Review: [untitled] Author(s): Robert C. Holub Reviewed work(s): Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900 by Friedrich A.

Kittler Source: The German Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Autumn, 1987), pp. 641-644 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/407326 Accessed: 01/03/2009 03:24
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Its theme.valorizes written the word. Rather thanthe deconstruction of the text or the linguistic structuration the unconscious.devotedto the "writing from system"of 1800. the human being. his inclusion and dependence technology. 1985. FRIEDRICHA.fur Geschichtevon Denksystemen" 421) is (p. Munchen: Fink. he outlines. 428 pp.the tale Kittlerrelates is not whollyunfamiliar. vidualspiritor intellect. in the of by Although reception poststructuralism Germanists the FRGhashardly beenextensive. claimsthatthis is part ofa naturalizing the of and trend.Friedrich highly imaginative stimulating Kittler'sAufschreiis the besysteme just sucha study. arbitrariness thelinguistic is ignored. Kittlerdiffersfrom Foucault. Around language 1900 becomesa medium is and amongothermedia. its broadest ouslyappeared employ forself-expression.In particular notes a tendency he nonsensesyllablesandtowards awayfromteachinglanguage phonetically through the use of monosyllabic wordsof the German He language. The firstsystem.he cites extensively variousprimerscomposedduringthe period.whichis associated general withclassicism.The human beingis placedat the centerof this conception of the writtenword. language sign 641 . LITERARY THEORY AND COLLECTIONS KITTLER. 284).as creatorandcontroller linguistic of signs. in of on however.and the late "Prof. is mostinterested historical in differences thediscourses and which mark epochs.butalso on the "technology" involved with for writingas well as its implications otherareasof sociallife.BOOK REVIEWS I.The systemwhich itdoesnotdealwiththemessybusiness howthistransformation of replaces Kittler comesabout.Its materiality recognized. and views language a conduit an indias for romanticism.is writingaround and years1800and1900.as the titleindicates. is clearthat he it drawsmostheavilyon the workof Michel Foucault.whoprevito it In recedesintooblivion. Although uses liberaldoses of Derridaand Lacanto spice his argument. Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. Thusin the firsthalf of the volume. Kittlerfocuses explicitlycriticizedfor neglectingthis area (p. Accordingly not onlyon the discourseaboutwriting. of like Kittler. Foucault. therefore.andits thesisis thattwodistinct separate systemsofwriting in werein effectduring these periods.the fewscholars havelooked Parisfortheoretical who to inspiration oftenproduce and works. idealism.

also produces the typewriter. Holz. and the close association of poetry and philosophy.which becomes something like the archetypicalfairy-taleof the "Aufschreibesystem 1800. but exemplary proponent. now disappears from the scene (p. Nietzsche is the inauguratorof this new system. From this brief summary it is evident that Kittler's concern are broad. and film. An ihm haben Simulanten des Wahnsinns ihren Herrn. the traditionalfield of literature is less pominent than in the first half of the volume. andthe followingquote summarizes his thoughtson this matter: Dichtungen von 1800 gehorten ins Reich Gottes. Rilke's des DieAufzeichunungen MalteLauridsBrigge is the only literary work "interpreted" in any detail. the subject. This. the transcendental norm for language. YetKittler does make some general observations aboutdifferences in literature in the two eras. The mother as nature and ideal is the source for the mother tongue. Kittler sketches for the reader a system in which all previous precepts and beliefs have been overturned. is connected with alternatives in family and social structure. discourses around 1900 are products of "Zufallsgeneratoren" 211). Freudthe perhaps unwitting. Throughouthis initial discussion he is intent upon exploring the connections between such phenomena as the reductionof illiteracy.The nationof "Dichterund Denker"becomes one of writers and analysts (p. In short. Combining the analysis of statements made by the inventors and propagatorsof these technological innovations with the implications he derives from the technology itself. 233). the rise of the concept of "Bildung. the role of the sexes is completely reversed (p. . It is her responsibility to educate her sons as civil servants for the state. 220). and George. Kittler explores these topics with materials from a number of unusual and conventional sources. among these are translation theory. the socializationof the educationalsystem. 219). 318). ent. The social ramificationsare just as radicallydiffer(p. The "AufschreibesystemSchrift" (p. is destroyed (p. who had previously believed to use language. 95). 216) evidences the victory of what Kittler refers to as psychophysics. Mallarm6its first poet. 265). the reading public for belles-lettres. an dem kein Glied nicht trunken war. one of "pure differentiality" (p.642 THE GERMANQUARTERLY Fall 1987 is incorporatedinto the sphere of nature. and Kittler's suggestion for renamingit Denkwurdigkeiten einesNervenkrankheitssimulanten 336) gives some indication of the direction he wishes to (p. um Unendlichkeitder Deutung und Unsterblichkeitdes Sinns zu erlangen. Uber dem Aufschreibesystemvon 1900 und seinen Tintenfassern steht ein ganz anderer Gott. aber nur. take. and "forthe first time people are reducedto nakedsign perception" (p. The distinction between sense and nonsense blurs (p. in turn. Er ist irrsinning. Im Kelch seines Geisterreiches legten die Schreiber ihre biirgerlichen Namen ab. Ein absoluter Geist." A century later things have changed drasticallyaccordingto Kittler'sarcheology. 228). 214)." the appearanceof a particularnotion of the human beand In the latter part of the first half of the book he weaves other selected topics into ing. The logic associated with the materiality of language. but with the exception of brief remarks on Benn. The unity of Bildung disintegrates (p. formerly identified with a spoken ideal. konsumierte am Ende ihrer irdischen KreislaufeAutoren und Werke. the phonograph. entrusted with the pedagogical task of language instruction.A good portion of these sections centers on or takes off from Hoffmann'sDer goldene Topf. this discursive mosaic.

11). die ein ganzes Aufschreibesystem von aulen her aufschreiben konnten. dann nicht. that is. Too often Kittler's arguments seem obscure and private. ignore the fudging of facts. In short. s/he will very likely become suspicious of his claims. the "Ach. On the one hand. as I have explained above. and certainly no one wouldplace it at the beginning of even the modern literary tradition. the authoritativeversion includes the poem "Zueignung"and two prologues before the scene in Faust's chamber. die im TintenfafJdes irrsinnigen Gotts ertrinken. and althoughmany connections he makes are both original and illuminating. Kittler then quotes as evidence the initial verses from the first scene in Faust I ("Habnun." according to him.BOOK REVIEWS Wenn der irrsinnige Gott trinkt. much less German literature. In light of its style one would be justified in raising the question of what "writing system" Kittler's book itself belongs to. ach! Philosophie"). (p. kommen nicht zu Unsterblichkeit eines Autornamens. The reader will frequently have the impression that the author is not writing to communicate. Kittler goes out of his way to appear genial. But once s/he recognizes that this sort of argumentationis the rule and not the exception. 343) 643 I have quoted at length here not only to allow Kittler to represent his own case but also to give the reader an idea of how he represents it. and probablygo along with his argument. The initial statement reads as follows: "Die Deutsche Dichtung hebt an mit einem Seufzer" (p. it is usually viewed as the culminationof Goethe's creative efforts and of German classicism in general. Since the reader of this review may suspect that any difficulty in the passage cited above is due to its being ripped out of context. but is embedded squarely in the middle. the "Ach"does not start the line. Schreiber. which at times make it fascinating to read. even if the reader manages to fight through the opaqueness of much of the text. let me illustrate the shortcomings of Kittler's style briefly with the very first sentence of the book. His text is a tapestry of leitmotifs. andcryptic pronouncements. Wo es um 1800 eine Funktion philosophischen Konsums gab. abjuringin the process obvious facts and counter-examples. Logic too often cedes to apodictic statement. the manner in which he has sought to demonstrate it asks the reader to stretch his/her knowledge too much. for reasons I have . is a sign of this "einmaligeWesenheit"(p. Schon darum gibt es anstelle von Autoren und Werken bloBSchreiber und Schriften. but somewhat difficult to comprehend as scholarship.assuming. s/he is asked to buy into the rhetorical strategy and hyperbole too much and too often. that he would like us to understand and to be persuaded by his presentation. um Phantasien im dreifachen Sinn aufzuheben. it is. His point here is. sie ersetzen nur jene anonymen und paradoxen Analphabeten. Althoughthis argumentis not uninteresting. but to amuse himself. steht 100 Jahre spater die nackte Vernichtung. that a spirit or intellect informs the written word. Now these may be petty objections relating to minor details. puns. For I think that the single most disturbing factor for readers of this book will be the style in which it is written. his penchant for preferring bons mots to reasoned arguments is ultimately deleterious to his goals. 11). Finally. One can argue that the reader will understand what Kittler means here. Faust does not stand at the beginning of German literature. Even Urfaust was not Goethe's first work. Nor does Faust actually begin with these verses.

" the subsequent system is if identified with typewriter. Berkeley Geschichte deutschenLiteraturkritik der (1730-1980). The table of contents lists a series of progressive Germanists who teach in the United States: Klaus Berghahn traces the evolution of Kritik from its beginnings in the Enlightenment to Weimar Classicism. that "ach" is part of Sprache-but also the manner in which the book is arranged. sondern Inwendigkeitund Stimme Des Menschen. answering a telephone. Ed. i. one in which the considerable intellect of its authorshines throughor is reflected in the various discussions. 1985. Kittler obviouslyfeels that word and image in their material reality are as important as message. we might want to speculate nonetheless on what technological emblem to assign to it. privatized systems which use public media. If the "writing system" around 1800 employed pen and ink and "Muttermund.. phonograph. The present voluminous tome is a collection of five lengthy essays that treat German literary criticism from the eighteenth century to the present. die nicht einfach in iiberkommendenSchriftsystemen aufgeht. Chapter headings are supplemented by notes in the margins. Jochen Schulte-Sasse picks up the evolutionary story with the changes in literary criticism introduced by Romanticism in the context . in hermetic. Indeed. On the other hand. 375 pp. a very individualwork. Universityof California. (p. the front cover shows us an austere. Kittler himself obviously pays a great deal of attention to the materiality of the printed word. Peter Uwe Hohendahl."or at least as the attempt to refashion this era for the present.e. Although it is impossible to name the writing system governing him. 216) If Kittler's work does not fit easily in either of the two systems he describes. but which do as much to defy as to promote communication. we might see the "Aufschreibesystem 2000" prefiguredin the walkman. Kittler's voluminous scholarship and his intuitive insights cannot be denied. Wenn das Aufschreibesystem von 1800 das Spiel gespielt hat. One might therefore be tempted to see it as a throwbackto the "Geniezeit. it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the "writing system" around 1900 is somehow more accurate to reality or at least more aware of the true function of the written word. self-contained. keins zu sein. and film. for example. Stuttgart: Metzler. his achievements are sometimes breath-taking. as bureaucrat. sondern aus der Technologie von Schrift iiberhaupt alle Konsequenzen zieht.644 THE GERMANQUARTERLY Fall 1987 given above. the backcover depicts Goethe. so kommt um 1900 eine Schrift zur Macht. But I suspect that while sympathetic readers will emit sighs of exhileration and admiration.the "ach"which many will utter in reading this volume will often accompany exasperation and frustration. it is perhaps because he is participatingin the beginnings of a new era. ROBERT HOLUB C. By this I mean not only those passages involving word plays-he reminds us. priestly figure pointingto a typewriter. illustrations are frequent and carefully integrated into the text.

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