restricted access 1. Introduction: Around the Book
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o n e Introduction: Around the Book Holding Patterns 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, the movable-type imprint, the mass paperback), the book informs of, even illustrates, its immanent outmoding. The reader is free to speculate along with the rest of us about the full cultural and environmental impact of Amazon’s Kindle and related electronic reading and scrolling systems: whether these spell a definitive break in the history of the book or a cybernetic extension and supplement. Yet there is some persistent core (or binding) to the book, and its storied history holds on. Might this tenacious trunk or tree-line of the book be material? Perceptual? Cognitive? Textual? Whatever its exact nature, the book persists, through PAGE 1 1 ................. 17885$ $CH1 10-20-10 14:48:49 PS 2 Introduction all the medium’s technological updatings, through all the theologico-political regimes in which it appears, each with a distinctive ideology of representation , information, communication, and archiving. Or is it rather that we—creatures of culture—can’t let go of it? Over the generations of structured communal life, amid civilizations of astonishing diversity, the book has become a good object, a magical thing, a fetish, an information source, and a commodity. When the book is publicly burned during political upheavals, civility and its very possibility have gone awry. There is something irreducibly tactile in our relation to the book1 It confronts us at eye level. It addresses us face-to-face. The oppositions, repetitions , and incipient madness of a dissipated, textual counter or interlocutor , characterized by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari as a face, are written into it. The book into which we gaze is a mirror with no silvering, whose readout is as diffuse and unfathomable as our familiar images of ourselves— and identities—are not. The face, to Deleuze/Guattari in their Capitalism and Schizophrenia diptych, the face poised opposite the book in the process of reading, while the book is held in the hands, is the insignia of a decisive break with animality , one coinciding with regimes of subject-formation and representation centered in the signifier. The face, as a mega-anthropological index and icon, marks a particular formation they associate with the overall relegation of minorities of many stripes, whether by their outsider, ethnic, racial, economic , chemical, or zoological status, to bare or marginal being. In this case, what they call deterritorialization underscores a devolution of human traits into animal ones, such as snout and mouth: ‘‘Once again, a whole intensive map must be accounted for: the mouth as a deterritorialization of the snout (the whole ‘conflict between the mouth and the brain,’ as Perrier called it); the lips as a deterritorialization of the mouth (only humans have lips, in other words . . . only human females have breasts, in other words, deterritorialized mammary glands.’’2 Note that even here, the deterritorialization by which the nose is no longer the snout runs right over the body: the face is by no means limited to the head.3 On the surface, the centrality of the face seems to be but another element in the spectral mapping that Deleuze/ Guattari effect of the decisive flows propelling late capitalism onto its overarching double binds, inducing its volatile defense mechanisms to attack its own infrastructure and configurations. But in view of our interest in the book, both as culture’s evolving and unwinding papyrus scroll and an PAGE 2 ................. 17885$ $CH1 10-20-10 14:48:49 PS Around the Book 3 embattled institution always on the verge of annihilation, the pivotal role assigned faces and hands in labor and production as well as in reading, marks these corporeal elements as uncanny signifiers, as Lacanian objets petit a,4 whose trajectory it is incumbent upon us to pursue. One of the striking early lessons that Deleuze/Guattari’s exposition of faces teaches us is that a face doesn’t have to look like one in order to assert a quasi-universal specter of surveillance and integrated psychological processing. It may indeed be at the threshold level, where faces reduce to graphic icons or schematic caricatures of themselves, that they attain their full symbolic value: ‘‘the face is part of a surface—holes, holey surface, system.’’5...


Subject Headings

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