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tommccarthy

Tom McCarthy on the late Friedrich Kittler in the LRB:

[...] Kittler’s aura seemed to hover over the whole city; by the end of my stay there I wondered whether taxi drivers and Imbiss-stand operators might be protégés or associates as well. He seemed to lurk, invisible, beneath the intersection-points between the worlds of art, philosophy and politics, his bodily presence transmuted into riffs that multiplied like echoes across exhibition catalogue essays and club fliers and general public banter. Whenever I heard someone mention Ovid and feedback loops or Hölderlin and binary code in the same sentence, I knew that I was listening to the master’s voice piped down a hotline from the inner sanctuary at Humboldt where, like Hegel two centuries before him, he’d established his HQ.

[...] While I was writing C, friends kept telling me I had to check out Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. But I held off, not wanting to cloud my primary research on technology and melancholia with academic ‘takes’ on the subject. I read it as soon as I’d finished though, and boy was it good:

What remains of people is what media can store and communicate. What counts are not the messages or the content with which they equip so-called souls for the duration of a technological era, but rather… their circuits, the very schematism of perceptibility.

This was not just the new Hegel: even better, it was the anti-Hegel, deliriously following through on his avowal to chase Spirit (Geist) out of the Humanities (Geistliche Wissenschaften), to celebrate the poetry of materiality and the materiality of poetry. Here was someone who — at last! — had charted the genealogy, or transmission lines, of writing’s interface with bodies, from Sade to Kafka, Marinetti to Pynchon. Most exciting of all, he lucidly and irrefutably articulated something I’d been trying ineptly to persuade people of for years: that Dracula is a book about the Dictaphone. [...]

[Pic: Tom McCarthy by Andrew Gallix.]

First posted: Thursday, November 10th, 2011.

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