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November 20 - ThePowerBook, Day 2, Derrida

Page history last edited by scsaund@... 11 years, 10 months ago


Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

  • Algerian Jew
  • 1942 - Vichy (plays a lot of soccer and reads philosophy)
  • 1952 - Ecole Normale Superieure
  • Dissertation - Edmund Husserl (phenomenology)
  • 1967 - Writing and Difference

              Speech and Phenomenon

              Of Grammatology (Gramma-wha?) - the study of writing systems/scripts



Derrida Discussion


What is a book?


Derrida makes it quite unclear what the definition of a book is (and therefore makes it clear that he himself cannot define the concept of "book"). However, he does state that a book is not writing, printing, supports, or work. And while these four words do not define what a book is, they are still essential to what a book is. A book usually incorporates some form of writing, for example. However, a book is not necessarily printed because books existed long before printing was ever invented.  The book is not any one thing, but rather all of the characteristics converge in the sphere of the book.   While these items can all be related together to make up parts of a book, the book is not reducible to any of these constituent parts. 


What is "le livre a venir?" 


Derrida is concerned with "the book to come."  He asserts that they will often be electronic or interactive.


Where will we keep the book to come? 


Derrida argues that items in a library must become immobilized in the sense that we give them over to being categorized, catalogued, and gathered together.  If the book to come is electronic/interactive, how can we keep it in a library that is dedicated to immobilizing books? Electronic is connected to mobility as evidenced by electronic library catalogues, reserves direct, and databases.  Does this mean Woodruff Library is already an electronic database?  What distinguishes JSTOR from a “book” when much of it consists of scanned pages?  Is a library actually a library if it is electronic and not soley physical?  

Additionally, what are the requirements for a book to be included in a library? For one, categorization is important, so a book or document must have a title. A book with no title will not work because it cannot be identified or talked about.  The library is becoming an electronic HOST space, more so than a place where books are stored, especially with the infulx of electronic journals and databases.  Eventually all of these technologies will converge, and the libraries will become fully electronic.


Does this mean the end of the book?


Derrida would say no.  There exists a fetish (in the Marxist view) for books. The book has a great economical value —i.e., the marginal benefits outweigh the marginal costs of producing a book. A supply-demand curve dictates that as books become rarer, demand will increase. Also, the experience of reading a book feels somewhat religious.  The end of the book also has a great deal of concern with the future of the book.  Can a book, or even the idea of the book, survive the test of time?  Books were originally speeches translated into text.  What, then, does a book require to keep up with the massive amounts of technology in the world?  Does the book have the ability to attain immediacy and hypermediacy, two pieces of theory that drive modern American society?  Chances are that most books cannot use these ideas without being electronic, and thus losing all of their ideals and previous notions.  So then the question is again raised, what can a book do?  The book as it stands now can be saved from the "shipwreck at present" via creation of books that cannot exist in any other form (i.e. pop-up books).  These books will develop with increase in literary experiments such as Danielewski's House of Leaves.  

     In the head of a Marxist, the fetish of the book will be lost.  Its social and economic value will be more than its USE value.  Thus, the price of the book will increase with its rarity.  The experience of reading is lost, or it will be vastly different if cost becomes an issue.  "The book will continue to look "book like"  but only to retain its legitamacy" (pg.16).  The overall need for a "book to come" is very important if the book of the tomorrow is to rescue the effects that technology has on literature presently.


Back to The.PowerBook


Is The.PowerBook one of “the books to come?”


Not really. House of Leaves is a better representation of “the book to come” because it has to be in the form of a book to have the same overall effect on a reader. If House of Leaves were online, for example, and the footnotes were not neatly placed on a page as they were found in the book, part of the creep-factor would be lost.


The.PowerBook was a good piece of fiction in the way it tackled the issue of gender—nearly erasing its overall importance in the story.  Thus, the gender ambiguity contributes to the ambiguity of the text as a whole. Also, each sentence was written so beautifully that we could immediately ascribe greater literary value to this novel in comparison to some other works we have read this semester such as Halting State or The Hacker and the Ants.


Though we made a point that uppercase stories were being told and lowercase stories were actually occurring, there comes a point in the novel where this defining line becomes blurred. In SAVE, the two layers are the same. Though the title of the section is in uppercase lettering, it becomes evident that we are in the lowercase world because of the “shadows on the ceiling—a bear’s head, a knife,” (277) which was also seen on page 4. There is also a collapse between layers seen on page 189, where “Spitalfields” and “London” occur simultaneously, the former of which is part of the lowercase world and the latter of which is part of the uppercase world.





--Like the presence of the Greek tithenai (“to put”) in bibliotheke, they all point up the act of putting, depositing, but also the act of immobilizing, of giving something over to a stabilizing immobility, and so to the statute, to the statutory and even state institution, which alerts us to all the institutional, juridical, and political dimensions that we must also debate. Setting down, laying down, depositing, storing, warehousing—this is also receiving, collecting together, gathering together, consigning (like baggage), binding together, collecting, totalizing, electing, and reading by binding.—


Where are we going to keep the book? To be in a library, the book must be immobilized in a category (and by immobilization we mean that it must have a non-dynamic identity). Books must have a title in order to be catalogue-able.  If books were previously considered immobile in order to be kept in libraries, is the new, electronic, essentially mobile book going to be kept in a library?  The etymology that surrounds the book points to the supports that make up the physical book (i.e. pages, cover, spine) if the book of tomorrow does not require these things that appear to be the defining characteristics of the book, we must reconsider what "book" really means.  Electronic libraries will serve the same purpose as traditional libraries--they organize textual works according to title and author.  What will be missing is the physical presence of paper and ink, however the essential information of the book will remain.   



--On the other hand, we should analyze the retention of the model of the book, the liber—of the unit and the distribution of discourse, even its pagination on the screen, even the body, the hands and eyes that it continues to orient, the rhythm it prescribes, its relationship to the title, its modes of legitimation, even where the material support has disappeared (the new electronic journals, based in universities across the world, generally reproduce the traditional formats, editorial norms, criteria of evaluation and selection—for better and for worse).—


Electronics continue to look bookish. JSTOR (our database) consists of numerous .pdf files of scanned pages from articles and books. The book therefore remains an evaluative mechanism; it has been remediated over time.



--That we are awaiting or hoping for an other book, a book to come that will transfigure or even rescue the book from the shipwreck that is happening at present.—


This passage suggests that the distorted words on p. 10 are a part of what there is to come. The shipwreck is the dying book, but the future book will save it. There are books that cannot exist in another form (e.g. pop-up books, unless you produce a 3d simulation of a pop-up book, but that seems unpractical).  Books must be remediated and hypermediated in order to hold the physical form of "book" as its only possible form.  House of Leaves provides an example of a hypermediated book.  The way the text is inconsistently formatted accross the page, often scaling up and down the page, diagonally, even composing pictures not unlike those of the concrete poets forces the reader to confront the book and all its "supports".  More experimental books like this will save the book from its present shipwreck.






Metonymy – a part to whole comparison where the part represents the whole.  A literal term for when one thing is applied to another. (Literary figuration)  Ex. The word Biblion originally meant papyrus but has come to mean the book itself not just the paper. 

Grammatology - the study of writing systems/scripts

Palimpsest- text written over another text





http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/derrida.htm - Jacques Derrida as listed in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It summarizes a lot of topics that he was well known for (thoughts on speech and writing, phenomenology, and "the other")


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/ - Edmund Husserl and phenomenology. A lot of what Derrida was talking about comes from Husserl's works.


http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/derrida.htm - A part of "Of Grammatology". He is basically trying to analyze writing from a scientific approach.


http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=10 - As shown in class.


http://grammar.about.com/od/mo/g/metonymy.htm - A bit more of a clarification on exactly what metonymy is, along with a few examples.


http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/   - holy crap man....this site also has a link for http://www.googlizationofeverything.com/  I am scared for what Google knows...because it is everything


http://www.hydra.umn.edu/derrida/ - Ridiculous resource for if you're just a little too obsessed with Derrida.


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303326/ - THE MANS GOT HIS OWN DOCUMENTARY!


http://www.wired.com/wired/archive//4.02/negroponte.html?person=george_gilder&topic_set=wiredpeople  - Wired on the Future of the book.


http://www.themodernword.com/eco/eco_future_of_book.html  a speech exerpt from Umberto Eco

Comments (1)

jtopping@... said

at 3:52 am on Nov 25, 2008

all i could do at this hour was add the links i had because they were saved in my history.....boo wiki boo

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