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"A New and More Elegant Edition": Franklin's Autobiography Mediated through Cultural Techniques

「更新更好的版本」:文化技術中介的富蘭克林《自傳》

Abstracts


In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin compares himself to a book. More than once, he uses "errata" to describe the faults he has made in his life and prays for corrections of these errata in the "second Edition." The comparison of his life to a book, I argue, indicates his eccentric idea of a life that is perpetuated through the cultural techniques of the eighteenth century. This shows that the idea of "de-faulting," or removing faults, is embedded in his thoughts. Considering this, his request for the removal of his "errata" in future editions gains a posthuman implication. In this study, I employ "cultural techniques" proposed by German media theorist Bernhard Siegert to examine the use of the postal system and the memorandum book in Franklin's Autobiography. Formed as a letter addressed to his first son, the first part of the Autobiography shows how the modern subject was constituted in a postal/police system that gave birth to the idea of liberty but also demanded self-discipline at the same time. In the second half of the essay, I examine Franklin's use of the memorandum book in his "Art of Virtue." The table on which his errata are enlisted and checked from time to time paves a route for the development of the feedback loop. Both techniques bespeak Franklin's network thinking, anticipating modern cybernetics.

Parallel abstracts


富蘭克林在其《自傳》當中將自己的一生比喻為一本書。他不止一次用「勘誤表」來描述曾犯過的錯,並祈禱這些錯誤能在「第二版」中校正過來。我認為以書籍來比喻生命說明了富蘭克林獨樹一幟的想法,除了突顯十八世紀透過文化技術來延展的生命觀之外,也暗示「去錯」的概念早已蘊含在其思想中。從這個角度思考,富蘭克林對未來「勘誤」的請求深具後人類意涵。在本文中我將透過德國媒介理論家席格爾所提出的文化技術概念來檢視富蘭克林《自傳》中對郵政系統和記事手帳的使用。《自傳》的第一部是以他寫給長子的家書所構成,我將以此說明現代主體是如何在郵/警政系統中所形構,此系統同時也衍生出自由以及自我規範的概念。在本論文的後段,我檢視富蘭克林如何透過記事手帳來演練「美德技藝」。他設計來登錄、並一再檢核錯誤的表格則為控制學中的反饋迴路預作安排。不論是郵政,亦或是記事手帳都說明了富蘭克林所具備的網絡式思考,遙遙呼應了現代控制學發展。

References


Blair, Ann, and Peter Stallybrass. “Mediating Information, 1450-1800.” Siskin and Warner, This Is Enlightenment, pp. 139-63.
Bredvold, Louis I. “The Invention of the Ethical Calculus.” The Seventeenth Century: Studies in the History of English Thought and Literature from Bacon to Pope, edited by Richard Foster Jones, Stanford UP, 1951, pp. 165-80.
Castronovo, Russ. Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America. Oxford UP, 2014.
Chartier, Roger. Inscription and Erasure: Literature and Written Culture from the Eleventh to the Eighteenth Century. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer, U of Pennsylvania P, 2007.
Colclough, Stephen. “Pocket Books and Portable Writing: The Pocket Memorandum Books in Eighteenth-Century England and Wales.” The Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 45, 2015, pp. 159-77.

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