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Inscription and ‘Anscription’: Surface and System in Cybernetics, Deconstruction, and Don DeLillo

  • Zetter, Nathaniel
Publication Date
Feb 02, 2019
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
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This essay proposes the concept of ‘anscription’, and employs it to re-think some of the typical valences of inscription in media theory. The word is derived from the German anschreiben, which can simply mean, ‘to write up’, but also refers to the specific act, and the set of social relations that come into place, when one writes something up on a blackboard. Not quite encompassed by inscription, it offers an essential counterpart to the term for media-oriented thinkers. The essay draws out this corresponding function through readings of three imagined (but not-quite-imaginary) media, across which emerges a dialectic in the cultural imaginary of inscription. The first comes from the mathematician Norbert Wiener’s description of a mechanism that would translate written text into tactile impressions; the second, from Jacques Derrida’s historical framing of the project of deconstruction in relation to writing systems; and the third, from a thirty-two-page description of an American football game in Don DeLillo’s 1972 novel, End Zone. Each will offer a different exemplification of the function termed ‘anscription’. Just as significantly, each example presents this function in relation to the technical possibilities of media and articulates it through a theory of the body that is entangled with writing.

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