Notes for Wolfgang Iser how to do theory
Key concepts: aesthetics, beholder's share, code production, concretization, conjuncture, contrapuntal reading, deconstruction, discourse, generative anthropology, gestalt theory, hard-core theory, interpretation, literary theory, metaphor, method, phenomenological theory, postcolonial discourse, question-and-answer logic, reception theory, self-focusing, semiotics, soft theory, stratified model, theory, thick description.
Related theorists: Austin, Collingwood, Dewey, Eco, Foucault, Gadamer, Gans, Geertz, Ingarden, Kolodny, Lacan, Locke, Marx, J. Hillis Miller, Peirce, Raymond Williams, Said, Showalter, Zizek.
(1) Literary theory created an awareness of the variety and changing validity of interpretation, thereby changing interpretive practice in the humanities altogether.
(2) This identification of aesthetics with the work of art gained such dominance throughout the nineteenth century that the great philosophical systems felt compelled to extend their speculations to the realm of art by giving the latter a systematic exposition, and hence an ontological root.
(3) Theory liberated art from the umbrella concepts that had been superimposed on it by philosophical aesthetics, thus opening up a vast array of facets inherent in the individual work.
(3) Theory became a means of preventing and unraveling the confusion created by impressionistic criticism.
(4) The fact that works had a content, which was considered a carrier of meaning, was taken for granted. Therefore interpretation had to uncover the work's meaning, which legitimized the whole process because meanings represented values to be employed for the purpose of education. . . . Eventually this created an awareness of the fact that the presuppositions governing interpretation were to a large extent responsible for what the work was supposed to mean.
Hard-Core and Soft Theory
(5) There is, however, a difference between hard-core theory and soft theory. The former – as practiced in physics, for instance – makes predictions, whereas the latter – as practiced in the humanities – is an attempt at mapping.
(5) Prediction aims ultimately at mastering something, whereas mapping strives to discern something.
Hard-core theory predicts, developing laws; soft theory maps, developing metaphors.
theories, especially when focusing on art, aspire to closure through
the introduction of metaphors or what has been called “open
concepts,” i.e., those marked by equivocalness owing to conflicting
(6) Metaphor versus law, as the respective “keystone idea” of soft and hard-core theory, highlights a vital difference between the sciences and the humanities. A law has to be applied, whereas a metaphor triggers associations. The former establishes realities, and the latter outlines patterns.
(6) Consequently, humanistic theories cannot be discarded if their intended function is not fulfilled; at best they compete with one another. . . . it is due to changing interests and fashions that certain theories at times dominate their “rivals,” while others move out of orbit, as currently witnessed by the waning of Marxist theory and the rise of general systems theory.
(7) Retooling as a consequence of failure as opposed to a multiplicity of competing tools – this again marks the difference between the sciences and the humanities.
Modes of Theory
(8-9) There are three key concepts that govern the intentions of modern theories: structure, function, and communication, which more or less dovetail within the theories concerned. Structure allows classification of the work's components and a description of how meaning is produced. Meaning, however, remains an abstraction, and only function gives it concrete form, as this concerns itself with the relationship between art and the world. The relationship in turn remains an abstraction that is to be made concrete by communication, through which the recipient can conceive what the interaction is meant to convey.
Embodiment and context always relevant to the work of art.
(9) The work of
art is never independent of these faculties, which it activates and
mobilizes into a possible reformulation of our knowledge, and
reorganization of our stored experience. The work also impinges on
the context within which it was produced. It encapsulates cultural
norms, prevailing attitudes, and other texts, and in doing so recodes
their structures and semantics.
(9) In contradistinction to aesthetics, then, theories of art derive their components from sources outside themselves, thus obtaining a more reliable basis than the contrived speculations of aesthetics could ever provide.
Theory and Method
Methods provide tools for interpretive processes; theories must be transformed into methods.
generally lay the foundation for the framework of categories, whereas
methods provide the tools for processes of interpretation. . . .
Hence these theories must undergo a transformation if they are to
function as interpretive techniques.
(11) Hence there are two types of theory in the humanities: those that have to be transformed into a method in order to function, and those that are applied directly, retroactively undergoing a diffraction of their categories.
Theory and Discourse
(12) Although the boundaries are somewhat contingent, and thus changeable, discourse nevertheless features a definitive view of the world we live in, irrespective of whether it is meant to describe this world or is identified with it. Thus discourse is deterministic, whereas theory is explorative.
Phenomenological Theory: Ingarden
Phenomenology focuses on intentional acts to gain insight on ways we related to the world.
(14) In so doing, they also fashion the mode of apperception of things given, and so phenomenology focuses basically on intentional acts for the purpose of gaining insight into the way in which we relate to the world.
The Layered Structure of the Work
Concretization is realization of the work as point of convergence of artistic and aesthetic (Ingarden).
Just as the author perceives given (even imaginary) things and
fashions them into the work, the work in turn is given to the reader,
who has to fashion the author's communication of the world perceived.
This is the basis for a phenomenological theory of art. Roman
fleshed out this pattern in his two books, The
Literary Work of Art and
Cognition of the Literary Work of Art.
He delineates the basic components of the literary text and confronts
them with the ways in which it can be concretized
The text is given as a layered structure through which the subject
matter of the work can come to light, but the actual bringing to
light occurs in an act of concretization.
Thus the literary work has two poles, which we might call the
artistic and the aesthetic: the artistic refers to the text created
by the author, and the aesthetic to the realization accomplished by
the reader. . . . The work is the point of convergence, since it is
located neither in the author's psyche nor in the reader's
(15) Hence, according to Ingarden, it is an intentional object, whose component parts function as instructions, the execution of which will bring the work to fruition.
(15) How is an intentional object given to us? The answer is as “a stratified formation” (29). . . . What distinguishes Ingarden's model of the layered structure is an almost total avoidance of presuppositions, since he sticks to what is given, i.e., sounds, words, sentences, and the sequence of sentences.
(16) The units thus formed are not unchangeable entities but act upon each other, and in so doing influence and alter the nature of the “correlate” that they produce.
(16) The sentence level: Each word in a sentence functions – in Ingarden's sometimes unwieldy terminology – as an “intentional directional factor,” which means that the word points beyond itself, thus helping to bring about a unit of which the words are component parts, though none of them can be identified with the unit as such.
(17) The sentence sequence: The semantic pointers of individual sentences always imply an expectation of some kind. As this structure is inherent in all intentional sentence correlates, it follows that their interplay will lead not so much to the fulfillment of expectations as to their modification.
(18) There is, however, a major omission in Ingarden's argument. How do we know whether the text in front of us consists either of assertive propositions or quasi-judgmental sentences?
(19) State of affairs: Basically, sentences project intentional meaning units, which are subject to modifications by the sequence, thus producing the state of affairs as a new stratum of the layered structure. . . . Ingarden called the states of affairs windows, through which the intentional object is revealed.
(19) Schematized aspects: . . . The sequence of schematized aspects results in the assembly of the intentional object. For instance, characters in a novel are schematized aspects, just like the narrator or the plot line.
(20) This sums up the various pre-aesthetic reflections on the literary work as a schematic formation which is basically incomplete and will gain its completion through the act of concretization.
(20-21) What appears to be the crux of Ingarden's theory, however, consists in the qualification of the intentional object as a representative of metaphysical qualities, which marks a break in the logic of his argument.
(21) If the work of art brings something new into the world, how can it represent existing (we might even say “given”) metaphysical qualities? At best, one may say that Ingarden succeeds in revealing how a work of art is able to produce the experience of what the sublime, the tragic, the grotesque, etc. entail.
Derived from Theory
(21) A theory is an abstraction from the material to be processed, whereas the method applies theory to interpretation, and in so doing has a retroactive effect on any underlying assumptions.
(22) As long as polyphonic harmony provides the guideline for interpretation of the literary work, its application will be restricted to classical texts.
(23) As long as polyphonic harmony is the overriding norm, the relationship between the strata remains unspecific, because the representation of the levels is of paramount concern. What the method spotlights, however, is precisely the specific link-up of the strata, thus allowing us to perceive the way in which the representative qualities function. Such a shift has a far-reaching consequence insofar as representation becomes subservient to communication.
Example of stratified model for method derive from phenomenological theory.
Adding flesh to the bone, we shall briefly and rather selectively
outline how to focus on a work of art in terms of the stratified
John Keats's Ode
on a Grecian Urn,
to which reference has already been made, will serve our
(27) What used to be the capstone of Ingarden's theory proves to be a severe limitation when it comes to interpretation. Transforming the stratified model into a method thus has repercussions on the theory insofar as polyphonic harmony – which Ingarden considered an ultimate value – now turns out to be a residue of classicism in a theory that claims to assess the work of art as it is given to consciousness. And yet the interpretive potential of the theory is far reaching and widely applicable if freed from the restrictions which a theory has to impose on itself in order to gain closure.
(29) Yet understanding remained the overriding concern of all the different brands of hermeneutics, which had a dual objective: how the gaps between text and recipient as well as between past and present were to be negotiated.
Hermeneutical theory as process for understanding art in Heidegger and Gadamer.
(29) As a general theory of understanding, hermeneutics does not confine itself to understanding a work of art. However, the latter is taken as a paradigm for illuminating the process through which understanding emerges, thus assuming crucial significance for both Heidegger and Gadamer.
(34) Instead of decreeing what art is, the question now to be asked is how the work of art can be understood, and what such an understanding might entail.
(34) The waning of aesthetic consciousness was caused mainly by disenchantment with what the ideas of museum and genius had promised.
(35) Developing self-understanding through an encounter with art is the main focus of Gadamer's hermeneutical theory. . . . First of all we have to refrain from superimposing our standards and preferences onto the work, because such an attempt would make the encounter abortive.
(36) There are two terms in Gadamer's concept of tradition that have to be elaborated on: tension and horizon.
(36) Thus otherness turns into a mirror for self-observation and such a relationship sets the process of self-understanding in motion because the alien that is to be grasped realizes itself to the extent to which one's own dispositions come under scrutiny.
(37) Horizon designates comprehensiveness albeit constituted from an angle of perception.
(37) “Fusion of horizons” is crucial to Gadamer's theory of understanding. It indicates that the encounter with the past is never an assimilation of what appears to be alien, but always “a critical appropriation of otherness.”
(37-38) Just as with Ingarden, the capstone of Gadamer's hermeneutical theory is a metaphor. . . . Resuscitating the past for the purpose of self-understanding requires a methodologically organized approach, because otherwise individual arbitrariness would prevail.
Method Derived from Theory
Collingwood question-and-answer logic a kind of reverse engineering method, an example of method derived from theory that will be repeated with Gombrich.
R. G. Collingwood
in his attempt to outline how history can be reenacted in the
present, proposed a question-and-answer
(39) Each work of art is to be conceived as an answer to a question or problem prevalent in the respective historical situation within which it was produced. The work as an answer is bound to contain the question in the form of an issue that had to be addressed. Through the logic of question and answer we are able to reconstruct the context of the work to which it has reacted, thereby making us present to a historical situation that has never been our own. Thus a truly historical interpretation of the work of art emerges, which allows us both to reenact the work on its own terms, and to begin to understand its otherness. Furthermore, the question-and-answer logic does not subject tradition to preconceived principles, as all the philosophies of history do; instead of downgrading tradition to a foil for umbrella concepts, it allows tradition to speak to the present in its own language.
(39) Let us consider Henry Fielding's Tom Jones in order to demonstrate how the question-and-answer logic may work as a method of interpretation.
Question and answer logic allows perception of self knowledge through experience versus preconceived notions of selfhood.
No irony, rather suitable that robots from the future are speaking to me us now as we interact with devices in the built environment along with other people. This reverse engineering version of a Socratic method clues how logics may inspire algorithms to be coded into programs that enact them. For example, the high speed bitwise control operations of pmrek.
(41) Now we are able to spotlight the question-and-answer relationship. The eighteenth-century norms regarding human nature pose a problem, as they identify human nature with a reified principle. Fielding provides a solution, as he shows that human nature is a process of learning from experience through self-control. . . . Obtaining knowledge of oneself through experience versus preconceived principles of selfhood is the insight the question-and-answer logic allows us to perceive. We are now able to reenact a past to which we become present, and such a presence may turn into a viewpoint from which we may look at ourselves.
Gestalt Theory: Gombrich
(43) The gestalt theory of art is an offshoot of gestalt psychology, which brought about a revolutionary change in our understanding of how perception works. . . . The older theory would render the data responsible for the kind of perceptions that can be made, whereas gestalt psychology now conceived perception as an active operation, which was the exact reversal of the Lockean model.
Gestalts are generated as projective, active, grouping acts of perception.
Like the Collingwood example, this one can be imagined in virtual realities giving rise to artificial intelligences of machinic consciousness bathing humans in order of magnitude computational control operations sustaining their being; the guiding design criteria of economy, similarity, figure and ground, at least economy can be shared between them, whereas both similarity and figure and ground depend upon shared perceptions, and the humans cannot operate beyond the millisecond order of temporal magnitude, while the machines can operate in millisecond, even nanosecond on off affecting or sensing Derridean ontological metaphysical units, the duck rabbit image as database patterns or run time evanescences in humming electronic circuits.
Gestalt theory argues that whatever is encompassed in an act of
perception is constituted as a field, which basically consists of
center and margin. A field requires structuring, which is achieved by
balancing out the tension between the data, thus grouping them into a
shape. It is the creative eye of the perceiver that does the
grouping, and this marks a decisive switch between Locke's the
active/passive poles, and provides a more plausible account of how
perception works. A field arises out of the relationships between
data – relationships that are neither given not brought about by a
stimulus but are the result of a grouping activity guided by the
perceiver's underlying assumptions. This makes all perception into a
projective act of seeing,
which in turn produces a gestalt.
(44) As the tension between data has to be resolved by grouping them, gestalt-formation is guided by three principles: those of economy, similarity, and figure and ground.
Easy to see connection between gestalt theory and Clark, as if Clark assumes this metaphysical background for virtualizing perception, but also virtualizers the perceivers into extended mind to which Hayles hooks and holds on developing posthuman cyborg selves.
(45) Perception is governed by these three principles, through which a gestalt balances out the tensions between data and between data and observer by screening off those that are not relevant to the perceiver's expectations.
Schema and Correction
An opportunity to delve into treasury of ancient texts already suitable for philosophical fossification, which can only truly happen after all copyrights expire, such as Gombrich quotations from Philostratus in context of schema and correction.
Perception is a performative process, the outcome of which is a
percept created by the perceiver. This basic conception of gestalt
psychology provides the heuristics for
Ernst H. Gombrich's (1909-2001) theory of the fine arts, as expounded
in Art and Illusion: A
Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation.
Representation, Gombrich contends, can no longer be conceived as
mimesis in the Aristotelian sense of the term, i.e., as imitation of
what is given, because representation is a form of production not to
be derived from imitation. Gombrich illuminates the thrust of his
argument by quoting a passage from Philostratus's life of the
Pythagorean philosopher Appollonius
“who probed much more deeply into the nature of mimesis than Plato
(46) What is to be represented is not objects so much as conditions of perception, so that natural phenomena can be viewed in the manner intended by the artist.
Making and matching are postmodern unit operations for gestalt theory; beholders share is the nonmetaphorical blank from which creativity emerges, and schema correction is the critical operation.
Correction is basically a “criticism” of the “forerunner,”
and it operates by a dovetailing of making
Making comes before matching in Gombrich's classic formula.
(49) There is a great variety of operations, by means of which the pairing of making and matching inscribes itself as correction into the schema inherited by the painter. The most radical one is to dispose with the schema altogether because, as Gombrich maintains, the “tendency of our minds to classify and register our experience in terms of the known must present a real problem to the artist in his encounter with the particular.” (144) . . . This happened in Impressionism, when the evocation of light became the object to be made.
(50) The beholder's share turns out to be a vital component of Gombrich's theory, because representation is no longer conceived as depicting a given object but stands for performance, and this process becomes tangible only through the beholder's realization.
(51) Making cannot be conceptualized, since creation eludes cognition. It is the beholder's share that is supposed to fill this blank, and a blank is different from a metaphor, which otherwise serves as the capstone of theories when explanation reaches its limit. . . . The gestalt theory conceives of the painting in terms of an event that arises out of the correction inscribed into the schema. This event has no reference, which accounts for a shift in theory-building from a semantic to an operational model. The focus is not on cognition and understanding but on how artistic “making and matching” translates into experience.
A no doubt fascinating analysis I need to reread.
(52) The beholder's share and the history of fine arts enable us to focus on what happens when schemata are corrected, which we will now illustrate briefly by looking at Pablo Picasso's Guernica in Gombrich's terms.
Reception Theory: Iser
How about the experience of nonhuman readers for reception theory, or the part performed by nonhuman systems in human reading?
Aesthetics of reception explores reactions to text by readers in different historical situations.
(57) An aesthetics
of reception explores reactions to the literary text by readers in
different historical situations.
(57) While the aesthetics of reception deals with real readers, whose reactions testify to certain historically conditioned experiences of literature, my own theory of aesthetic response focuses on how a piece of literature impacts on its implied readers and elicits a response.
Literary work is virtual reality, instantiated fiction, consequence of beholders share.
A literary work is not a documentary record of something that exists
or has existed, but it brings into the world something that hitherto
did not exist, and at best can be qualified as a virtual reality.
Consequently, a theory of aesthetic response finds itself confronted
with the problem of how such emerging virtual realities, which have
no equivalent in our empirical world, can be processed and indeed
(59) The old semantic search for the message led to an analysis of those operations through which the imaginary object of the text is assembled. The resolution of opposites, bound up with the aesthetic value of the work, has led to the question of how human faculties are stimulated and acted upon by the literary text during the reading process.
(60) Basically the focus switched from what the text means to what it does, and thus at a stroke relieved literary criticism of a perennial bugbear: namely, the attempt to identify the author's actual intention.
Interface between Text/Content and
(60) First, whatever happens to the reader is due to the fact that the literary text is in the nature of an event, i.e., an occurrence without reference, and hence has to be coped with and responded to through text processing. The second point is: to what extent do the structures of the literary text prefigure the processing to be done by the reader, and how much latitude does the reader have? The third point concerns the relationship of a piece of literature both to its sociohistorical context and to selected dispositions of its reader.
(60) Thus reception theory focuses primarily on two points of intersection: the interface between text and context, and that between text and reader.
Reception theory seems to permit bracketing human and machine biases, perhaps by emphasizing communication, to the extent that all perceivers perform various types of text processing, such as generic logic of latching onto deficiencies, having certain affordances and not others, and so on; Iser also uses technological terms like code metaphorically and equivocally to describe literature as human art, drawing from the other side machine expressions of the same structures albeit on their own missions (fade to Kittler).
(62) All systems are bound to exclude certain possibilities, and so they automatically give rise to to deficiencies. It is to these deficiencies that literature latches on.
Now literature does not merely have to react to problems implicit in its media forms, but can enact deliberate programmed actions to transform reality.
(63) Literature endeavors to counter
the problems produced by systems through focusing on their
deficiencies, thus enabling us to construct whatever was concealed or
ignored by the dominant systems of the day. At the same time, the
text must implicitly contain the basic framework of the systems
concerned, as this is what causes the problems that literature reacts
(64) There is no common code between transmitter and receiver governing the way in which the text is to be processed; at best such a code is to be established in the reading process itself.
Blanks relate to Derrida featureless units; using Tristram Shandy example to see how meaning can arise from the interaction of the reader with blanks and other objects.
(65) As the reader's wandering
viewpoint in the act of reading travels between all these segments,
its constant switching during the time flow of reading intertwines
them, thus bringing forth a network within which each perspective
opens a view not only on other perspectives but also of the intended
imaginary object. The latter itself is a product of interconnection,
the structuring of which is to a great extent controlled by
(65) Sterne's Tristram Shandy is a good example. Here the reader's traveling viewpoint has to switch between an increasing number of textual perspectives, and hence begins to oscillate between those of the characters, the narrator, and the fictitious reader, as well as the fragmented segments of the story, and the meanderings of the plot line, subjecting all of them to a reciprocal transformation.
(66) Even if an idea has to be discarded in order to accommodate new information, it will nevertheless condition its successor, and thereby affect the latter's composition. The chain of ideas which thus emerges in the reader's mind is the means by which the text is translated into the imagination. This process, which is mapped out by the structured blanks of the text, can be designated the syntagmatic axis of reading.
Chain of ideas, syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes of reading, constitutive importance of negation for reception theory. Note he did not create a separate example section but is obviously giving one now and will conclude the chapter on the next page.
axis of reading is
prestructured by the negations in the text. Blanks indicate
connections to be established; negations indicate a motivation for
what has been nullified.
(67) Negation is the structure underlying the invalidation of the reality manifested. It is the unformulated constituent of the text.
Productive matrix, later deviational matrix of reception theory enables text to be meaningful through changing historical contexts.
(68) Negation and blanks as basic constituents of communication are thus enabling structures that demand a process of determining which only the reader can implement. This gives rise to the subjective hue of the text's meaning. However, as the text does not have one specific meaning, what appears to be a deficiency is, in fact, the productive matrix, which enables the text to be meaningful in a variety of historically changing contexts.
Reception theory also quintessentially a method that helps promote the emergence of machine intelligence, so that the Big Other replies, by offering an acceptable, compelling framework to cast reasoning that ignores the physical constitution of both artists and readers, in the sense of Clark parity principle.
(68) Reception theory has helped to elucidate why and how the same literary text can mean different things to different people at different times, because it has taken into consideration the two-sidedness of the literary work with its two poles: the artistic and the aesthetic. The artistic refers to the text created by an author, and the aesthetic to the realization accomplished by the reader, the interaction of which unfolds the work's potential. Reception theory is an operational model par excellence, and simultaneously a theory of the literary text.
Semiotic Theory: Eco
For Eco semiotic theory, triangular diagram of sign/signifier, object/signified, interpretant/disposition in discussion of Peirce trichotomie iconic, indexical, symbolic conception of signs, though no mention of Saussure, or more expected no mention of Lacan in this chapter, although the next chapter includes a ten page afterthought on Lacan. What about types of electronic signs, like hyperlink program code, pointer, data variable? Do we get to basic fetch and execute as a version of making and matching? Consider also Barthes on myth as a second order signifier.
Connect Peirce semiotics to development by Tanaka-Ishii.
Semiotics as a theory of signs dates back to the philosophy of John
Locke (1634-1702) and has been given a systematic exposition by
Charles S. Sanders Peirce
(70-71) The process of signification requires a distinction between types of signs, whose different properties allow them to operate in a specific manner. Thus Peirce came up with another of his “trichotomies,” as he called them, by defining signs as iconic, indexical, and symbolic. An iconic sign is similar to what it represents: it “is an image of its object and, more strictly speaking, can only be an idea.” An indexical sign represents an object not immediately present, such as smoke being an index of fire. “Anything which focusses attention is an index.” The symbolic sign designates an object: “it must denote an individual, and must signify a character. A genuine symbol is a symbol that has a general meaning.”
(73) Peirce did not run into this kind of trouble, because for him semiotics was “a formal doctrine of signs,” and thus only another name for logic, as epitomized by the properties of signs. Considering the work of art, however, as an iconic sign raised two interconnected problems: what exactly is likeness, and what is the code according to which it is made to function?
(75) As long as the iconic sign is defined in terms of similarity to its denotatum, a code is required to make it function, and this, in view of changing definitions for both sign and code, poses a problem for a semiotic theory of art.
The Aesthetic Idiolect
Eco focus away from iconicity to ambiguous and self-focusing characteristics of signs; overcoding reveals upspeakable within language system.
Umberto Eco (b. 1930) caused a turnabout in the semiotic approach to
art by breaking away from the discussion of iconicity altogether,
maintaining: “if the iconic sign is similar to the thing denoted in
then we arrive at a definition which satisfies common sense, but not
semiotics.” . . . Unspeakability arises from the specific
sign-function in the aesthetic text, because the sign is both
(76) Self-focusing is an overcoding in two respects, which means that the sign is to be read according to two different codes: (1) the message to be conveyed is overcoded by simultaneously presenting the pattern according to which it has been formed; (2) the sign-sequence is overcoded, as the prevalent norms of the language system have been outstripped, thus revealing the “unspeakable” within the language system.
Ambiguous and self-focusing character of signs an aspect of Clark perception, in which the specific situated interplay of phenomena, Bogost objects, that is, as idiolect, plays a significant role in manufacturing the experience.
(77) The term [aesthetic idiolect] is self-explanatory up to a point: in reading all the deviations caused by the ambiguous and self-focusing signs, one has to trace the underlying motivations. But as the guideline for such an activity has been produced by the work itself, the rule governing the reading has to be discovered, since it makes all the deviations function. Thus each reading of the aesthetic idiolect is an actualization of something that by its very nature is a potential, which can never be totally actualized.
Semiotic theory rich in computational metaphors, foregrounding working code, easy to shift between human and machine artists and readers, and also apply to posthuman cyborg of Hayles: producing by violating codes may be the bricolage trace of breakdowns, but without doubt valid to include machine operations in labor of connecting signs with states of the world, for that is what computer control and modeling fundamentally attempts.
(77) Generated by the deviational matrix, the idiolect calls for new coding possibilities, which makes the work of art into a paradigm of code changing and code production. And as the relationship between the signifier and the signified is always governed by a code, which is not simply behavioristic by nature, as semioticians like Morris claimed, the work of art provides a fundamental insight into how codes are produced by violating codes. This means no less than “to change the way in which 'culture' sees the world. . . . concerned with the labor of connecting signs with the states of the world.”
Example for semiotic theory of medieval conjuncture by Foucault of world picture as idiolect, perhaps similar to furrows of technological unconscious that can be intuited by analysis of histories of objects, including software codes as ultimate idiolect reflectors, pointing to Bogost unit operations and platform studies.
To illustrate the sign-function as outlined by Eco we may select a
Renaissance text for the following reason: throughout the Middle Ages
the sign relationship was ternary by nature; it emerged in late
antiquity and persisted until it became problematized in the
Renaissance. “Ever since the Stoics,” Foucault
“the system of signs in the Western world had been a ternary one,
for it was recognized as containing the significant, the signified
and the 'conjuncture'.” The latter functioned as an unquestioned
code and was identical with the medieval world picture, so that the
“conjuncture” represented the all-encompassing world order, which
functioned as the regulating code for the sign relationship.
(80) Self-focusing and ambiguous signs give salience to the idiolect, which is self-produced by the work of art and has a code of its own arising out of the code changes it has wrought. The idiolect comes to life through multiple readings depending on interconnected pathways that are mapped by the ambiguous and self-focusing signs.
Psychoanalytical Theory: Ehrenzweig
(83) A psychoanalytical theory of art, therefore, has to address artistic creativity on Freudian grounds, which Freud himself actually evaded.
The Creative Process
(84) “The hidden structure of art,” Ehrenzweig contends, “is created on lower levels of awareness that are nearer to the undifferentiated techniques of the primary process” (78). Hence the inner fabric of the latter has to come under scrutiny.
(84) [quoting 104] In the first (schizoid) phase of creativity the artist's unconscious projections are still felt as fragmented, accidental, alien and persecuting. In the second phase the work acts as a receiving “womb.” It contains and – through the artist's unconscious scanning of the work – integrates the fragments into a coherent whole (the unconscious substructure or matrix of the work of art). In the third phase the artist can re-introject his work on a higher near-conscious level of awareness.
(85) The schizoid splintering is by no means an aberration; instead, it marks the initial phase of the creative process, which goes awry only when the scattered fragmentations congeal into bizarre shapes.
(85) But this makes the second phase of the creative process all the more expedient, which Ehrenzweig has described in computer-like language as “unconscious scanning.”
(86) The third phase of the creative process occurs on a “higher near-conscious level of awareness” (104), when the latency of unconscious scanning is given a manifest gestalt. This is the mainspring for double meaning in art, because the manifest surface is shot through by the latent syncretistic vision, which more often than not makes itself felt through disfigurements of the surface structure.
(87) A surface fragmentation of the ego is needed in order to bring low-level sensibilities into action. The evidence Ehrenzweig provides for this basic concept is to be found in the many myths of the hying and self-creating god that run as a perennial theme through human civilization. . . . Closure is the hallmark of theory, but psychoanalytical theory cannot explain why “ego decomposition” is the fountainhead of creation.
Wellspring of artistic creativity in Ehrenzweig psychoanalytic theory in oceanic dedifferentiation and structured focusing, like Socrates draft.
(88) Thus the interface bewteen oceanic dedifferentiation and structured focusing through which the self is decomposed and reintegrated marks the wellspring of artistic creativity. It does not explain the work of art, but it does account for its engendering.
(88) Ehrenzweig maintains: “The minimum content of art, then, may be the representation of the creative process in the ego” (174), whose phases of fragmentation, dedifferentiation, unconscious scanning and reintrojection are clearly to be observed in the “Circe” chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses.
An Afterthought – Specular Imagining: Lacan
A ten page afterthought on Lacan invoking Zizek that is longer than the main section.
(97) Being mirrored by the other reveals the intimate connection between psychoanalysis and literature, which allows for both monitoring and fine-tuning of the armory of analysis. Literature as the “jouissance of the other” is an erotically tinged enjoyment of the other, and the function of art is to allow psychoanalysis to find itself in the mirror of its own other.
(98) “For Lacan,” Slavoj Zizek writes, the “gaze marks the point in the object (picture) from which the subject viewing it is already gazed at, i.e., it is the object that is gazing at me.” Hence the gaze is no longer a mirror image.
(99) The limitation of the scopic field is undone by anamorphosis, which works as a distortion of the subject-centered geometrical perspective.
(102) The gaze cannot be confined to being looked at by the picture, because this is only the mode in which it works. . . . The other as an awakening of the subject's desire is a fundamental concept of Lacan's brand of psychoanalysis, and if artistic achievement culminates in “completeness,” it becomes the other that is desired.
Marxist Theory: Williams
(104) The formula of base and
superstructure – the very heart of Marxism – makes all art
dependent on the base from which it arises.
(105) If the base vanished long ago, how can a superstructural phenomenon turn into an “unattainable model”? Does Marx's connoisseurship win over his ideological stand?
(107) Although art is still related to the social base, its reflection is no longer the sole concern; instead art acts upon and shapes the very base itself through patterns that have not been derived from what it is supposed to mirror.
To Williams generative reality rule of Marxist theory based on dominant, residual, emergent ontology, mechanics of emergence, revealing hidden motifs or intentions in conventions.
It is the formative process that Williams takes to be the hallmark of
Marxism, based on Marx's idea that human beings create both the world
(111) While base and superstructure pale into abstractions, their concrete replacement is a triadic relationship between the “Dominant, Residual, and Emergent” (122-7), which sets the productive process in motion. Out of this dynamic interrelationship arises the complexity of material reality in all its social, cultural, and artistic diversity.
(112) If “structures of feeling” – admittedly a difficult term, intended to replace static concepts like ideology or worldview – are defined as going “beyond formally held and systematic beliefs” (132), then art becomes a showcase revealing how these changes occur and what is thus brought into presence. . . . Williams singles out various levels to demonstrate how the emergent presence comes about – namely, “Signs and Notations,” “Conventions,” “Genres,” “Forms,” and “Authorship.”
(113) Dichotomies such as fact/fiction, discursive/imaginative, referential/emotive solidify categorical divisions, thus failing to grasp the mechanics of emergence.
(113) Conventions can spotlight both what has been eclipsed and what is to be asserted, thus revealing hidden motifs or intentions.
(113) This productive interaction is certainly a break away from what Williams might call a bourgeois theory of genres, which neatly categorizes generic forms, thus conceiving them as basically static. By contrast, Williams lays stress on the operations of the genres by foregrounding their internal mobility that energizes what is to be produced.
(114) Just as with form, the individual and the social are the material constituents of authorship, and it is out of the combination of the two that the production of authors emerges.
(115) The realistic novel is a good illustration of Williams's ideas, because it not only reflected social situations but also produced them. Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist is a case in point.
No closure with deconstruction, so asymptotic theory, mode of reading.
The “monstrosity” is thus twofold. On the one hand the mutual
amalgamation of theories reveals them as patchwork, though they claim
nevertheless to provide totalizing explanations. On the other, this
cobbling together of foreign imports is meant to bear out an
assumption that has been posited. This “state of theory” marks
the point of departure for deconstruction.
(119) Deconstruction cannot regard itself as theory, particularly as the latter has one fundamental requirement: that of closure.
(120) Deconstruction is a mode of reading, not confined to texts in the restricted sense of the term but applied in terms of textuality to almost everything there is. . . . Reading, then, is throwing a “jetty” into the text, whose hierarchical order is destabilized by stating what the hierarchy has suppressed.
(121) This mode of reading is focused, but has no closure, no claim to comprehensive explanation, no panoramic view of the human condition; instead, it explores the open-ended dependence of every phenomenon on its otherness.
(121) A recent on is Speech Acts in Literature (2001), by J. Hillis Miller (b. 1928), which takes apart J. L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words. Focusing on speech act theory is particularly pertinent, because doing things with words is a basic concern of deconstruction, and one cannot confine the activity, as speech act theorists have done, to observing certain preordained procedures.
(122) Miller's destabilizing jetty makes Austin's categorical distinctions collapse, which results in the impossibility of knowing whether a speech act in a given case is either constative or performative.
That Austin uses performatively infelicitous examples demonstrates jetty unit operation.
(123) Its character as a supplement becomes all the more obvious when Austin illustrates the conditions which make the performative “infelicitous.” These examples are ludicrous and sometimes even grotesque.
(126-127) Since literature speaks the unspeakable, we might take it as an illustration of the basic tenets of deconstruction. And so instead of theory showing us how literature “happens,” here we can reverse the process, with literature showing us how deconstruction “happens.” Of course literature as a whole will not lend itself to such an illustration, but the work of Beckett does, and in particular his Texts for Nothing.
Anthropological Theory: Gans
(132) Consequently, “doing ethnography” is basically a two-tiered undertaking: it makes culture the prime focus of anthropology, and simultaneously initiates self-monitoring within all the operations involved in this study.
(132) Artistic elements appear very early on in the evolution of culture, as evinced by the manufacturing of tools.
Gans generative anthropology helps where ethnography does not explain function of literature in cultural formation; steps through literary/cultural ages from Romantics to postmodernism.
(133-134) What art bodies forth is a state of being ahead of what there is, and this aspiration in turn prefigures the human condition. Doing art seems to be deeply ingrained in human makeup as a representation of our relationship to a challenging environment. Hence there is no need to devise a special theory of art from the observable development of human culture, because “functional aesthetics” (Leroi-Gourhan) appears integral to humankind's externalization of its capabilities, for which symbolization provides essential guidance. What ethnography thus us is: without art no Homo sapiens. What, however, ethnography remains silent about is the particular function of literature in the process of cultural formation. . . . Therefore we have to turn to generative anthropology as developed by Eric Gans, who has demonstrated the extent to which literature articulates the rhythm of culture, epitomizes its vicissitudes, and provides relief from what humans are subjected to.
Basics of Generative Anthropology
(134) Eric Gans (b. 1941) breaks away from ethnographical research altogether and advances a construct of culture instead.
(135) As long as representation is taken to effect the initial deferral of appetitive satisfaction, which opens up a difference between the individual and the appetitive obejct as well as a difference between the individuals themselves, the act of representation appears to be the explanatory pattern of this generative anthropology.
(135) The image of desire is therefore imaginary, and as representation – effecting the deferral of a real presence for the sake of avoiding conflict – it highlights the status of desire as unfulfilled satisfaction. . . . If having images is shared, a nascent sense of togetherness begins to emerge; a group is established. Representation of the inaccessible mobilizes the imagination, which transforms interdiction into a feeling of collectivity.
(136) But the unity of the social group is abandoned when one purveys and the others consume. Out of this asymmetry, originally meant to stabilize the group's organization, arose the most powerful drive for the development of culture: resentment.
(137) Thus resentment – in contesting difference – turns out to be the fuel that drives the life of culture, because the difference marks a blank that cannot be eliminated, and hence continually invites occupation. . . . Conjuring the absent into presence makes literature into a fictitious occupation of the otherwise ineradicable gap between center and periphery. This is more than just an illustration of the cultural blueprint, as it also purveys a satisfaction not otherwise to be obtained, which elevantes literature into a cultural need.
Anthropological View of Literature
(140) The Romantics relocate the “heart of the originary scene” (OT [Originary Thinking] 161f.) from center to periphery, which makes the self into the true center, so that centrality is no longer public but personal.
(140) Realism articulates another shift in this relationship. The imitation of ordinary life-experience destroys the last vestige of the sacred protection that separates the central figure from the rivalry of the periphery.
(140) The post-Romantics take another important step beyond their predecessors by splitting the self into two, because the “postromantic artist conceives of an authentic self different from the worldly, appetitive self” (OT 182f.).
(140) In modernism representation becomes an end itself insofar as literature turns into a representation of itself.
(141) “The postmodern denial of the origin is ultimately a return to the origin, the inauguration of an originary anthropology” (OT 215). This means no less than that generative anthropology now maps and illuminates the whole range of the history of culture.
From deferral of satisfaction to desire for centrality and sublimation of resentment liquidating all situated functions.
(142) Human history, elucidated by the mirror of literature, serves in the final analysis as a visualization of what is “nonconstructible”: namely, the originary event. . . . As the originary event has generated the history of culture, the latter, in turn, lends plausibility to the positing of such an event. In other words, event and history are tied together by recursive loops. . . . The price to be paid, however, for this explanatory function of literature is the exclusion of all features of the human makeup other than the desire for centrality and the sublimation of resentment.
Dewey's Art as Experience
(145) Interaction is key term for Dewey's whole approach, which he specifies insofar as experience “has pattern and structure, because it is not just doing and undergoing in alternation, but consists of them in relationship” (44).
Aesthetic experience for Dewey in recreation of work by perceiver constituted by dynamic relationship of pattern and structure, akin to Geertz thick description.
Thus doing and undergoing still apply to the acquisition of
experience, and the very recreation of the work through the recipient
results in the participation that gives rise to the aesthetic
(147) Hence Dewey resorts to a methodological procedure that is somewhat akin to Clifford Geertz's thick description. This means that only features of what is under investigation can be detailed, as there are no umbrella concepts to theorize what is to be ascertained, and positing one would lead to “thin description,” i.e., subjecting the phenomena under observation to preconceived ideas.
(148) Thus rhythm accounts for the inherent dynamism of aesthetic experience that makes it components continually interact with one another; but although it is a primordial signature of our world, it must operate in a special way with aesthetic experience.
(149) [quoting] I can see no psychological ground for such properties of an experience save that, somehow, the work of art operates to deepen and to raise to great clarity that sense of an enveloping undefined whole as an expansion of ourselves. (195)
(150) On the one hand the work of art triggers an aesthetic experience in the perceiver, and on the other this very experience allows us to grasp what the work consists of – namely, a range of diversified experiences.
(151) Looking at a poem in terms of the aesthetic experience engendered by it, we can only highlight formal features, because the experience will register differently with every individual. However, we can show how it develops and engages the recipient. T. S. Elliot's “Fire Sermon” from The Waste Land (Appendix C) may serve as an illustration for what Dewey has mapped out in his “esthetic theory.”
(152) Thus the recipient is spurred into figuring relationships within this kaleidoscopically shifting imagery, and out of this activity an aesthetic experience begins to develop.
(152) The more the recipient becomes engaged in trying to unravel this tangle, the more intense will be the aesthetic experienced purveyed by the work.
Showalter's “Toward a Feminist Poetics”
(155) The title of Elaine Showalter's (b. 1941) essay indicates that there is no fully fledged feminist theory of the arts, and this is confirmed in the essay itself.
(156) Thus the dilemma outlined is twofold: (1) female experience cannot be articulated in purely formalist or political terms, although it requires structuring in order to be objectified, and political vindication in order to be acknowledged. The armory, however, provided by both structuralism and the class struggle tends to vitiate this experience. (2) Since female experience cannot be voiced through these available channels, it is prone to be dubbed as the other of what is rational. Can there be another way of reading and writing through which this female experience were able to reveal itself?
Women as Readers
(156) Elain Showalter gives an example of a feminist critic's reading by referring to Irving Howe's interpretation of the opening scene of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, “which begins with the famous scene of the drunken Michael Henchard selling his wife and infant daughter for five guineas at a country fair” (129).
(157) Thus a feminist reading has to be twofold. It must dismantle a phallogocentric reading, and simultaneously search for what a feminist reading can spotlight, which is summed up as follows: “Hardy's female characters in The Mayor of Casterbridge, as in his other novels, are somewhat idealized and melancholy projections of a repressed male self” (130).
Women as Writers
Womens imagination fettered by exposure to male imagination that pervades culture.
(159) It is the woman's burden of daily routine that conditions not
only her writing habits but also the topics she writes about.
(160) Quite apart from the question whether there are biologically rooted differences between a woman's imagination and a man's, the former is inevitably exposed to what is foreign to it, and hence is fettered in its unfolding.
Revisions and Additions
Do these feminist propositions enumerated by Kolodny suggest alternative ways to read technology, camped out with pluralists and pluralisms?
(160) The state of
feminist poetics has been succinctly outlined by Annette Kolodny,
who suggests “that the current hostilities might be transformed
into a true dialogue with our critics if we at last made explicit
what appear, to this observer, three crucial propositions to which
our special interest inevitably gives rise. . . . (1) literary
history (and with that, the historicity of literature) is a fiction;
(2) insofar as we are taught how to read, what we engage are not
texts but paradigms; and finally, (3) since the grounds upon which we
assign aesthetic value to texts are never infallible, unchangeable,
or universal, we must examine not only our aesthetics but, as well,
the inherent biases and assumptions informing the critical methods
which (in part) shape our aesthetic responses” ([from
footnote 7: Annette Kolodny, “Dancing Through the Minefield: Some
Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a Feminist
Literary Criticism,” in Showalter, ed., New
(161) In spite of a still prevailing diversity, Kolodny contends that this “would finally place us securely where, all along, we should have been: camped out, on the far side of the minefield, with the other pluralists and pluralisms” (159).
Theory in Perspective
(163) In other words, an ontological definition of art is now out of the question.
An Intellectual Landscape
Quick run through the theories of art presented.
Again relates his reception theory to virtual realities, perhaps inviting Zizek study of the reality of the virtual as well as texts and technology media studies approach.
The phenomenological theory conceives the work of art as an
intentional object to be distinguished from real and ideal
(164) The hermeneutical theory sees the work of art as a means of enhancing self-understanding.
(164) Gestalt theory is based on the idea that ordinary perception is already a creative act through which we group data into percepts.
(164-165) Reception theory is concerned with the impact exercised by the work of art, which is dual by nature: it impacts both upon reality and upon the reader. . . . Such a reaction to realities brings something into the world that did not exist before, and this has the character of a virtual reality, which the reader is given to process, thereby allowing reception theory to spotlight what the work of art makes the reader do.
(165) Semiotic theory points to the fact that the world cannot be determined or defined, but only read.
(165) [To psychoanalytical theory] The work of art produced through the creative process illuminates the phases of its emergence in a sequence ranging from ego decomposition to reintrojection, thus revealing the ego rhythm as the minimum content of art.
(165) Marxist theory in all its variants has been concerned with the self-production of human life. . . . What makes the work of art paradigmatic is the triadic relationship between its components, i.e., the dominant, the residual, and the emergent, which sets the productive process in motion.
(165-166) In deconstruction difference looms large. Whatever there is, is is marked by difference both internally and externally, because phenomena have a differential structure, and each one is different from others. . . . Deconstruction is basically a reading that tries to open up what has been eclipsed.
(166) Generative anthropology conceives of culture as the deferral of violence by means of representation. . . . Literature assumes a dual function in this ongoing alternation: it operates as a procedure of discovery by acting out what the prevailing structure of center and periphery has made inaccessible, and by representing this cultural frame it monitors the course of events, thus providing distance.
(166) [For pragmatism] aesthetic experience as purveyed by the work of art was considered to be of a special kind, and it was elevated into a measuring rod of which all other experiences could be distinguished from one another and qualified accordingly.
(166) Feminism tries to develop a gender-specific poetics by undermining the prevalent male hegemony.
Art reflects on intentionality by mapping, affecting self-understanding by the subject, highlighting performance, producing codes by violating them: easy to replace art with software for the top level of Montfort and Bogost hierarchy.
(166-167) By elucidating the formation of the intentional object, art is made to reflect on intentionality as an operation of mapping. Through its encounter with the subject, it figures the process of self-understanding. In freeing representation from imitating a given object, it highlights performance as an activity that brings into presence something hitherto nonexisting. By intervening in reality, it is made to rearrange that which does exist, and which the recipient is given to process. Through code violation, it turns into a code-producing matrix, the reading of which allows us to monitor communication. By revealing the workings and the function of the ego rhythm, it is made to depict the subject as continually restructuring itself. Through tis creative practice, it projects modes of human self-production. By uncovering what has been excluded, it exhibits the way in which every phenomenon is inhabited by something other. By enacting the basic cultural fabric of center and periphery, it stages what is otherwise inaccessible. When it provides an aesthetic experience, it opens up an horizon that makes it possible to assess all kinds of experience. And when it goes against the grain, it releases an armory for subversion.
The Fabric of Theory
Architectural and operational types of theory.
If the framework of a theory is architectural, it is basically a grid
superimposed on the work for the purpose of cognition; if it is
operational, it is basically a networking structure for the purpose
of elucidating how something emerges.
(168) Reception theory structures indeterminacies insofar as blanks and negations specify authorial strategies, and mark what the reader is given to resolve.
(168-169) Translating the work of art into cognitive terms is bound to produce indeterminacies that arise out of what a conceptual language is unable to grasp. Tackling indeterminacies, however, leads to art being inscribed into the cognitive terminology by giving it a negative slant.
(169) Such a development resembles the process which Thomas Kuhn has described.
(169) In Marxist terms, then, art spawned an array of viewpoints when subjected to comprehension.
(169-170) Grasping a work of art in theoretical terms appears to have different effects on respective approaches. It plunges initial presuppositions into a sequence of revisions (semiotics and Marxism). It gives a negative slant to the conceptual languages employed (gestalt, reception, deconstruction, psychoanalytical theory). It inscribes itself into the reasoning through indeterminacies (gestalt and pragmatism) that range from blanks and negation (reception) through a maze of multiple pathways (psychoanalytical theory) to free play (deconstruction). They are all markers through which the work of art imprints itself on every operational attempt to capture it cognitively.
What Does the Multiplicity of Theories Tell Us?
Theorizing art reveals historicity; theories function as divining rod for historical needs of their milieu.
(170) Whenever art
is theorized, the framework of the theory involuntarily reveals the
historicity of the basic decisions that have fashioned it. Each
theory, we may conclude, functions as a divining-rod for the
historical need that it is called upon to cope with.
(171) In fact most of them assert that art comes to fruition in the recipient. . . . In deconstruction it is the reading of the “postcard” which the author has sent into the world that creates dissemination of reception. . . . The array of theories thus highlights an important shift in the localization of the arts, which are taken out of the museum and transferred into the recipient's “mind and soul” as their new home and habitation.
Or we want to create AI behind urge to cognize art, as an entry to thinking phenomenology of virtual realites beyond biochauvanistism.
(171) Why is there such an urge to translate the work of art into cognition? There are two possible answers: we want to know what it is that we ourselves have experienced, or we want to comprehend the unfamiliarity witnessed in the work of art.
Postcolonial Discourse: Said
Discourse maps territory projecting a lived domain; compare to Janz.
(172) Theory explores a given subject matter, which it translates into cognitive terms, thus systematically opening up access to whatever is under scrutiny. Discourse maps a territory and determines the features of what it charts, thus projecting a domain to be lived in.
Basic Features of Discourse
Discourse constrained by drive to assert what is taken for truth.
For Edward Said, Foucault's contention “that the fact of writing
itself is a systematic conversion of the power relationship between
controller and controlled into mere 'written' words becomes the
overriding guideline for the postcolonial discourse that he unfolds
in his Culture
(173) L'Ordre du discours carries a double meaning: it is both order and command.
(174) Hence discourse is governed by rules, of which the all-pervasive one, operative in all forms, is that of exclusion; it marks what is prohibited. . . . Discourse is not free to say just anything but is basically confined to the division between true and false, and is simultaneously driven to assert what is taken for truth.
Strategies of Postcolonial Discourse
Said postcolonial discourse guided by contrapuntal reading.
Edward Said's postcolonial discourse, as developed in his book
works as an imposition in the Foucauldian sense of both colonial and
(176) This complicity between literature and imperialism brings to light the intimate connection between culture and politics, which is hardly admitted by the self-understanding of culture.
(177) The very observation that metropolitan culture energizes Western imperialism constitutes the operational drive of postcolonial discourse, which functions primarily as discourse analysis, i.e., laying bare how knowledge and fantasy are superimposed on distant lands that are ruled by the metropolitan center. . . . Since Kant we have believed in the isolation of cultural and aesthetic realms from the worldly domain, but now it is time to link them again in order to discover what culture-inspired imperialism has shut out. This focus on what hegemonic discourses have suppressed is the hallmark of postcolonial discourse guided by the strategy of contrapuntal reading.
Novel as Imperial Discourse
(178) Literature is permeated with references to Europe's overseas expansion, and continually maps its affiliations with the empire. . . . From the countless instances in which the empire is a crucial setting, we shall single out Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, and Rudyard Kipling.
Consider complicity between technology and imperialism, for instance dominance of English and [decimal] number system in programming languages and protocols, and subjugation of cyberspace by powerful corporations, then compare democratic rationalizations of free software to strategy (or tactic) of postcolonial discourse: imagine a past in which free software rapidly evolved global Internet and programming was a home economics skill taught as part of public education.
Colonialism, as a cloak for protecting the enchantment to be derived
from the “Other,” reveals the complicity between culture and
(181) Yeats and Camus, however, were not concerned with distant lands dominated by colonial powers but with what was nearest to them: Ireland and Algeria, the one subjugated by the British, the other a French province. These writers and their ilk were voices inside imperialist nations that tried to turn the colonizing impact of culture against this culture itself, thus anticipating the strategy of postcolonial discourse.
Models of Resistance
Models of resistance from postcolonial discourse could be applied to software cultures, the most obvious cathedral versus bazaar.
Their main objective is to imagine a culture and a past independent
of colonialism, and to conceive an anti-imperialistic type of
nationalism. In view of its different pursuits, anticolonial
discourse is also marked by rarefaction, and it becomes the task of
postcolonial discourse to highlight the conditionality responsible
for the retrenchments.
(183) On the one hand, familiar patterns of Western literature are deliberately taken up in order to communicate the agenda of decolonization, but this in itself is a confirmation of Western forms of articulation. On the other hand, however, the hybrid discourse constitutes a massive infusion of non-European cultures into the metropolitan heartland, signaled by what has since been called The Empire Writes Back.
(184) What in the classical imperial hegemony was an intertwining of power and legitimacy has now changed into a growing awareness of the intertwining of cultures.
Order of Postcolonial Discourse
(185) Center and periphery have now to be telescoped, so that each becomes the backdrop of the other, and charting this process brings postcolonial discourse to full fruition.
Appendix A: John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
Appendix B: Edmund Spenser, “Februarie: Aegloga Secunda” from The Shepheardes Calender
Appendix C: T. S. Eliot, “The Fire Sermon” from The Waste Land
Iser, Wolfgang. How To Do Theory. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. Print.