Journal Articles

December 2023 - Vol.54 / No.1
“A New and More Elegant Edition”: Franklin’s Autobiography Mediated through Cultural Techniques
Author : Chiu-Hua Su
Keywords : Benjamin Franklin, cultural techniques, postal system, memorandum book, Bernhard Siegert, digital humanity
In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin compares himself to a book. More than once, he uses “errata” to describe the faults he has made in his life and prays for corrections of these errata in the “second Edition.” The comparison of his life to a book, I argue, indicates his eccentric idea of a life that is perpetuated through the cultural techniques of the eighteenth century. This shows that the idea of “de-faulting,” or removing faults, is embedded in his thoughts. Considering this, his request for the removal of his “errata” in future editions gains a posthuman implication. In this study, I employ “cultural techniques” proposed by German media theorist Bernhard Siegert to examine the use of the postal system and the memorandum book in Franklin’s Autobiography. Formed as a letter addressed to his first son, the first part of the Autobiography shows how the modern subject was constituted in a postal/police system that gave birth to the idea of liberty but also demanded self-discipline at the same time. In the second half of the essay, I examine Franklin’s use of the memorandum book in his “Art of Virtue.” The table on which his errata are enlisted and checked from time to time paves a route for the development of the feedback loop. Both techniques bespeak Franklin’s network thinking, anticipating modern cybernetics.
The Political-Economic Critique and the Creative Destruction Cycle in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land
Author : Yi-Chuang E. Lin
Keywords : creative destruction, macro-/microeconomics, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Marx, Nicomachean Ethics
Scholars have occasionally drawn attention to the macro-/microeconomic concerns in T. S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land. It has been suggested that Eliot’s depiction of the wasteland refers specifically to the City of London, the capital’s chief financial district where Eliot spent his working hours as a bank clerk. However, comprehensive analyses of these aspects are still lacking. By reading Eliot’s correspondence, we learn that Eliot was informed by different schools of economic theory. He keenly observed economic activity and its corresponding social and political consequences. Through an exploration of the macro-/microeconomic phenomena that resonate throughout The Waste Land, this paper argues that underneath its apparent portrayal of an urban apocalypse lies a sustained political-economic argument in dialogue with Aristotle, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Joseph Schumpeter. The poem addresses the failings of an existing economic system that prioritizes wealth accumulation for its own sake (chrematistics) and disregards wealth distribution, efficient uses of resources, and genuine economic growth through innovation to foster overall prosperity (economics). By re-evaluating the challenges of modernity, particularly the chrematistic trend of modern economics, The Waste Land epitomizes modernist innovation as a force of “creative destruction” that, in realizing individual talent and freedom to craft inventive frameworks, brings about paradigm shifts and systematic changes in economic and cultural realms.
Dislocation, Relocation, and the Position of the In-Between: Doris Lessing’s In Pursuit of the English
Author : Shu-Ming Hung
Keywords : position of the in-between, Doris Lessing, postwar London, In Pursuit of the English
Doris Lessing’s In Pursuit of the English (1960) offers a view of the changing map of postwar London from the author’s arrival in 1949. It describes the emotions Lessing experienced during the process of dislocation and relocation throughout her journey from South Africa to the United Kingdom. As a white immigrant, Lessing is both an insider and outsider. Her personal spatial experience and reconception of the history of London provide routes through which Lessing can resituate her identity as an English national and as a woman. Lessing conveys the ambiguity of her position through the narrator’s embodied subject and spatial positioning throughout the journey. In In Pursuit, the narrator is situated in an “in-between position”: a status of uncertainty or otherness. Elizabeth Grosz develops the concept of the in-between further and proposes that to reinvestigate the space of the inbetween is to make culture more dynamic and move into the future. In this book, the narrator explores individuals with similar situations. They transit themselves from being the other to their own becoming through the reconstruction of relations. Lessing’s characters regain a sense of being and recover from feeling dislocated in a devastated London through their memories and the stories that they tell. Williem Frijhoff and Susan Stanford Friedman have proposed that storytelling is crucial in the reconstruction of cultural memory. Lessing’s life writing pieces together lost memories of the city and the everyday lives of locals. Even more, Lessing’s depiction of women’s community leads to the emergence of those women’s new identity through their shared living experience and unique voices. Through an understanding of the relationships between insiders and outsiders, both Lessing and the people she meets in London are involved in the city’s changing and progression.
Living a Dream Life: Creating an Image of a Cookbook Author in Early 2000s Russia
Author : Elizaveta Litovskaia
Keywords : lifestyle literature, cookbooks, image of an author, self-presentation strategies, Russian daily culture
An unprecedented surge in lifestyle literature marked the early 2000s in Russia. Symptomatic of this phenomenon was an extraordinary outpour of lifestyle journals, blogs, and TV shows. One aspect of this new literature was a novel interest in food culture. This new food culture was supposed to be one of the many Western habits that new Russia had to incorporate to become a globalized country after years of isolation. If, on the one hand, the 1990s were a time to learn how to behave with new money, the 2000s and early 2010s, on the other hand, would be the time to learn how to spend it in style. Together with fashion magazines, foreign movies, books, and TV series, cookbooks and gastronomic magazines became the new textbooks of Western lifestyle. One of the distinguishing features of this novel culinary discourse was the significance of the culinary text’s author: a professional chef or a celebrity, a popular columnist or a historian, basically anyone who could offer their audience some new authentic knowledge. Among the numerous books published then, Anahit Piruzyan’s book Elle: Cooking Diary: Stories with Recipes (Elle: Кулинарный дневник. Истории с рецептами) stands out. She chooses an unusual strategy for her traditionally (and primarily) didactic culinary discourse: she published not just recipes or even recipes with history but rather stories with recipes. Recipes as cooking manuals became secondary in comparison with the self-presentation of the author, who was a successful culinary columnist, an expert on bourgeois American culinary culture, and a so-called Global Russian who could now be described as an influencer in a pre-influencer era who created an image of the ideal modern woman of the 2000s and thereby attracted the broad attention of the female audience of Elle fashion magazine. In this article, I aim to answer what and how she talks about herself to gain the trust and interest of her readers, how she pictures herself as a culinary enthusiast, and what makes her so unique among other cookbook authors of the same time.