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Around the Book

Systems and Literacy

Henry Sussman

Publication Year: 2010

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.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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Preface: Reaching for the Book

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pp. xi-xxiii

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...

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1. Introduction: Around the Book

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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...

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2. Extraterrestrial Kafka: Ahead to the Graphic Novel

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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 of...

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3. Kafka’s Imaginary: A Cognitive Psychology Footnote

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pp. 85-106

What do we mean when we say that an author, in her relentless cultural reprogramming, has not only added to or reconfigured the conventions surrounding a genre or a discourse, but has facilitated the incursion of a different Imaginary? How can...

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4. Booking Benjamin: The Fate of a Medium

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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...

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5. Pulsations of Respect, or Winged Impossibility: Poetic Deconstruction

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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...

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6. Hegel, Glas, and the Broader Modernity

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pp. 163-193

1. Glas is 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...

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7. Systems, Games, and the Player: Did We Manage to Become Human?

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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...

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8. Atmospherics of Mood

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pp. 218-243

The present flaneur, 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...

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9. Thinking Flat Out: Back to Bateson

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pp. 244-275

Nowadays, we would characterize ‘‘Marcel’s’’ grand revelation in Time Regained, the culminating volume of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past—a discovered conjunction between two landscapes, moods, and mini-climates, if you will, which the narrator...


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pp. 277-307


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pp. 309-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249152
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823232833
Print-ISBN-10: 0823232832

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 708566781
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Around the Book

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Criticism.
  • Social systems.
  • Literature -- Philosophy.
  • Books -- History.
  • Books and reading -- Sociological aspects.
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