A Science of Hieroglyphs, or the Test of Bildung

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Book Chapter

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The Technological Introject: Friedrich Kittler Between Implementation and the Incalculable


With his Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900, translated as Discourse Networks 1800/1900, Friedrich Kittler stirred up the German academic scene of the 1980s.The manuscript was written to be his Habilitation (the highly formalized second book, or postdoctoral thesis, in the German academic system), produced to ensure a degree-like professorial certification, to entice the endorsement of the scholarly community, the willingness to accept the author in their midst--and Kittler nearly failed to reach this approval. The first affront was the obscure title Aufschreibesysteme--literally: systems of writing down, of notation, or possibly inscription--a borrowed neologism from civil servant/psychotic Daniel Paul Schreber who used it in his own Rehabilitation, thereby producing one of the most famous self-descriptions of a mental disease. In the late nineteenth century, Judge Schreber had reached the highest public standing as senate president of Saxony's supreme court before turning delusional. He was able to reverse his legal incapacitation and to reinstate his own lawful status with the publication of Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (Memoirs of my Nervous Illness), a feat that, in hindsight, might seem as surprising to observers today as Aufschreibesysteme appeared suitable to some critical readers to serve the purpose of achieving institutional acceptance for their writer.


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