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Rainer Guldin

Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland

Rainer Guldin is a Lecturer of German Language and Culture at the Faculties of Communication and Economic Sciences at the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano (Switzerland). He studied English and German Literature in Zurich and Birmingham (Great Britain). His diploma was dedicated to the American writer H. P. Lovecraft, and his Ph.D. thesis focused on the work of the German writer Hubert Fichte. He taught courses and held seminars at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil (2001), the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar (Germany) (2003), and the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies of the University of Manchester (England) (2013). He was also visiting professor (Cathedra IEAT/Fundep) at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte (UFMG) Brazil (2012). In 2013 and 2015, he taught a course on multilingual literature at the University of St. Gallen (HSG) (Switzerland). Publications: Metaphors of Multilingualism. Changing Attitudes towards Language Diversity in Literature, Linguistics and Philosophy (forthcoming), Routledge, New York, 2020; O homem sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser, Annablume, Sāo Paulo (2017); and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie, transcript, Bielefeld 2017 (together with Gustavo Bernardo); Translation as Metaphor, Routledge, New York 2016 and 22018; Politische Landschaften. Zum Verhältnis von Raum und nationaler Identität, transcript, Bielefeld 2014; Spiegelgeschichten. Zu Hubert Fichtes und Hans Henny Jahnns Thomas Chatterton, Rimbaud Verlag, Aachen 2010; Wolkenformationen […] aus dem Dunst der Möglichkeiten. Zur nubigenen Einbildungskraft, Walther König, Cologne 2009; Vilém Flusser (together with Anke Finger and Gustavo Bernardo), W. Fink UTB, Paderborn 2009; Die Sprache des Himmels. Eine Geschichte der Wolken, Kadmos, Berlin 2006; Philosophieren zwischen den Sprachen. Vilém Flussers Werk, Wilhelm Fink, Munich 2005.

Articles of Rainer Guldin

„Eine Wolke von Zukunft“. Zur nubigenen Einbildungskraft in Vilém Flussers Werk

This essay starts out from Flusser’s use of the metaphor of the cloud as a possible representation of our present condition. Our identity and the world around us have lost all solidity and turned into groundless swarms of particles. This vision accompanies the short history of the cloud that follows, moving from its conception as a changeable veil masking the true light of inner truth, to an assemblage with frayed and constantly changing outlines, a formless but significant stain, and a field of possibility. As Flusser points out, when dealing with present day digital technology, one has the impression that our imagination (Einbildungskraft) has emigrated from our brains and become independent so that one can have a look at one’s own dreams. One would have to enter into a kind of dialogue (Zwiegespräch) between our own imagination and the one that we have been feeding into the computer, in order to pave the way for a jump into a completely new form of Einbildungskraft.

Wind and Desert

Two of the central nodes in Vilém Flusser’s metaphorical net that this part of Flusser Studies is trying to explore are the wind and the desert, which are not only linked to each other but also to other terms. The wind is a metaphor of the communication revolution. It penetrates into our homes and unsettles our habits, turning us into nomads. It is the immaterial ground on which nomads live and their very reason of being. Some nomads, like the Jewish tribes from the Bible, lived in makeshift tents and led an existence in Bodenlosigkeit, always on the move. Furthermore, the ephemeral sand dunes are related to Flusser’s notion of artificial worlds made out of dots, bits and pixels, composite worlds that resemble swarms and clouds.

Wind and Desert (PDF 513.53 KB)

Die Dimension der Leere. Vedanta und Buddhismus in Vilém Flussers Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert und Bodenlos

This short essay explores some of the connections between Vilém Flusser’s study of eastern philosophy in the 1940s and 1950s and his later notion of zero dimensionality. In his first book, Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert, he pointed to a theoretical convergence between the Indian Vedanta, Buddhism and modern natural sciences. In his autobiography, Bodenlos, written in the early 1970s Flusser reevaluated his former interest in oriental philosophy in highly critical terms. However, despite this attempt at distancing, some of the notions from Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert infiltrated his late vision of an emerging universe of technical images.

Die Dimension der Leere (PDF 402.46 KB)

Zwischen Berg und Ebene: Zur Entstehung von Vilém Flussers Begriffspaar Dialog/Diskurs - Tra montagna e pianura: come è nata la coppia di concetti dialogo/discorso di Vilém Flusser

This essay attempts a genealogic reconstruction of Vilém Flusser’s fundamental conceptual pair dialogue/discourse that he developed in the early 1970s. From 1973 to 1975, Edith and Vilém Flusser lived between Merano – where they generally spent the winter reading, discussing, taking walks and relaxing – and the Loire region in France where they spent the summer of 1973 and 1974. This nomadic existence between the mountain valley of Alto Adige/Südtirol and the plains of France prompted Flusser to develop a double vision of culture and communication based on two different geographical settings. Dialogues take place above all in valleys and discourses predominate in the plains. Between the two, there is a constant exchange that recalls Flusser’s own existence in these years.

Zwischen Berg und Ebene (PDF 530.07 KB)
Tra montagna e pianura (PDF 403.04 KB)

Jude Sein – Being Jewish – Ser Judeu / Spuren des Jüdischen in Vilém Flussers Denken

These two short essays try to retrace some of the main interrelated nodal points of the Jewish dimension in Vilém Fusser’s thinking and writing: Bodenlosigkeit, Heimatlosigkeit, nomadism, exodus, desert, sand, dune, tent, wind, bit, grain of sand, swarm, Sabbath, epoché, mysticism, nothingness, Pilpul, Talmud, polysemy, multilingualism, and translation.

Jude Sein (PDF 261.89 KB)
Spuren (PDF 328.14 KB)

Writing Philosophy. On Vilém Flusser’s Multilingual Dialogical Style

Flusser’s brilliant multilingual essayistic style is not only based on his practice of constant translation and retranslation. In his texts, he also makes frequent use of challenging metaphors, and even annoying comparisons, through an array of rhetorical devices including, etymologies, puns based on homophones (paronomasia), and polysemy, in order to draw the reader’s attention to the fundamental constructed ways of our looking at the world. His philosophical rhetoric of breaking up, multiplying, mixing, comparing, combining, linking and connecting is a strategy used to create novelty and surprise, that is, new information through recombination. Flusser’s philosophy operates on a meta-communicative level: language is a model, a network that captures meaning, given that all languages are artificial, and words do not primarily mean objects but other words of the same language or different languages. Languages are not primarily representational but interconnected systems of signs. Flusser calls our attention to the material side of the medium he is using, to the diversified opacity of the different languages he writes with. In sum, Flusser wants to achieve these different goals by having us embark with him as dialogical partners on an ironical journey.

Writing Philosophy (PDF 312.24 KB)

O homen sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser, Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie

O homen sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie are the Portuguese and the German version of a common biographical project that was conceived in Miguel Flusser’s country estate in Itatiba near São Paulo in November 2014. The two books will be published this fall by Annablume editora in São Paulo and transcript Verlag in Bielefeld (http://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-4064-9/vilem-flusser-19201991), respectively. This bilingual attempt is the first book-length biography of Vilém and Edith Flusser.

Quando (PDF 202.66 KB)
Prólogo absurdo (PDF 136.83 KB)
Epilog (PDF 103.56 KB)

E-Book Jubiläumsedition. Die erste Dekade / Flusser Studies E-book Anniversary Edition

Anniversary Edition (PDF 266.67 KB)
Jubiläumsedition (PDF 149.77 KB)
E-book (EPUB 972.27 KB)

Cotton Wool. On Flusserian Methodology and Terminology

Flusser’s attempt to cross-fertilize the disciplines, to synthesize philosophy, art and science, relies on the use of hybrid multifocal terminology. This implies the use of different strategies: horizontal expansion through multiple successive translation, vertical segmentation through etymology, integration of conceptual opposites, crossbreeding between disciplinary areas, exploration of the phonetical and visual side of words, wordplay. Furthermore, these main strategies are not used on their own, but combined in different and always changing ways with each other. The borders of words are not fixed. They overlap, mix and merge. I would like to explore Flusser’s writing and thinking styles in order to approach and understand the challenges stemming from his idiosyncratic innovative methodology.

Cotton Wool (PDF 794.93 KB)

Literary Translingualism in Switzerland: Pierre Lepori and Beat Christen

The Swiss writer Conrad Ferdinand Meyer had two languages at his disposal, German and French. He hesitated, but in the end he opted to write in German. His decision was deeply affected by the outcome of the French-German war of 1870, which led to the unification of Germany. Contemporary Swiss writers do no longer have to grapple with such heartbreaking decisions. Quite the opposite is the case. In the last few decades, new forms of translingual writing have come into being. They have created a dense dialogical net across the country linking the four linguistic regions with each other. In this paper I would like to discuss two significant examples of this new form of translingual literature. Pierre Lepori combines Italian and French and Beat Christen writes in German and French.

Literary translingualism (PDF 629.65 KB)

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