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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: Accessed: 01/03/2009 03:24
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the tale Kittlerrelates is not whollyunfamiliar. 284). Rather thanthe deconstruction of the text or the linguistic structuration the unconscious. and views language a conduit an indias for romanticism. LITERARY THEORY AND COLLECTIONS KITTLER. Kittlerdiffersfrom writingaround and years1800and1900.whichis associated general withclassicism. is clearthat he it drawsmostheavilyon the workof Michel Foucault. Around language 1900 becomesa medium is and amongothermedia.Friedrich highly imaginative stimulating Kittler'sAufschreiis the besysteme just sucha study. Munchen: Fink. Foucault.The systemwhich itdoesnotdealwiththemessybusiness howthistransformation of replaces Kittler comesabout. Thusin the firsthalf of the volume.he cites extensively variousprimerscomposedduringthe period. its broadest ouslyappeared employ forself-expression. his inclusion and dependence technology. in the of by Although reception poststructuralism Germanists the FRGhashardly beenextensive. creatorandcontroller linguistic of signs.The human beingis placedat the centerof this conception of the writtenword. FRIEDRICHA. 1985.the fewscholars havelooked Parisfortheoretical who to inspiration oftenproduce and works.andits thesisis thattwodistinct separate systemsofwriting in werein effectduring these periods.Its materiality recognized.and the late "Prof. he outlines.devotedto the "writing from system"of the titleindicates.In particular notes a tendency he nonsensesyllablesandtowards awayfromteachinglanguage phonetically through the use of monosyllabic wordsof the German He language. of like Kittler. Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900.butalso on the "technology" involved with for writingas well as its implications otherareasof sociallife. arbitrariness thelinguistic is ignored.fur Geschichtevon Denksystemen" 421) is (p.whoprevito it In recedesintooblivion. Although uses liberaldoses of Derridaand Lacanto spice his argument. therefore. 428 pp. the human being. claimsthatthis is part ofa naturalizing the of and trend.Its theme. is mostinterested historical in differences thediscourses and which mark epochs.BOOK REVIEWS I. The firstsystem. language sign 641 . in of on however. vidualspiritor intellect. Accordingly not onlyon the discourseaboutwriting.valorizes written the word. Kittlerfocuses explicitlycriticizedfor neglectingthis area (p.

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

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

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