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202Philosophy and Literature authorship are self-negating; they demonstrate the necessity of phenomenological presence, where the machine is "constantly being exposed in its insufficiency and saved from total disintegration only by the fact that it is sustained by our [readers'] imaginations" (p. 171). The works of cybernetic fiction utilize a variety of strategies to juxtapose technical autonomy with uncertainty and ineffability. These range from the paranoid visions of a technological society in Vonnegut's Player Piano, Pynchon 's "elaborate systems and metaphors whose purpose is to make the reader aware of the special place beyond systems and codes and information where our humanness resides" (p. 117), and the formalistic discourses and "computer-authors" which exhibit their own limits in works by Barth, Beckett, McElroy, and Barthelme. For instance, author-as-mechanism manifests itself in distinctive literary devices such as the clipped, subject-free, "machine language" in Samuel Beckett 's The Lost Ones. At the same time, the machine language's authorship is undermined by oxymorons, blatant contradictions between successive passages , abundant qualifiers and mitigating phrases, and obviously inaccurate calculations. This "language of uncertainty" intertwines with the machine language to dramatize the absurdity of the text's mechanistic posturing. Porush demonstrates how postmodern fiction parodies and resists the encroachment of positivist discourse and technique upon human intentionality and artistic creativity. His book is ultimately ambiguous, however, on the role cybernetic theory plays in this dialectic. At times, Porush presents cybernetics as an extension of positivism; a mechanistic language that attempts to encompass such "uniquely human" capacities as self-reflection and creativity, but which can only do so through a reductionist sleight-of-hand. At other times, however, he portrays the language of cybernetics as an author's resource for transcending the limits of a simpler positivism. One is left wondering whether cybernetics is no more than a misguided source of metaphor for literary parody, or whether Porush means to develop it into an analytical language for revealing the limits of discourse and authorship. Whitman CollegeMichael Lynch Writing and Reading Differently, edited by G. Douglas Atkins and Michael L. Johnson; ? & 216 pp. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985, $25.00 cloth, $12.95 paper. The struggle between deconstruction and prevailing forms of critical orthodoxy has been in evidence for some time now. So it is not surprising that the advocates of deconstruction should make forays into fresh territories both to Reviews203 secure new recruits and support existing adherents. In this volume they address teachers of composition and literature, though, given deconstruction's complexities, with mixed results. This book is a collection of twelve mostly original essays by some of the approach's prominent practitioners, including Geoffrey Hartmann and J. Hillis Miller. It examines first the general questions of teaching and deconstruction and turns in later sections to particular applications in the fields of composition and literature. Teaching deconstruction adequately poses some ticklish problems as a typically gnomic observation from Barthes in Vincent Leitch's introductory essay indicates: "The pedagogical problem would be to throw the notion of the literary text into disorder and to succeed in making adolescents realize that there is text everywhere, but that all is no longer text . . ." (p. 19). This is a tall enough order by itself, but when it is coupled with the problem of disentangling the operations of authority inherent in the very act of teaching from the process of teaching itself, the task becomes formidable, if not, as Leitch fears, impossible. How, in short, are teachers to introduce the prodigious variety of literary and other texts and also demonstrate the anarchic possibilities of breaking them open without inviting actual anarchy in the classroom? There are some worthwhile first suggestions, even if the problem is never entirely laid to rest. Gregory Ulmer's stimulating "Textshop for Post(e)pedagogy " proposes strategies, in part following Korzybski, to draw attention away from the product of writing and on to the actual process of production, largely through the notions of invention and creative misreading. Along with David Kaufer and Gary Waller's following essay he emphasizes how to play with texts and, like them, includes some useful tested examples and exercises. Later sections of the book echo some of these...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 202-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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