The Freudian Robot: Digital Media and the Future of the Unconscious

Paperback | February 28, 2011

byLydia H. Liu

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The identity and role of writing has evolved in the age of digital media. But how did writing itself make digital media possible in the first place? Lydia H. Liu offers here the first rigorous study of the political history of digital writing and its fateful entanglement with the Freudian unconscious.

Liu’s innovative analysis brings the work of theorists and writers back into conversation with one another to document significant meetings of minds and disciplines. She shows how the earlier avant-garde literary experiments with alphabetical writing and the word-association games of psychoanalysis contributed to the mathematical making of digital media. Such intellectual convergence, she argues, completed the transformation of alphabetical writing into the postphonetic, ideographic system of digital media, which not only altered the threshold of sense and nonsense in communication processes but also compelled a new understanding of human-machine interplay at the level of the unconscious.

Ranging across information theory, cybernetics, modernism, literary theory, neurotic machines, and psychoanalysis, The Freudian Robot rewrites the history of digital media and the literary theory of the twentieth century.

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The identity and role of writing has evolved in the age of digital media. But how did writing itself make digital media possible in the first place? Lydia H. Liu offers here the first rigorous study of the political history of digital writing and its fateful entanglement with the Freudian unconscious.Liu’s innovative analysis brings th...

Lydia H. Liu is W. T. Tam Professor in the Humanities in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Director of Graduate Studies at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She is the author or editor of seven books in English and Chinese, including, most recently The Clash of Empires: T...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:February 28, 2011Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226486834

ISBN - 13:9780226486833

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Figures and Tables

INTRODUCTION: The Psychic Life of Digital Media

1 Where Is the Writing of Digital Media?
Why Civilization Matters
Postmodernity and New Media
Three Conceptual Lacunae
Fundamental Challenge to Literary Theory
The Techne of the Unconscious

2 The Invention of Printed English
How the English Alphabet Gained a New Letter
What Is Printed English?
The Genetic Code and Grammatology
The Ideographic Turn of the Phonetic Alphabet
The Number Game in the Empires of the Mind

3 Sense and Nonsense in the Psychic Machine
Finnegans Wake: A Hypermnesiac Machine?
iSpace: Joyce’s Paper Wounds
Schizoprenic Writing at Bell Labs
The Cybernetics Group
The Psychic Machine

4 The Cybernetic Unconscious
French Theory or American Theory?
Lacan Reading Poe: “The Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’”
Les Jeux: Game and Play on the Symbolic Chain
The Cybernetic Unconscious
Return to Sender

5 The Freudian Robot
The Uncanny in the Automaton
The Psychic Life of Media
What Is the Medium of das Unheimliche?
The Uncanny Valley
The Neurotic Machine
Minsky and the Cognitive Unconscious

6 The Future of the Unconscious
The Missed Rendezvous between Critical Theory and Cybernetics
The Ideology Machine
Our Game with the Little “Letters”
Works Cited
Index