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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Thusin the firsthalf of the volume. in the of by Although reception poststructuralism Germanists the FRGhashardly beenextensive. arbitrariness thelinguistic is ignored. 428 pp.the tale Kittlerrelates is not whollyunfamiliar.The human beingis placedat the centerof this conception of the writtenword.and the late "Prof. 284).BOOK REVIEWS I.the fewscholars havelooked Parisfortheoretical who to inspiration oftenproduce and works.andits thesisis thattwodistinct separate systemsofwriting in werein effectduring these periods.butalso on the "technology" involved with for writingas well as its implications otherareasof sociallife.as creatorandcontroller linguistic of signs.whichis associated general withclassicism. he outlines. Rather thanthe deconstruction of the text or the linguistic structuration the unconscious. Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. therefore. of like Kittler. Although uses liberaldoses of Derridaand Lacanto spice his argument.he cites extensively variousprimerscomposedduringthe period. its broadest ouslyappeared employ forself-expression. Kittlerfocuses explicitlycriticizedfor neglectingthis area (p. 1985. FRIEDRICHA.Its theme. the human being.The systemwhich itdoesnotdealwiththemessybusiness howthistransformation of replaces Kittler comesabout.valorizes written the word.is writingaround and years1800and1900.Its materiality recognized. vidualspiritor intellect. his inclusion and dependence technology. Munchen: Fink. is mostinterested historical in differences thediscourses and which mark epochs. language sign 641 . and views language a conduit an indias for romanticism. Kittlerdiffersfrom Foucault.Friedrich highly imaginative stimulating Kittler'sAufschreiis the besysteme just sucha study.In particular notes a tendency he nonsensesyllablesandtowards awayfromteachinglanguage phonetically through the use of monosyllabic wordsof the German He language. The firstsystem. LITERARY THEORY AND COLLECTIONS KITTLER. Around language 1900 becomesa medium is and amongothermedia.fur Geschichtevon Denksystemen" 421) is (p.whoprevito it In recedesintooblivion. Foucault.as the titleindicates. is clearthat he it drawsmostheavilyon the workof Michel Foucault. in of on however. claimsthatthis is part ofa naturalizing the of and trend. Accordingly not onlyon the discourseaboutwriting. idealism.devotedto the "writing from system"of 1800.

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

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

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