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Lost in Transcription: Postwar Typewriting Culture, Andy Warhol's Bad Book, and the Standardization of Error

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Abstract

This essay considers the instability of the typewriter as a writing machine and as an object within the media history of the twentieth century, examining how the typewriter keyboard and the transcriptive protocols of the modern office materially shape writing practice. The standardization of the typewriter system produces a textual aesthetics of error and uncertainty rather than of mechanized circumscription. Andy Warhol's a is a novel whose mode of production explores the limits of the typewriter's transcriptive uncertainty. Written by a distributed network of typists and inundated with errors and ambiguities, a offers a radically defamiliarizing representation of how the typewriter system opens new pathways of authorship, embodiment, and literary production. Drawing on a's aesthetic experimentation, this essay argues that the localized, idiosyncratic, yet often suppressed disruptions produced by the typewriter suggest the possibility of an alternative to linear, teleological conceptions of media history. (PB)

Type
Cluster on Textual Materialism
Copyright
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2010

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