Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ulmer, Teletheory

Ulmer, Gregory. Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Teletheory, both as book and as pedagogy, is jam-packed with provocative bits on mystory, experimentation, videocy, learning, and teaching--a "program of renewal" intervening into a "new discursive and conceptual ecology" (vii). I will resort to just a couple of ideas, even though there are several to sample from: relay as an alternative to (monumental) models and patterning, where patterning is the frame from which analytico-referential emerged. Writes Ulmer, "Once it emerged, analytico-referential discourse opposed that which it could not accommodate [viz., patterning]" (24). In step with Timothy Reiss, he goes on to note that "Patterning became distanced as 'pre-scientific,' but persisted on the margins, and constitutes 'a kind of permanent ghost in the machine, posing a latent question to the signifying, denoting intentions of that discourse,' contradicting 'the logic of dominant discourse in which it lies more or less hidden' (378). 'That is not to say,' Reiss adds, 'that a discourse of patterning could ever function again as such for us.' The 'as such' is the crucial qualification, however, for I want to argue that patterning has come around again, as the ghost whose secret is buried in the crypt, as the pleasure of orality. The crucial new element in the mix is electronic technology" (25). Yes, electronic technology. With this, what Ulmer addresses, citing Eric Leed, as the "explanatory myth" of orality v. literacy is put under a spotlight--exposed.

  • emotion in method: "an emotional guide to the location of significance"; predominant emotion is nostalgia (11a)
  • Allegory: "saying something more and other than they mean literally" (15)
  • Periodic table of methods and instability (pun, absurdism) in methods numbered higher than 92 (Uranium) (19)
  • Empirical vs. contingent registers for method (32); Possible to oscillate between them?
  • Learning: the "production of an institutionally preferred response" (33), citing Brannigan (33c)
  • Survivability of representations and meta-representations (36). Meta-representations "allow humans to process information which they do not understand" (36)
  • Oralysis: literate orality. (33)

William Safire's 9/20/1987 column "Hermen Eutic's Original Intent" is credited here with putting Ulmer onto (h)euretics/invention. Safire places euretics and invention on one side opposite hermeneutics and interpretation, but Ulmer mends this break, "There is no need to be against hermeneutics in order to be for euretics, only that euretics provides an alternative to interpretation that has been lacking in most of the discussions of the problem" (15-16).

As indexed:
relay 166-175
models, 104, 119, 141; cognitive, 24; disciplinary, 39; explanatory, 33, 39; folk, 39; and places, 157; and relay, 170; and signature, 165.

On models:

"In the case of [A Lover's Discourse] Fragments we are not offered any particular lover's story, but all such stories with one instance embedded within it as a model, in a way that reorganizes the traditional opposition between the particular and the general" (119). Again, the model as intermediary, as Pemberton's "partial isomorph", and as relay in its conduciveness to tweening the particular and the general, data and theories across different orders of magnitude--albeit discursive and textual rather than visual, presentational/nondiscursive, and electrate.

"What the tree diagram was to the book, the rhizome map is to electronics--a model for a new order of memory, whose principles include 'connection' ('any point on a rhizome can be connected with any other, and must be'); 'Heterogeneity' ('the semiotic chain is like a tuber gather up very diverse acts--linguistic, but also perceptual, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive'); 'multiplicity' (it has neither subject nor object: 'there are no points or positions in a rhizome, as one finds in a structure, tree or root. There are only lines'); 'a-signifying rupture' ('A rhizome can be cracked and broken at any point; it starts off again following one or another of its lines...There is neither imitation nor resemblance, but an explosion of two heterogeneous series in a line of flight consisting of a common rhizome that can no longer be attributed nor made subject to any signifier at all') (11,20)" (141). Deluze and Guattarian emphasis here; model as conceptual framework--an altered conceptual framework from book to electronics.

"The task of Teletheory in particular is to outline a direction for this project--for the invention of a new cognitive model" (24).

"The problem is that nomadic texts such as those authored by Artaud or Kleist themselves end up becoming monuments, "inspiring a model to be copied." This alternative--the relay, organized by speed, rather than the gravity of a monument--will be one of the most difficult and important issues for teletheory: how to bring the particular or singular into relation with the general or global [or the abstract] in the manner of the relay rather than the model.... Mystory itself is more a relay than a model, produced not for its own sake but for the trace of convergence of living and artificial memories" (170).

~ ~

"Hasn't pedagogy always positioned itself in this 'postmodern' way in relation to the past as information? Haven't teachers always ransacked the past in order to perform the simulacrum of history, in period courses for which there is no original, whose authorship we deny? Haven't we always lived by quotation in our scholarship and lectures? Postmodernism no longer produces monumental works, Jameson notes, 'but ceaselessly reshuffles the fragments of preexistent texts , the building blocks of older cultural and social production, in some new and heightened bricolage: metabooks which cannibalise other books, metatexts which collate bits of other texts' (223)." (13).

"A mystory is always specific to its composer, constituting a kind of personal periodic table of cognitive elements, representing one individual's intensive reserve" (vii).

"Now the cosmology of depth ["'essence' and 'meaning' and the unified ego"] is giving way to another one which it is part of our project to imagine" (27). A cosmology of light, of distance, or of surfaces (epitomes)? Ulmer mentions a fourth-dimension cognitive style combining "Einsteinian physics, vanguard collage, and the decentered subject" (28b).

"The ideology of method, that is, differs fundamentally from the practice of invention. Science, like cinema, is an apparatus, a machine, in which ideology plays an integral part. The same may be said for the university as an education machine" (29).

Phrases: patterning (25), counterinductive (30), bliss-sense (vii), Sekula on photo-archive (14), sampling (13)

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