Category Archives: language

Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again

By Andy Clark (1996)
Brain, body, and world are united in a complex dance of circular causation and extended computational activity. In Being There, Andy Clark weaves these several threads into a pleasing whole and goes on to address foundational questions concerning the new tools and techniques needed to make sense of the emerging sciences of the embodied mind. Clark brings together ideas and techniques from robotics, neuroscience, infant psychology, and artificial intelligence. He addresses a broad range of adaptive behaviors, from cockroach locomotion to the role of linguistic artifacts in higher-level thought.

Posted in consciousness, language, science, technology

Mythologies

By Roland Barthes (1975)
Mythologies illustrates the beautiful generosity of Barthes’s progressive interest in the meaning (his word is signification) of practically everything around him, not only the books and paintings of high art, but also the slogans, trivia, toys, food, and popular rituals (cruises, striptease, eating, wrestling matches) of contemporary life . . . For Barthes, words and objects have in common the organized capacity to say something; at the same time, since they are signs, words and objects have the bad faith always to appear natural to their consumer, as if what they say is eternal, true, necessary, instead of arbitrary, made, contingent. Each of the little essays in this book wrenches a definition out of a common but constructed object, making the object speak its hidden, but ever-so-present, reservoir of manufactured sense.

Posted in culture, language, semiotics, theory

Illuminations


Studies on contemporary art and culture by one of the most original, critical and analytical minds of this century. Illuminations includes Benjamin’s views on Kafka, with whom he felt the closest personal affinity, his studies on Baudelaire and Proust (both of whom he translated), his essays on Leskov and on Brecht’s Epic Theater. Also included are his penetrating study on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” an illuminating discussion of translation as a literary mode, and his thesis on the philosophy of history. Hannah Arendt selected the essays for this volume and prefaces them with a substantial, admirably informed introduction that presents Benjamin’s personality and intellectual development, as well as his work and his life in dark times.

Posted in art, culture, history, language, media, philosophy, photography

The Ruin of Representation in Modernist Art and Texts

By Jo Anna Isaak (1986)
An investigation of the relationship of painting and literature, and the emergence of abstraction in art and writing, discussing figures such as James Joyce, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Wyndham Lewis.

Posted in art, history, language, poetry, theory

Image, Music, Text

By Roland Barthes (1978)
Roland Barthes, the French critic and semiotician, was one of the most important critics and essayists of this century. His work continues to influence contemporary literary theory and cultural studies. Image-Music-Text collects Barthes’s best writings on photography and the cinema, as well as fascinating articles on the relationship between images and sound. Two of Barthes’s most important essays, “Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative” and “The Death of the Author” are also included in this fine anthology, an excellent introduction to his thought.

Posted in art, culture, language, media, photography, semiotics, theory

Digital Mantras: The Language of Abstract and Virtual Worlds

By Steven Holtzman (1995)
Holtzman, who holds a doctorate in computer science, provides a highly stimulating discussion of the integration of music, art, and language with recent trends in computer technology. He traces the evolution of formal abstract structures as they exist in the music of Schoenberg and Boulez, the art of Kandinsky, and the language grammars of Chomsky. Since computers have the capability to manipulate structures, the author contends that we have reached new frontiers of unexplored artistic creativity; he foresees new worlds of creative expression-that is, “virtual worlds.” This text wisely addresses the issues of dissonance in electronic music and human emotion and understanding in the creative process. Holtzman’s journey into “virtual reality,” sprinkled with a touch of Indian mysticism, is a totally intelligible, enjoyable venture.

Posted in art, history, language, media, music, philosophy, science, technology

Forest Of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation

by Ann Goldstein, Mary Jane Jacob, Anne Rorimer, Howard Singerman, and Richard Koshalek (1989)The thread of representation ties together the work of the 30 artists included in the book, encompassing such issues as allegory, appropriation, and commodification, the role of the artist, and the functions of authorship and originality in vesting meaning in art. Much of the work is provocative, challenging the way we look at art, the way we talk about it, where we see it, and how we buy it.

Posted in art, culture, exhibition, history, language, photography, semiotics, theory

Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings

By Martin Heidegger
Heidegger’s most popular collection of essential writings, now revised and expanded — includes the 10 key essays plus the introduction to Being and Time.

Posted in art, consciousness, language, philosophy

Imagining Language

By Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffery (1998)
When works such as Finnegans Wake and Tender Buttons were first introduced, they went so far beyond prevailing linguistic standards that they were widely considered “unreadable,” if not scandalous. Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffery take these and other examples of twentieth-century avant-garde writing as the starting point for a collection of writings that demonstrates a continuum of creative conjecture on language from antiquity to the present. The result is more laboratory than inventory. The anthology, which spans three millennia, generally bypasses chronology in order to illuminate unexpected congruities between seemingly discordant materials. Thus the juxtaposition of Marcel Duchamp and Jonathan Swift, of Victor Hugo and Easter Island “rongo rongo.”

Posted in art, language, poetry, theory

Literary Theory

By Terry Eagleton (1983/1996)
This classic work, whose first edition sold more than 120,000 copies, is designed to cover all of the major movements in literary studies in this century. The second edition contains a major new survey chapter that addresses developments since the book’s original publication in 1983, including feminist theory, postmodernism, poststructuralism-what is broadly referred to as cultural theory.

Posted in culture, feminism, language, philosophy, semiotics, theory