Kittler's Technosublime by Bruce Clarke

In the 1970s a number of texts came into English translation bearing titles with a 1-2-3 punch, mixing exemplary authors with generic modes and methodological issues; for instance, Roland Barthes's SadeFourierLoyola and Image, Music, Text, containing the essays "Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein" and "Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers," and Michel Foucault's Language, Counter-Memory, Practice with the essay "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." The title Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, a cognate translation of the German, echoes these theoretical signatures.
In Gramophone, Film, Typewriter Kittler contrasts the restriction of Foucault's discourse theory to textual archives with his own wider media band, in which phonographic and cinematic data streams decenter the channel of literary writing. But his commentators agree that Kittler's "media discourse theory" follows from Foucault as the prime member of the triumvirate Foucault, Lacan, Derrida. Lacan runs a close second. Kittler writes: "Lacan was the first (and last) writer whose book titles only described positions in the media system. The writings were called Writings, the seminars,Seminar, the radio interview, Radiophonie, and the TV broadcast, Television" (170). Gramophone, Film, Typewriter partakes of this same postsymbolic media literalism.
I write about Kittler from the standpoint of a scholar of British and American literature who dropped from the tree of Columbia's core humanities curriculum to the seed-bed of canonical romanticism and modernism and the theory culture of the 1970s and 1980s, then passed through the forcing house of literature and science in the 1990s, to arrive at the threshold of contemporary media studies. In the process I seem to have become posthuman, but Kittler's work reassures me that I had no choice in the matter: "media determine our situation" (xxxix). Kittler parlays high poststructuralism into a historical media theory that humbles the subject of humanistic hermeneutics by interpellation into the discrete material channels of communication. Media studies bids to become a hegemonic site within the new academic order of a wired culture. For Kittler, media determine our posthumanity and have been doing so in technological earnest at least since the phonograph broke the storage monopoly of writing.(...)

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