The Cybernetic Turn: Literary into Cultural Criticism

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Joseph Tabbi reviews the essay collection Simulacrum America.

About a year ago in a TLS review, the English novelist Lawrence Norfolk praised the emerging generation of U.S. writers for resisting the allure of the mediated culture and providing readers with “news of a rare and real America” (“Closing time in the fun-house”). Norfolk is thinking of William T. Vollmann’s red light districts (mostly cleaned up now and Hilton-ed over), Jonathan Franzen’s inner city (newly gentrified), Richard Powers’s intelligentsia (last seen working online), and David Foster Wallace’s mid-priced cruise ships, halfway houses, and rural state fairs (now mostly funded by corporations). Norfolk would probably oppose this America to the more globally familiar prospect of “total operationality, hyperreality, total control” and total interchangeability of sign and referent that Jean Baudrillard finds here, along with technology’s “mortal deconstruction of the body” (“Simulacra,” cited in Simulacrum America).

Pull Quotes: 

........A beautiful, “excessively feminine” woman walks into an elevator; she is watched by her mobster boyfriend but she herself initiates eye contact with a stranger, a butch woman whom the boyfriend barely notices. Reading this scene as an audience member, the viewer for whom the entire incident has been staged, Cortiel notes the tension between hetero “scenarios of voyeurism” normalized by Hollywood and “the lesbian look” that we, as knowing observers, are (at least momentarily) encouraged to adopt.

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