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2008 - Agents of Aggressive Order Letters Hands and the [retrieved_2024-01-29].pdf (97.38 kB)

‘Agents of Aggressive Order’: Letters, Hands, and the Grasping Power of Teeth in the Early Canadian Torture Narrative

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posted on 2024-01-29, 21:25 authored by Monique TschofenMonique Tschofen

This paper brings together a most fascinating and under-examined body of early New World writing that belong to a genre of writing I call “the torture narrative” with the insights of Marshall McLuhan in order to offer a way of thinking about body parts, especially hands, teeth, tongues, and eyeballs, and their extensions through technologies such as alphabets, manuscripts, books, and weapons. At its core are questions about the nature and effects of the changes wrought by the early-Gutenberg era—a period characterized by vast scientific and technical discoveries, rising nationalisms, explorations, and conquests—in the New World. Rather than explore the ways an early New World print culture reflects or distorts discrete historical or ethnographic facts about colonial contact, I want to probe the ways the torture narrative speaks to the conditions of speaking and writing, and therefore to the discursive and textual production of the New World subject and New World space. My inquiry seeks to understand both the violence in, and the violence of, representation at founding historical moments, but its relevance far exceeds Renaissance or American studies. At stake in this discussion is an appreciation of a mode of intellectual inquiry that is attentive to the relationship between media technologies and the social worlds they reflect and transform.

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