Collected Prose by Paul Auster

By Paul Auster

From the writer of "The ny Trilogy", "Moon Palace" and "The e-book of Illusions", comes a hugely own selection of essays, prefaces and coffee items written for magazines and newspapers. Ranging in topic from Walter Raleigh to Kafka; Hawthorne to high-wire artist Philippe Petit; conceptual artist Sophie Calle to his personal typewriter; and the area exchange middle disaster to his cherished long island urban itself, Auster monitors his generic aptitude, wit and perception.

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The idea of “examining culture as an assemblage of texts” enjoyed a tremendous vogue in the 1970s, and still does. The older idea of cultures as “perceptual systems” nevertheless continued to exert some hold over the anthropological imagination. ” According to Cassirer: “Symbolic forms are not imitations, but organs of reality, since it is solely by their agency that anything real becomes an object for intellectual apprehension, and as such is made visible to us” (quoted in Becker 1979: 2). ” Becker’s invention of the text-organ may be seen as a quite logical solution to the epistemological conundrum created by the rede‹nition of the world as “the ensemble of references opened up by the texts” following in the tradition of Ricoeur (1970) and Geertz (1973).

This rede‹nition paved the way for the imaginary text-organ to take over from the sense organs proper as the preferred (indeed, the only) means of knowing the world. The following passage from Becker’s introduction to The Imagination of Reality illustrates how pervasive this substitution, or takeover, had become. Becker writes that to use the word text the way Geertz does when he writes “cultural forms can be treated as texts” is in form metaphoric, but perhaps the idea goes beyond the metaphoric in that a linguistic text, written or oral, may be the same sort of thing as a meal, a ritual dance, or a temple, to mention some of the non-linguistic texts described in these essays.

It is instructive to re›ect on the biases that the model of cultures “as texts” and the metaphor of “reading culture” smuggle into the interpretive process. Basically, the “reading culture” metaphor imparts both a visual and a verbal bias to any analysis. The visual bias stems from the ocularcentric character of the activity of reading. , the Taking Leave of Our Senses 19 anthropologist who relies on the metaphor of reading to order his or her experience of a culture) will tend to speculate, instead of participate.

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