Beyond the Word: Reconstructing Sense in the Joyce Era of Technology, Culture, and Communication

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University of Toronto Press, 1995 - ART - 353 pages
Beyond the Word challenges the reader to reconsider the role of artistic expression as cultural production within today's society, and questions many key aspects of contemporary critical thought. Donald Theall centres his discussion around the theoretical implication of the work of James Joyce, who he posits as 'poetical engineer' whose works show how poetry and art have always provided society with a means of communication about societal and technological change. Today's artist, as exemplified by Joyce, explores a myriad of possibilities for communication in a new world of technology, electrification, and mechanization, by developing a multimedia language that is simultaneously oral, graphic, and polysemic. This causes an 'unbinding of textuality,' freeing the concept of text from its original connections with manuscripts and books, and leading so the total involvement of multimedia virtual reality. Beyond the Word provides an implicit critique of postmodernism, redefining it as a further radical stage of modernism. Theall argues that Joyce anticipated many of the insights of semiotics, post-structuralism, and post-modernism. Moreover, Joyce and other modern artists differed from their predecessors in exhibiting a greater sense of their place within a dynamic, multifaceted field of communication. Thus, long before the emergence of postmodernism, these radical modernists posed an implicit challenged to the traditional notion of art as a privileged sphere. Beyond the Word situates artistic expression within a broad ecology of communication alongside genres such as comics, games, ads, videos, and slogans of spontaneous protest. Within this context, Theall reconsiders the contributions of Marshall McLuhan, Harold Innis, Gregory Bateson, and Kenneth Burke to our contemporary understanding of communication, and looks at artists as disparate as Dusan Makavejev, Stanley Kubrick, Alexander Pope, Rabelais, William Gibson, Gene Roddenberry, and Wyndham Lewis.

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