- Intermediality in the Age of Global Media Networks – Including Eleven Theses on its Provocative Power for the Concepts of “Convergence,” “Transmedia Storytelling” and “Actor Network Theory”1
1. Intermediality as a Search Concept
Narrative allegory is distinguished from mythology as reality from symbol; it is, in short, the proper intermedium between person and personification. Where it is too strongly individualized, it ceases to be allegory […].(Coleridge 33)
In the community of scholars of intermedia research, the above quoted citation is commonly regarded as Coleridge’s coining of the term “intermedium” or “intermediality” (Higgins). However, a short glance at the discursive strategy of his argument emphasizes that his notion of “intermedium” must be closely linked to the poetics and aesthetics of 19th-century romanticism. For the romantic poet, the term of “intermedium” does not (yet?) point to media relations or intermedia processes but to the narratological phenomenon of allegory, to its specificities and narrative functions.
Thus, Coleridge’s term of “intermedium” is quite far away from 20th or 21st centuries’ denotations and connotations of the concept of intermediality. Nevertheless, it has been used as some sort of a terminological starting point of manifold theoretical and epistemological efforts. Meanwhile, intermediality has become a central research axis of literary and – especially – media studies, which manifests itself, for example, in several international research centers. In this article I will not undertake an effort to give some sort of a historical overview on all ‘ingredients’ or ‘vectors’ of intermedia theories in general or on my own work (which recently has, for example, been done in a very convincing way by Irina Rajewsky (“Intermedialität, remediation, Multimedia”; earlier by Mertens), but shall focus on some central aspects of the history of the notion of intermediality and on its ‘usefulness’ for media studies in the era of global media networks. The discussion of selected intermedia processes and media paradigms will thus constitute a horizon or a ‘frame of reference’ for the re-construction of the intermedium ‘TV.’ 2
With regard to the denotations and connotations of Coleridge’s term “intermedium,” we should keep in mind that the reflection of intermedia [End Page 19] processes is not a 19th century invention or phenomenon of 19th century poetologies and aesthetics, which later have been caught up and remodeled in 20th century theories and approaches; considerations of intermedia processes can be traced back to antique poetics, such as Simonides of Keos’ idea of “painting as mute poetry and poetry as mute painting” (Plutarch 363), antique and medieval alchemist ideas of fusions, Giordano Bruno’s famous dictum of the year 1591 that “true philosophy, music or poetry is also painting, and true painting is also music and philosophy, and true poetry or music is a kind of divine wisdom and painting” (Bruno 129), Lessing’s Laokoon, Wagner’s “Gesamtkunstwerk”, or – better to say – “Kunstwerk der Zukunft” (Wagner 97), to mention only a few ‘highlights’ of the theoretical foundations of the research axis of intermediality (cf. Mueller, “Intermedialität als poetologisches,” “Intermedialität digital,” and “Genres analog”). I shall refrain from presenting a kind of synoptic view on central aspects of the development of the notion and concept of intermedia studies in the second half of the 20th century (cf. Mueller, Intermedialität: Formen, “L’intermédialité”), but, instead, I would prefer to direct our attention to the fact that in this historical phase intermedia studies have primarily been initiated by literary studies and linguistics. These studies showed (as well as the ‘early’ intermedia approaches of 19th-century romanticism) a clear focus on aesthetic, poetological and narratological processes and can be best characterized by Claus Clüver’s term and outstanding research in the field of “interart.”
From the 1970s to the 1990s, “interarts” and also “intertextualities” were related to “intermedialities,” which function as a sort of ‘umbrella term’ for various research axes ranging from semiotics and art histories to taxonomies of intermedia processes. It is quite amazing to notice that until today the discourses of these central terms have not really been present in the Anglo-Saxon scholarly contexts. Only Higgins’ work (which was strongly marked by the Fluxus...