Flusser Studies 25 - May 2018 / Special Issue: Flusser as a Writer
Part I Flusser as a Writer
Time / Apokalypse und Fuge / Türkische Fabel / Das Märchen der Wahrheit
A metamorfose de Kafka em Flusser
The most famous literary metamorphosis is Kafka’s short eponymous tale published in 1915. For more than a hundred years now, the first sentence of The Metamorphosis has been provoking an infinite series of metamorphoses: in culture, literature, as well as in readers and writers. Among the writers most affected by the event, we find Vilém Flusser who turned himself into Brazilian and foreigner in the world at the same time. Flusser transformed philosophy into a philosophical fiction and charged it with the same sardonic irony we associate with Kafka’s fiction. Because of his metamorphoses, he became a fictional character himself, as Rainer Guldin and I pointed out in the biography we wrote about him. Sérgio Paulo Rouanet called Vilém Flusser ironically a Meta-Švejk. Flusser did not consider himself a post-philosopher – a Post-Husserl or Post-Vaihinger – but rather a Post-Kafka. In this sense, his philosophy is a kind of a post-Kafkaesque fiction.
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.
The Protreptic Writer
Focussing on the text of the essay “The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe,” this paper proposes that at least some of Flusser’s writing can be usefully identified as protreptic. Having arisen in ancient Greece as a form of speech or writing for the explicit purpose of persuading an audience, protreptic also served to display the author’s skills and attract students, persuading young men to take up philosophy. It was never confined to a particular genre of writing, but always addressed its audience in a specified situation, that is, in circumstances shared by writer and reader. Applied to Flusser’s writing, the “communicative purpose” becomes a way of examining both the compositional structure and the implicit dialogue between writer and reader that appears in the text. Questions about the implied identity of the reader and of her relationship to the writer lead to a conclusion that even as the text argues about the right way to classify the gesture of smoking a pipe, it is also performing a phenomenological inquiry. The reader plays the role of audience to the performance, and so becomes the object of persuasion at another level as well. The paper further suggests that study of rhetorical structures in Flusser’s writing may reveal a new level of coherence across its languages, disciplines and genres.
Flusser para além do ensaio: de outros modos possíveis de habitar a intersecção entre ficção e filosofia
In this paper, I analyze philosophical, rhetorical, and fictional strategies of some of Flusser’s texts in Ficções filosóficas [Philosophical Fictions] (1999), aiming to discuss how Flusser confronted the intersection between fiction and philosophy. I argue that Flusser is very aware of issues of form and style of philosophical texts and I emphasize Flusser’s powerful particularities in this matter. On the one hand, Flusser’s unorthodoxies — constant alteration of points of views, (auto)irony, sarcasm, acting against the apparatus, etc. — are used as strategies of thought and criticism, in contrast with the more technical philosophical practice institutionalized in Brazilian Universities, which occurred simultaneously with the publication of some of Flusser’s texts. These academic philosophers sacrificed literature in the name of a newborn and very European philosophical community established in São Paulo. They were against the ancient, pompous, and elitist style of conceptual writing, but also opposed to other forms of conceptual knowledge, such as Eastern or indigenous philosophy. On the other hand, the particularities of Flusser’s writing distinguish him from other already classical and contemporary ways of understanding what an essay is, for instance, in Theodor Adorno, who does not disrupt the contraposition between subject and object, theory and art. This distinction demands a reconsideration of philosophical styles beyond the essay that inhabit the intersection between fiction and philosophy.
Ficção Filosófica e Perspectivismo Ameríndio: Diálogos conceituais entre Vilém Flusser e Eduardo Viveiros de Castro
Based on the theoretical contribution of Vilém Flusser to the themes of identity and identification, this article approximates Flusserian thought and the Amerindian perspectivism of the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiro de Castro. It argues, on the basis of the book Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, that Flusser performs an exercise in perspectivism, as he proposes an imaginative experience allowing readers to adopt the point of view of another nonhuman being, in this case, the octopus.
Im Spielraum der Ironie. Wie Vilém Flusser über Design schrieb
Flusser’s writings on design are mainly characterized by an essayistic and ironic style. In my text, I highlight Flusser’s use of these two styles, since he considered that the conventional approaches of established discourses could not adequately address the existing realities, and their complexities. For Flusser, essays are phenomenological narrations concerned with arbitrary objects, in which the distinction between common and high culture becomes blurred. That explains why his writings on design and ethics, or on design and war, are described as being difficult to access, and are even provocative. But it is not only the content of Flusser’s essays that provokes. His ironic and parodist style of writing is used to make a caricature of the complacency of the design debates of his time, and to point to the evasive question of responsibility in design. He noted that ethical issues were never raised in relation to the designed objects, and thus he portrayed the design of common or mundane objects as being irresponsible, given that designers focused their attention solely on the object, rather than on the people who use it, or on the cultural contexts in which they were used. Accordingly, Flusser identified design as a tool by which culture betrayed itself. To emphasize this point, he employed images and exaggerations in his essays, which he called “karikaturale Vereinfachungen.” Flusser uses an elaborate etymological juggling of words and caricatures, which is key to his writings on design. I argue that without his etymological caricatures and the irony in his writings, Flusser could not have expressed his philosophy of design with precision.
Reading Flusser is not easy. One can easily get lost in his nomadic thought. Flusser’s writing must be understood as a game, with its own rules: the reader needs to play with those rules, by following or transgressing them. In this short essay, an excerpt from my doctoral dissertation, I try to detect some of Flusser’s habits as a writer that any reader should take into account. His anti-academicism, his plurilingualism, and his interdisciplinary approach demand extra work but can also be very fruitful.
Vilém Flusser, escritor-pensador. Modos de la escritura en El universo de las imagines técnicas
This article is part of a larger investigation about three “writer-thinkers”: Giorgio Agamben (Rome, 1942), Héctor Libertella (Bahía Blanca, 1945 – Buenos Aires, 2006), and Vilém Flusser (Praga, 1920 - 1991). As a “writer-thinker” Vilém Flusser proposes that these notions are reversible, in the same way that he stated that “active” and “passive” were no longer differentiable. His essays are based upon a strong reflection on language, which is made through the process of writing. In many ways, he uses writing to think, and thinking to write. This paper further explores his use of etymology, definitions, series, as well as the nature of writing and fiction, in order to write and think.
A dimensão da escrita em Vilém Flusser e Guimarães Rosa
Vilém Flusser wrote about the Brazilian modernist author João Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967) who he met personally. Although most of Guimarães Rosa’s work had been written before their meeting, Flusser’s thinking might have influenced his writing. In 1961, Guimarães Rosa published the short story Fita verde no cabelo and Flusser wrote an article about it. Both texts were published the same year in the Literary Supplement of O Estado de São Paulo. The essay focuses on questions of style as well as on the cultural and etymological references of the two writers.
Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert. Versuch einer subjektiven Synthese
Der mühsame Auftakt einer publizistischen Karriere: Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert. Versuch einer subjektiven Synthese
This text is a part of my dissertation titled “Vilém Flusser in Brasilien. Eine Anthropophagie des Geistes”. It takes up Rainer Guldin’s reflections on Flusser’s Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert. Versuch einer subjektiven Synthese (cf. Flusser Studies, Nr. 20), a Flusser text which must be regarded as the foundation of his thinking and further writing. Flusser’s epochal title points to historicity. However, Flusser does not pursue an objective approach to history. He undertakes an anthropological introspection of the human being, considering its ‘products’, such as culture, language, philosophy, science, and religion. I draw philosophical and historical connections to two existentialist thinkers: Karl Jaspers and Gustavo Corção, both mentioned as ‘authorities’ by Flusser in a letter to Ernesto Grassi. In the last part of my article, I relate Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert to Flusser’s famous essay on Brazil: Brasilien oder die Suche nach dem neuen Menschen. There, Flusser is not only influenced by Hegel’s dichotomy of history and non-history, but also by notions from both Grassi’s and Keyserling’s Südamerikanische Meditationen. These ‘traditional’ notions are not uncritically adopted but “anthropophagically” converted into new Brazilian ideas.
From Hegel to Zielinski: An Essay on German Media Philosophy
This article discusses an original media philosophy emerging in the German-language since the 1980s. Its relevant contexts described here include phenomenology, social critical theory (the Frankfurt School), and deconstructionism. The starting point of this paper is Hegel’s romantic vision of culture as language, and the area of meanings conveyed by speech and writing, whereas the conclusion is the vision of culture permeated by digital technologies. The so-called “medial turn” is a new opening for philosophical reflection under the aegis of Medienphilosophie. The presentation of its conceptual framework and analytical style is addressed here by the methodological and philosophical devices of Siegfried Zielinski’s media archeology.