Special Issue "The Anatomy of Inscription"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 September 2018) | Viewed by 12439

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Hunter Dukes
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, 9 West Rd, Cambridge CB3 9DP, UK
Interests: modernism; history of writing; the nonhuman

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues

In their 1910 essay ‘Poetic Principles’, Nikolai and David Burliuk describe poetry as ‘sensible’, arguing that the word ‘changes its qualities according to whether it is handwritten, printed or thought’. Jacques Derrida widens this claim in Of Grammatology (1967), writing that one of the ‘fundamental problems’ when coming to terms with signification is the deployment of ‘diverse forms of graphic substances (material: wood, wax, skin, stone, ink, metal, vegetable)’, as well as different kinds of styli. How do the material properties of writing feed back into its semantic sense, differing when engraved in stone or tattooed on skin? Are inscriptions in paintings — which are sometimes indecipherable, as in the case of Alexander Nagel’s ‘pseudoscripts’ (2011) — fundamentally different from text in film, the subject of Mikhail Iampolski’s The Memory of Tiresias (1998)? The recent material, object-oriented, and affective approaches to criticism have all sounded the death knell for the linguistic turn’s methodological dominance. While theorists such as Vicki Kirby (2011, 1997) and Stacy Alaimo (2010) have analysed how bodies are inscribed and encoded, less attention has been devoted to the agential and emotional potential of inscription itself. Beyond bibliographic considerations of material culture, how does a body of text impact biological bodies? And how do literature, film, and the visual arts reimagine the boundaries between these two kinds of corpora?

Juliet Fleming begins her Cultural Graphology (2016) with the claim that ‘we do not know what writing is’. We might add to this and observe that we do not know where writing is — and where it is not. A 2014 article in the Journal of Zoology describes how polar bear footprints facilitate chemical communication by means of unique ‘marking strategies’. In L’Incandescent (2003), Michel Serres argues that ice cores extracted from Greenland glaciers are a kind of inorganic writing, similar to what Jussi Parikka calls ‘geological media’ (2015). This special issue of Humanities takes an expanded sense of inscription as its starting point, inviting a variety of approaches. I particularly welcome articles that consider: nonhuman writing, filmic and painterly text, new accounts of gesture and ornament, the history of the alphabet, and how metaphors of information storage play out on different scales (genetic, geological, historical). Following work by Johanna Drucker (2014), I am also invested in media research that — to quote N. Katherine Hayles (1999) — reflects on the ‘entanglement of signal and materiality in bodies and books’.

Deadline for submission of full essays: 15 August 2018

Dr. Hunter Dukes
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Writing
  • Inscription
  • Materiality
  • Textuality
  • Biosemiotics
  • Anthropocene
  • Nonhuman
  • Tattoo
  • History of Alphabet
  • New Media
  • Information

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
Like Melville on the Leaf of Shakespeare? Olson’s Annotations to Ace of Pentacles, by John Wieners
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 115; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020115 - 19 Jun 2019
Viewed by 2940
Abstract
This article is on the textuality of handwritten marginal inscriptions, and the often acute difficulty of interpreting them. No poet was more profoundly influenced by the agonistics of this interpretative work than Charles Olson (1910–1970). One way to tell the story of his [...] Read more.
This article is on the textuality of handwritten marginal inscriptions, and the often acute difficulty of interpreting them. No poet was more profoundly influenced by the agonistics of this interpretative work than Charles Olson (1910–1970). One way to tell the story of his authorship would be to draw a categorical distinction between his life as a scholar of Herman Melville, and his life as a poet associated with the legacy of modernism and with Black Mountain College. However, the marginalia that Olson wrote in his copy of Ace of Pentacles (one of two he owned), by his former student and protégé, John Wieners, tell another story. At one point Olson seems to compare his marginalia in “John’s book” (as he calls it) to those Melville wrote “on the leaf of Shakespeare”. The annotated “leaf” he has in mind figures in Call Me Ishmael as decisively formative in the making of Moby-Dick. Evidence indicates that Olson used his copy of Ace of Pentacles to devise strategies of writing his way through a major tragedy—the loss of his wife in a car accident in March, 1964. It is amid his annotations that we find the probable starting place of several poems that he wrote to her memory, all controversially excluded from the posthumously published third volume of The Maximus Poems. Yet the marginalia are every bit as resistant to interpretation as those he had himself confronted in the marked pages of Melville’s books, and we will need to think carefully about this analogy and its implications. I argue that his marked-up copy of Ace of Pentacles is part of a textual continuum of uncertain extent, raising questions about how we should read the last volume of The Maximus Poems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
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Article
Inscription and ‘Anscription’: Surface and System in Cybernetics, Deconstruction, and Don DeLillo
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010005 - 08 Jan 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 986
Abstract
This essay proposes the concept of ‘anscription’, and employs it to re-think some of the typical valences of inscription in media theory. The word is derived from the German anschreiben, which can simply mean, ‘to write up’, but also refers to the [...] Read more.
This essay proposes the concept of ‘anscription’, and employs it to re-think some of the typical valences of inscription in media theory. The word is derived from the German anschreiben, which can simply mean, ‘to write up’, but also refers to the specific act, and the set of social relations that come into place, when one writes something up on a blackboard. Not quite encompassed by inscription, it offers an essential counterpart to the term for media-oriented thinkers. The essay draws out this corresponding function through readings of three imagined (but not-quite-imaginary) media, across which emerges a dialectic in the cultural imaginary of inscription. The first comes from the mathematician Norbert Wiener’s description of a mechanism that would translate written text into tactile impressions; the second, from Jacques Derrida’s historical framing of the project of deconstruction in relation to writing systems; and the third, from a thirty-two-page description of an American football game in Don DeLillo’s 1972 novel, End Zone. Each will offer a different exemplification of the function termed ‘anscription’. Just as significantly, each example presents this function in relation to the technical possibilities of media and articulates it through a theory of the body that is entangled with writing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
Article
Orwell’s Tattoos: Skin, Guilt, and Magic in ‘Shooting an Elephant’ (1936)
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040124 - 27 Nov 2018
Viewed by 2466
Abstract
This paper considers the significance of the talismanic tattoos on Orwell’s hands, which he acquired in Burma during his time as a colonial policeman from 1922 to 1927. It examines historical evidence suggesting that such tattoos were understood differently by British and Burmese [...] Read more.
This paper considers the significance of the talismanic tattoos on Orwell’s hands, which he acquired in Burma during his time as a colonial policeman from 1922 to 1927. It examines historical evidence suggesting that such tattoos were understood differently by British and Burmese people, and concludes that, for Orwell, their meaning was multilayered: first, they were a means of understanding Burmese culture more intimately; second, they were a psychological attempt to cathect his feelings of guilt about his complicity in colonial injustice by remaking his ‘skin-ego’; and third, they were a gesture towards the possibility that inscription—first in the form of tattoos, and later in the written word—might be a way to understand and process his self-alienation. The paper goes on to examine Orwell’s 1936 essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’ in the light of Orwell’s interest in inscription, and traces its themes of mark-making, magic, and authorship, arguing that these ideas enabled him, at a crucial moment in his development as a writer, to map his experiences of colonialism onto his wider commitment to anti-fascist and anti-authoritarian politics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
Article
The Flesh Made Word: Bodily Inscription and Religion in Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 114; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040114 - 09 Nov 2018
Viewed by 1253
Abstract
In Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau Jacques Rivette works through his discomfort with the theological function of the author, a discomfort stemming from the material effects of authorship on the bodies of his actors. Examples of bodily incision and bruising proliferate throughout [...] Read more.
In Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau Jacques Rivette works through his discomfort with the theological function of the author, a discomfort stemming from the material effects of authorship on the bodies of his actors. Examples of bodily incision and bruising proliferate throughout the film, part of a process of violent characterization imposed by an authoring demiurge. The film explores several methods of escape from this process, starting with exotic travel and fairy tales, but culminates around repeated allusions to the crucifixion of Christ. The film advances a heretical Christology by positing God as a sadistic author and the wounded body of Christ as the paradigmatic example of being inscribed as a character against one’s will. As this characterization obviously engenders being inscribed in a narrative as well, the structure of the film probes at the notion of both Christianity and narrative cinema as means of escape. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
Article
James Joyce and the Epiphanic Inscription: Towards an Art of Gesture as Rhythm
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040109 - 03 Nov 2018
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1629
Abstract
In Agency and Embodiment, Carrie Noland describes gesture as “a type of inscription, a parsing of the body into signifying and operational units”, considering it as a means to read and decode the human body. Through an analysis of James Joyce’s collection [...] Read more.
In Agency and Embodiment, Carrie Noland describes gesture as “a type of inscription, a parsing of the body into signifying and operational units”, considering it as a means to read and decode the human body. Through an analysis of James Joyce’s collection of Epiphanies, my paper will examine how gesture, as a mode of expression of the body, can be transcribed on the written page. Written and collected to record a “spiritual manifestation” shining through “in the vulgarity of speech or gesture, or in a memorable phase of the mind itself”, Joyce’s Epiphanies can be considered as the first step in his sustained attempt to develop an art of gesture-as-rhythm. These short pieces appear as the site in which the author seeks, through the medium of writing, to negotiate and redefine the boundaries of the physical human body. Moving towards a mapping of body and mind through the concept of rhythm, and pointing to a collaboration and mutual influence between interiority and exteriority, the Epiphanies open up a space for the reformulation of the relationship between the human body and its environment. Unpacking the ideas that sit at the heart of the concept of epiphany, the paper will shed light on how this particular mode of writing produces a rhythmic art of gesture, fixing and simultaneously liberating human and nonhuman bodies on the written page. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
Article
Charles Olson’s ‘Projective Verse’ and the Inscription of the Breath
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040108 - 01 Nov 2018
Viewed by 1613
Abstract
Charles Olson’s hugely influential essay-manifesto ‘Projective Verse’ is usually understood as proposing a close - and a necessary—link between poetry and body. Some account of Olson’s as a ‘poetics of embodiment’ or a ‘breath-poetics’ is almost ubiquitous in the extant criticism, yet what [...] Read more.
Charles Olson’s hugely influential essay-manifesto ‘Projective Verse’ is usually understood as proposing a close - and a necessary—link between poetry and body. Some account of Olson’s as a ‘poetics of embodiment’ or a ‘breath-poetics’ is almost ubiquitous in the extant criticism, yet what this might actually mean or imply for poetry and poetry-reading remains unclear. ‘Projective Verse’ is deeply ambivalent about print, seeing in it the ‘closed verse’ Olson looked to replace, while simultaneously idealising the typed-and-printed page as the only medium for the supposed immediacy of the poet’s breath. This essay contends that Olson’s lionisation of the typewriter is accompanied by a suppressed inscriptional register—a concern with carving and engraving—and asks what the substrate hosting this inscription might be. The aims of the piece are twofold: to demonstrate that ‘Projective Verse’ contains a logic of inscription which has gone severely underappreciated; and to argue that this logic runs up against the much better-documented logic of poetic embodiment via the breath in such a way as to deeply trouble criticism’s rather murky understanding of what that latter logic implies, both in Olson’s specific case and for poetry more generally. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
Article
Performing Devotion: Belief, the Body, and the Book of Common Prayer 1775–1840
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040100 - 17 Oct 2018
Viewed by 1143
Abstract
This article examines three texts published between 1775 and 1840 that attempt to model an ideal reading of the Anglican liturgy and to render it on the printed page, exploring the ways in which elocutionary instruction, acting theory and accounts of public worship [...] Read more.
This article examines three texts published between 1775 and 1840 that attempt to model an ideal reading of the Anglican liturgy and to render it on the printed page, exploring the ways in which elocutionary instruction, acting theory and accounts of public worship intersect within them through the figures of inscription and incorporation. Reflecting on the choice of the famous actor David Garrick as an exemplary reader in the two later texts, and drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, it discusses how and why these texts attempt to regulate competing ideas regarding the concepts of performance, embodiment, and assembly. The argument is made that although prescriptive in their demands, to varying degrees these texts acknowledge their own insufficiencies, and recognise not merely the difficulty of the task of transposing oral performance to a series of textual signs, or of accounting for the nature of devout worship, but also a more fundamental excess and irreducibility in the constitution of the self. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Anatomy of Inscription)
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