Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-ndqjc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-26T09:53:57.045Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

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


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)

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

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Works Cited

Rev. of a: A Novel, by Andy Warhol. New Yorker 4 Jan. 1969: 82. Print.Google Scholar
Acland, Charles R. Introduction. Residual Media. Ed. Acland. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007. xiii-xxvii. Print.Google Scholar
Andy Warhol's a.” American Poetry Review Mar.-Apr. 1978: 45. Print.Google Scholar
Beauman, Sally. Rev. of a: A Novel, by Andy Warhol. New York Times Book Review 12 Jan. 1969: 32. Print.Google Scholar
Beeching, Wilfred A. Century of the Typewriter. New York: St. Martin's, 1974. Print.Google Scholar
Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Illuminations. By Benjamin. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken, 1968. 217–52. Print.Google Scholar
Bolter, Jay David, and Grusin, Richard. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT P, 1999. Print.Google Scholar
Bosanquet, Theodora. Henry James at Work. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2006. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bukatman, Scott. Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carroll, Paul. “What's a Warhol?1969. Pratt 4257.Google Scholar
Danto, Arthur C.Andy Warhol.” Nation 3 Apr. 1989: 458-61. Print.Google Scholar
Darlington, George M. Office Management. New York: Ronald, 1942. Print.Google Scholar
Davies, Margery W. Woman's Place Is at the Typewriter: Office Work and Office Workers, 1870-1930. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1982. Print.Google Scholar
DeKoven, Marianne. Utopia Limited: The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. Print.Google Scholar
Delgado, Alan. The Enormous File: A Social History of the Office. London: Murray, 1979. Print.Google Scholar
DeLoca, Cornelius E., and Kalow, Samuel Jay. The Romance Division: A Different Side of IBM. New York: Vantage, 1991. Print.Google Scholar
Dworkin, Craig. “Whereof One Cannot Speak.” Grey Room 21 (2005): 4669. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land. The Waste Land and Other Writings. New York: Random, 2002. 3856. Print.Google Scholar
Fleissner, Jennifer L. “Dictation Anxiety: The Stenographer's Stake in Dracula.” Price and Thurschwell, Literary Secretaries 6390.Google Scholar
Gallo, Rubén. Mexican Modernity: The Avant-Garde and the Technological Revolution. Cambridge: MIT P, 2005. Print.Google Scholar
Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl” and Other Poems. 1956. San Francisco: City Lights, 2006. Print.Google Scholar
Gitelman, Lisa. Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. Print.Google Scholar
Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149–81. Print.Google Scholar
Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hedstrom, Margaret L. “Beyond Feminisation: Clerical Workers in the United States from the 1920s through the 1960s.” The White-Blouse Revolution: Female Office Workers since 1870. Ed. Gregory Anderson. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1988. 143-69. Print.Google Scholar
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. 1991. Durham: Duke UP, 2001. Print.Google Scholar
Kerouac, Jack. On the Road: The Original Scroll. New York: Viking, 2007. Print.Google Scholar
Kittler, Friedrich A. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey and Wutz, Michael. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. Print.Google Scholar
Kwolek-Folland, Angel. Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870-1930. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994. Print.Google Scholar
Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. New York: Methuen, 1987. Print.Google Scholar
Nicosia, Gerald. Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994. Print.Google Scholar
Perreault, John. “Andy Warhol.” 1970. Pratt 6066.Google Scholar
Pratt, Alan R., ed. The Critical Response to Andy Warhol. Westport: Greenwood, 1997. Print.Google Scholar
Price, Leah, and Thurschwell, Pamela. “Invisible Hands.” Introduction. Price and Thurschwell, Literary Secretaries 112.Google Scholar
Price, Leah, eds. Literary Secretaries / Secretarial Culture. Burlington: Ashgate, 2005. Print.Google Scholar
Shiach, Morag. “Modernity, Labour, and the Typewriter.” Modernist Sexualities. Ed. Stevens, Hugh and Howlett, Caroline. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2000. 114–29. Print.Google Scholar
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. Ontario: Broadview, 1998. Print.Google Scholar
Use of Office Space.” Office Management: A Handbook. Ed. Maze, Coleman L. New York: Ronald, 1947. 379426. Print.Google Scholar
Warhol, Andy. a: A Novel. 1968. New York: Grove, 1998. Print.Google Scholar
Warhol, Andy. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (from A to B and back Again). New York: Harcourt, 1975. Print.Google Scholar
Wershler-Henry, Darren S. The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting. Toronto: McClelland, 2005. Print.Google Scholar
Wicke, Jennifer. “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media.” ELH 59.1 (1992): 467–93. Print.Google Scholar
Wolf, Reva. Andy Warhol, Poetry, and Gossip in the 1960s. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997. Print.Google Scholar