Lanham – The Electronic Word (1993)

Technology, democracy (explicit in the subtitle), rhetoric education and
curricular reform recur as themes in Lanham’s The Electronic Word
The book sets out with an overarching consideration of the material,
instrumental and ideological transitions in the interfacial revolution from book
to screen.  The screen has rattled the "reign of textual truth" (x), opened
up the meaning of "text," and, consequently, challenged traditional-humanist
rationale for moralistic training via literary works (lots on the Great Books
debate here) . EW is set up for reading as a continuous book and also as
discrete chapters, according to Lanham; the chapters make frequent intratextual
reference (i.e., "In chapter 7, I…").  He gives readings of
rhetorical/philosophical traditions and more recent –phobe and –phile
orientations toward microcomputers and related computing activities–activities
he regards as deeply rhetorical and thoroughly transformative for commonplaces
about text, decorum, higher ed, and the humanities.  EW is probably
one of the earlier takes on a digital rhetorics, even if he frames a compelling
range of precursors (xi)–"a new and radical convertibility" of "word image and
sound" (xi) staged in Cage’s experimental art and music, Duchamp’s readymades
and even K. Burke’s poetry.

Continue reading →