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The obsolete book

Page history last edited by Alston 8 years, 7 months ago Saved with comment

I think a few of us caught Julia Panko's excellent talk on the Bob Browne's attempt to Taylorize and rationalize reading via his reading machine. It had me thinking about the pure word as a container and it resonated with a quote from Walter Benjamin I came across that I've been itching to share with folks who might have also heard Panko speak. It seems clear that Benjamin is thinking of a similar project as that of Brown's.


Already today, as the contemporary mode of knowledge production demonstrated, the book is an obsolete mediation between two different card filing systems. For everything essential is found in the note boxes of the researcher who writes it, and the reader who studies it assimilates into his or her own note file. (qtd. in Susan Buck-Morss's Dialectics of Seeing: Benjamin and the Arcades Project, 336)


Of course, it doesn't escape Buck-Morss that Benjamin's Arcades Project is something like that note boxes. That's all.

Comments (1)

Julia Panko said

at 11:49 am on Apr 19, 2012

Alston, thank you for sharing this. It's a great quote, and one I'll incorporate into my introduction. Print and the book are obviously part of wider media networks in which text competes with image, sound, etc.; but Benjamin's quote is illustrative of the complexity and variety of the textual media ecology in the early 20th century. It's useful to think about the codex as only one stage in a process of composition or analysis that also includes note-taking and filing card systems, etc.--cf. Ann Blair's article on "Note Taking as Transmission" in _Critical Inquiry_, or Markus Krajewski's _Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929_ (2011), along these same lines.

Glad you enjoyed the talk!

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