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Digital Index: Control Poetics in Die Maschine

Digital Index: Control Poetics in Die Maschine DIGITAL INDEX: CONTROL POETICS IN DIE MASCHINE MARC KOHLBRY Mankind is beginning to understand how to dismantle and reassemble the most complex and unpredictable of all its machines: language. —Italo Calvino (1997, 10) Unfathomable mind, now beacon, now sea. —Samuel Beckett (2009, 110) Is poetry computable? Can a computer poetize? These questions, in addition to being contemporary to debates in the digital (or computational) humanities, were once central to a context in which computers were hardly ubiquitous—that of the postwar French avant-garde. In the years following World War II, and in parallel with developments in cybernetics, computer science, and other fi elds interested in so-called information technologies, a handful of French writers were using their artistic practice to explore the borderlands between the human mind and machines. Among these was cele- brated novelist Georges Perec, whose 1968 radio play Die Maschine explicitly poses the question of poetry’s computability. Written between 1967 and 1968 and fi rst broadcast on November 13, 1968, the machine’s preamble claims a singular goal: that of discovering the “inner mechanism,” or essence, of poetry. In its efforts to do so, Perec’s Maschine executes a series of “proto- cols,” each taking a different approach to dismantling http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png symploke University of Nebraska Press

Digital Index: Control Poetics in Die Maschine

symploke , Volume 28 (1) – Nov 24, 2020

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © symploke
ISSN
1534-0627

Abstract

DIGITAL INDEX: CONTROL POETICS IN DIE MASCHINE MARC KOHLBRY Mankind is beginning to understand how to dismantle and reassemble the most complex and unpredictable of all its machines: language. —Italo Calvino (1997, 10) Unfathomable mind, now beacon, now sea. —Samuel Beckett (2009, 110) Is poetry computable? Can a computer poetize? These questions, in addition to being contemporary to debates in the digital (or computational) humanities, were once central to a context in which computers were hardly ubiquitous—that of the postwar French avant-garde. In the years following World War II, and in parallel with developments in cybernetics, computer science, and other fi elds interested in so-called information technologies, a handful of French writers were using their artistic practice to explore the borderlands between the human mind and machines. Among these was cele- brated novelist Georges Perec, whose 1968 radio play Die Maschine explicitly poses the question of poetry’s computability. Written between 1967 and 1968 and fi rst broadcast on November 13, 1968, the machine’s preamble claims a singular goal: that of discovering the “inner mechanism,” or essence, of poetry. In its efforts to do so, Perec’s Maschine executes a series of “proto- cols,” each taking a different approach to dismantling

Journal

symplokeUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Nov 24, 2020

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