History and Technology Vol. 21, No. 3, September 2005, pp. 325–329 ESSAY REVIEW

A Gramophone in Every Grave

TheTaylorGHAT119856.sgm10.1080/07341510500198735Hist[email protected]iit.edu Review and& and Francis (print)/1477-2620Francis Technologyof HumanitiesIllinois Group 2005 LtdSenses Ltd (online) Institute of TechnologyChicagoIL60616USA of : Technology, Perception, and Aesthetics SARA DANIUS , NY: Cornell University Press, 2002

When the protagonist of ’s Magic Mountain, Hans Castorp, first glimpses the chest of the woman he loves, it is a seminal image for students of modern and modern technology. The X-ray portrait penetrates through the surface layers of clothes and skin, and reveals an inner world of delicate bones, internal organs, and ghostlike flesh. The X-ray keepsake is a new form of memory, mediated by technology. In this smart and engaging book, Sara Danius brings a historicizing approach and close textual analysis to key passages in the modernist canon. The ques- tions she asks of Mann’s Magic Mountain, ’s Remembrance of Things Past, and ’s are difficult and intelligent ones. How did photography, gramophones, motion pictures, city trams, automobiles, and airplanes affect modern- ist culture? How did modernist engage these perception-changing technolo- gies? Why is the obvious presence of technology in their works hard to see? How can we conceptualize these changes in technology, culture, and aesthetics? To begin, she suggests that a deep-seated antitechnological bias accounts for the great silence about technology in the standard interpretations of . The bias began with the modernists themselves (making intellectual space in a technol- ogy saturated culture) and it continued with the legion of critics and interpreters who followed in their wake. In the conventional view, literary is about embracing a romantic tradition, about elevating refined learning and Kultur over mass culture and Zivilisation, about gaining distance from urban–industrial society, about asserting the autonomy of the artist and of art from mass society. Danius allows that some interpreters of modernism—Stephen Kern, Marshall Berman, Cecelia Tichi, and Lisa Gitelman are my personal favorites (p. 198, note 8)—acknowledge the presence of machines, but she feels they have not properly thematized technology or located it within an aesthetic framework. Above all, she aims trenchant blows at the numerous

ISSN 0734–1512 (print)/ISSN 1477–2620 (online) © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd DOI: 10.1080/07341510500198735 326 Essay Review writers who adopt the ‘myth of the Fall,’ by counterpoising some original, organic, traditional, or premodern cultural formulation against the modern. Resisting any of these easy dualisms, Danius sees a more complex pattern. For her three canonical authors, as well as numerous additional figures she treats in briefer detail, she shows that technologies were far from peripheral. This is true even for Proust, conventionally seen as the determined champion of a private, subjective concept of time in the face of the public, homogeneous time spawned by railroads and factories. ‘An unsurpassed chronicle of the advent of modern technology, Remembrance of Things Past orchestrates a whole world of innovations that parade through the from beginning to end, from the telephone to the automobile’ (p. 11). These perception- altering technologies snagged the attention of modernist writers, she suggests, for very good reason: they were pervasive, culturally evocative, and philosophically challenging. It has been difficult to see the obvious significance of technology, she thinks, because its influence was not often dramatic and disjunctive for writers in the early . Whereas writers and painters in the middle of the 19th century confronted something new and unsettling in factories, railroads, and industrial cities, for the modernists who inhabited the early 20th century these same technologies were already naturalized, a part of everyday life, noticed as much or as little as water service is today. Edouard Manet’s The Railroad (1873) is something of a watershed, if you recall that a sleeping puppy snuggles in the arms of the young woman, herself serene and indifferent to the locomotive’s steam billowing up in the background, while it is the little girl whose attention is captured by the passing train. A generation later, it required some- thing really spectacular like the first glimpse of an airplane overhead to bring tears of emotion to Proust’s narrator. Yet this antitechnological bias is not a question of history and evidence alone. Danius understands that most theorists of modernism perceptibly tilted the field with their invocation of a ‘great divide’ between old and new, and such value-charged dualisms as art/commerce, originality/reproducibility, organic/mechanical, individual/collec- tive. The appeal to one dualism or another has hardened into a discursive system that limits, as do all discursive systems, what is possible to think about modernism. In this dualistic discourse, as she points out, technology ‘invariably appears in the same nega- tively charged cluster as science, instrumental reason, and utilitarian thought’ (p. 38). Given this bias, theories of modernism routinely omit or overlook the conspicuous if not at all clear relationship of technology to art and aesthetics. For her part, Danius jettisons the dualistic discourse in favor of an approach she borrows from science- studies theorists Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, among others, that accents the irreducible hybridity of modern life. Danius aims for a reflexive stance, where, as she writes (p. 206, note 57) ‘the social, economic, and cultural transformation that is so often designated as a transition from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft is both accounted for and problematized as a lingering conceptual structure linked to the self-understanding of the moderns.’ Evidently, her aim is more than just bringing to light the forgotten terrain of tech- nologies in these canonical works, of showing that ‘technology provides a crucial context’ to modern writers, though she ably does just this. Her more fundamental point History and Technology 327 is to demonstrate ‘that technology is in a specific sense constitutive of high-modernist aesthetics’ (p. 3; emphases in original). Each of her three principal authors grappled with particular technologies because they challenged prevailing notions of perception and representation. Mann, Proust, and Joyce were forced to articulate their philosoph- ical and aesthetic theories in the presence, as it were, of pervasive technologies in every- day life. Technological themes saturate (1924). Its protagonist Hans Castorp is a newly graduated engineer, about to begin work with a firm of shipbuilders, smelters, and machinists. The novel opens with his journey, by train, from the port city of up into the Swiss mountains to visit his sick cousin. The novel is set in a technologized sanitarium well stocked with an X-ray machine, a bacteriological labo- ratory, a full surgery, syringes, thermometers and lesser medical instruments, as well as stereoscopes, kaleidoscopes, zoetropes, and gramophones for the patients’ leisure. Danius portrays the sanitarium as the site of invasive medical technologies, including the sociotechnical network of doctors, nurses, and technicians needed for the high-tech X-ray machine. (There is surely more to be said about the sanitarium itself as a techno- logical system and total institution.) For Hans Castorp an X-ray image of his own hand conjures up a haunting image of mortality. ‘Under that light, he saw the process of corruption anticipated, saw the flesh in which he moved decomposed, expunged, dissolved into airy nothingness … and for the first time in his life he understood that he would die’ (p. 81). The question for Danius is how did Mann represent these evocative technologies. Most obviously, the technology of the X-ray subverts basic categories of perception and morality. After all, with such a tool at hand, what really is the inside and the outside of a human body? The specific representations of the various machines in Magic Moun- tain, Danius maintains, show that the novel is inscribed in the fractious -era debates about technology, Zivilisation, and Kultur. The optical toys that trick the eye raise philosophical issues of representation and perception, while cultural and aesthetic issues are at play in Castorp’s quest to achieve the refined education sanctioned by high culture. Significantly, Castorp rarely attends showings of motion pictures, a signature of mass culture. Instead he masters the music-making gramophone, which Mann care- fully locates on the side of Kultur. ‘This is no apparatus, no machine, … this is an instrument, this is a Stradivarius, a Guarneri,’ the sanitarium’s director explains. ‘German-made, you see—we make far and away the best. Music most faithful, in its modern, mechanical form. The German soul, up-to-date’ (p. 85). Danius places Remembrance of Things Past (1913–27) firmly in Proust’s post-Ruskin period, with scarcely a trace of or antimodernism. While calling him a full-fledged theorist of technology stretches the point, she persuasively shows that Proust articulated his aesthetic positions within a technological world and not against it. His narrator, she writes, ‘goes for automobile rides, is fascinated by bicycles, pores over photographs, dispatches telegrams, reads newspapers, compares his gaze to an X- ray camera, often talks on the phone, and even fantasizes about a photo-telephone’ (p. 119). His narrator appears something of a technological enthusiast—except, again, for motion pictures. 328 Essay Review For Proust and others, motion pictures were problematic in part because of their relation to mass culture. An underlying problem was the nature of motion. How should a fast-moving object such as a speeding train, plane, or automobile be prop- erly represented: as a blurred smear of light as our eyes might see it, as a collage of fast-frozen still images on a single photographic plate as in Etienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotography (the inspiration for Duchamp’s controversial ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’), or as the linear stream of still images captured by a motion picture camera? With Proust the really interesting point is, as Danius puts it, ‘the tension between the narrator’s critical reflections upon cinematography and the appropria- tion of uniquely cinematographic modes of signification’ (p. 141). In Proust’s narra- tive she identifies literary counterparts to such cinematic techniques as montage and close-up. For an automobile excursion in the countryside the description is perceptu- ally inverted so that immobile objects, houses, trees, even the sea, are set in motion while the car appears stationary. (Joyce also deploys such framing devices in Ulysses.) Even in staging his ideal of unmediated visual experience, Proust employs recogniz- ably photographic representations. In a depicting a street scuffle, the text strikingly calls to mind one of Marey’s multiple-image chronophotographs: ‘I saw a number of ovoid bodies … compose a flickering constellation in front of Saint-Loup. Flung out like stones from a catapult, they seemed to me to be at the very least seven in number. They were merely, however, Saint-Loup’s two fists, multiplied by the speed with which they were changing place …’ (p. 143). If technological themes are less overt in Ulysses (1922), Danius nonetheless terms Joyce’s 3000-page novel ‘a monument to the technological changes’ explored by Mann and Proust. ‘In Joyce these changes have for the most past migrated into questions of form … the historical processes that Proust’s and Mann’s subject to discussion are already sedimented in the narrative form of Ulysses’ (pp. 149–50). No great divide separates the modern from the traditional; the text fully accepts the minutia of modern daily life. Focusing on the ear and eye, Joyce investigates the perceptional problems of seeing and of hearing against the backdrop of telephones, newspapers, and gramo- phones. While Proust made immobile objects rush toward the speeding automobile, Joyce invests whole classes of inanimate objects with human-like agency. ‘The gramo- phone, the bells, the gong, the chimes, and the pianola … play proper roles in the phan- tasmagoric drama, speaking, acting, singing, and otherwise interacting with the protagonists …’ (p. 161). Cinematic techniques, too, are pressed into the service of Joyce’s aesthetics of immediacy. People move, frame by frame, into and away from the narrator’s field of vision. Even the flickering of the motion picture image appears in the text. Telephones and gramophones are such naturalized, everyday objects that Bloom even fantasizes about placing them in coffins—just in case the person buried there would find it handy (p. 182). I am impressed with Danius’s achievement in showing in detail how technologies change the world, yet as a historian I am uncomfortable when the machines she writes about have no histories themselves. They appear from nowhere, as fully formed agents of change. Her reflexive sensibility, so well attuned to modernism, does not extend to technology. For historians such phrases as ‘a certain logic of technologization’ History and Technology 329 (pp. 7–8) must raise a conceptual red flag, which is not entirely calmed by her encour- aging words about the ‘mutual determination,’ ‘multiple determination,’ or ‘mediation’ of technology and aesthetics, and of technologies as non-deterministic ‘conditions of possibility.’ I appreciate the assertion that ‘technology and modernist aesthetics should be understood as internal to one another’ (pp. 10–11; emphasis in original). However, it is an axiom for historians that technologies possess no ‘certain logic,’ neither in their origins nor in their consequences. The possibility that modern culture influenced the creators of the perception-changing technologies is simply not on Danius’ conceptual map. In her book such figures as Roentgen, Marey, and the Lumière brothers invent culture-changing machines but themselves stand outside culture. It is their inventions—shorn of the sociotechnical networks that transformed them from laboratory curiosities into widely available artifacts and systems—that impinge on modernist writers. To my mind, a proper understanding of and modernism requires historicizing not only modernist culture but also the machines and systems that helped bring it about. Clearly, The Senses of Modernism will be indispensable to that wider task.

THOMAS J. MISA Department of Humanities, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL 60616, USA Email: [email protected]