iSpace: Printed English After Joyce, Shannon, and Derrida

Liu, Lydia H.

To begin my essay with a nonword or borderline word is to relive the consequence of manifest entanglements between the literary imagination and technoscience. iSpace is one of many graphic aberrations introduced into English by James Joyce. There are others, of course—printed signs on paper as well as electronic pulses on the computer screen—that can go anywhere from exuberant nonsense to promised logographical embodiment: “alaphbedic,” “televisible,” “verbivocovisual,” and so on. Joyce scholars have rightly pointed out that literary theory is still catching up with the author of Finnegans Wake, that modernist engineer of a cyberspace avant la lettre of outrageous signs and letter sequences. Joyce conjured up the printed sign iSpace long before the internet or the iPod. The novelty of his vision and technē of writing never ceases to surprise the generations of readers who have since grown up and experienced the dramatic unfolding of biocybernetic events in their own lives.I am interested in exploring whether the perceived entanglements between literature and technoscience can promise a new understanding of the nature and function of the phonetic alphabet and alphabetical writing. What insights or implications, if any, can we glean from contemporary biocybernetic developments that may help us rethink literary theory and make it truly relevant to the task of interpreting social life, text, and machine from the ground up, which is to say, from the basic building blocks of literacy?


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Critical Inquiry

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Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Published Here
November 18, 2014