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By Christopher Bush

Ideographic Modernism offers a serious account of the ideograph (Chinese writing as imagined within the West) as a modernist invention. instead of targeting the accuracy of this ideograph as one of those illustration of China (a concentration that might yield predictable results), Christopher Bush reconstructs the explicit heritage of the ideograph so that it will discover the query of illustration in additional primary methods, ways in which mirror the range and complexity of literary modernism itself. On one point, the ebook makes a controversy concerning the which means and serve as of the ideograph in the course of the modernist interval, particularly that this imagined chinese language writing was once a posh reaction to some of the writings of such technological media because the photo, the phonograph, the cinematograph, and the telegraph. via analyses of works through Claudel, Pound, Kafka, Benjamin, Segalen, and Valéry, between others, Ideographic Modernism strains the interweaving of Western modernity's ethnographic and technological imaginaries, within which the cultural results of technological media assumed ''Chinese'' types, whilst conventional representations of ''the Orient'' lived on in modernist-era responses to media. On one other point, the ebook makes a methodological argument, demonstrating new methods of improving the commonly neglected presence of China within the textual content of Western modernism. as well as being its material, then, ideographic modernism can be the book's procedure: a polemically ''literal'' means of studying that demands reevaluations either one of how modernist literature with regards to its ancient contexts and of the ways that we will remember that courting at the present time.

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Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media

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Extra info for Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media

Example text

9 In comparison to “hieroglyph,” which entered English in the late sixteenth century and whose cognates date back to ancient Greek, “ideograph” is decidedly modern, having been coined in 1822 by Champollion to distinguish hieroglyphic graphemes with a semantic function from those with a phonetic value. The earliest English example of “ideograph” cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Edward Hincks’s On Hieroglyphics (1835–40), where it is used in this sense. Beyond this lexicographic connection, the Chinese and ancient Egyptian writing systems are frequently associated with each other in the Western imagination, particularly in their uses as topoi—this despite the lack of any 8.

Such a paired reading of the Orientalist and media imaginaries suggests that two major aspects of modernism that are rarely if ever discussed together are in fact intimately related—and that the ideograph is one of the places, one of the topoi, where this commonality can be read. 31 Orientalism, the ideograph, and media theory grew up together. Champollion began his pioneering work in Egyptology between 1808 and 1818, culminating in the famous 1822 Letter to Dacier, in which the word ideograph was coined, followed by the 1824 Précis.

18. This idea is found frequently in the literature and dates back at least to Leibniz: “the Chinese having an infinity of characters in accordance with the truth of things, they require a man’s life to learn enough of their writing” (Leibniz, 1703 letter to Bouvet, quoted in Derrida, De la grammatologie, 119; 79-80). Although believing other factors to be at work (including climate), Herder also emphasizes the transformative effects of the Chinese writing system on thought: “so the entire educated way of thinking of the Chinese is painted in artificial and stale hieroglyphs.

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