At the heart of this important new book is the tension between literacy and the open acknowledgement of discrepancies within social and linguistic fields on the one hand, and what Sussman terms the resolving function, the utopian picture of harmony depicted by the state and large organizations, on the other. After discussing some examples of the resolving function--Barthes's notion of the myth, Kundera's fictional treatment of kitsch, and contemporary television--Sussman draws on a line of theoretical inquiry extending from Saussure to Derrida in order to put forth a differential model of literacy in which the skills necessary to participate productively in culture are more disjunctive than associative in nature. Awareness of the discrepancies set into play by language is necessary, he argues, for both the individual and the society to understand the complex and sometimes contradictory web of socioeconomic, political, and semiological relations in which they are involved. Combining literary theory with close textual readings of works by Hawthorne, Melville, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Italo Calvino, this book is the first to explore the socio-political correlatives to literary studies--the mass media's ambivalence toward the linguistic apprehensions and skills that make them possible.
- Publication Date:
- 09 / 02 / 1989