Special Issue "The Anatomy of Inscription"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 September 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Hunter Dukes

Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, 9 West Rd, Cambridge, CB3 9DP, United Kingdom
Website | E-Mail
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

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

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

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Orwell’s Tattoos: Skin, Guilt, and Magic in ‘Shooting an Elephant’ (1936)
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040124
Received: 11 September 2018 / Revised: 8 November 2018 / Accepted: 9 November 2018 / Published: 27 November 2018
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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
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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)
Open AccessArticle 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
Received: 18 September 2018 / Revised: 22 October 2018 / Accepted: 5 November 2018 / Published: 9 November 2018
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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
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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)
Open AccessArticle James Joyce and the Epiphanic Inscription: Towards an Art of Gesture as Rhythm
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040109
Received: 7 September 2018 / Revised: 29 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 3 November 2018
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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
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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)
Open AccessArticle Charles Olson’s ‘Projective Verse’ and the Inscription of the Breath
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040108
Received: 9 September 2018 / Revised: 28 September 2018 / Accepted: 25 October 2018 / Published: 1 November 2018
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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
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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)
Open AccessArticle Performing Devotion: Belief, the Body, and the Book of Common Prayer 1775–1840
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040100
Received: 7 September 2018 / Revised: 4 October 2018 / Accepted: 12 October 2018 / Published: 17 October 2018
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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
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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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