systems. The core irony of the uncanny, almost unspeakable coincidence and collusion between systematic ordering and domination and the open-ended textual-theoretical proliferation of possibility within the framework and medium of the book was not lost on the enduring literary programmers of the twentieth century.

They surely touch us back at some profound and visceral register, or they would not have enjoyed their storied, detailed, technologically rich, and still undiminished run. Now and seemingly forever, books have us in a quandary. In order for us rigorously to take it in, the book detains and isolates us to a degree for which we are never fully prepared. At recurrent intervals, we are done with the discomfort and other importunities demanded by books. We casually toss them out, as Freud’s grandson Ernst does the spool toy at the outset of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, only to retrieve them, and this with no small degree of anxiety.

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