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Dorsality

Thinking Back through Technology and Politics

2008
Author:

David Wills

Dorsality

An ambitious investigation of what lurks behind our humanity and our technology

In this highly original book David Wills rethinks not only our nature before all technology but also what we understand to be technology. Rather than considering the human being as something natural that then develops technology, Wills argues, we should instead imagine an originary imbrication of nature and machine that begins with a dorsal turn—a turn that takes place behind our back, outside our field of vision.

Dorsality is a fierce engagement with the question of technology, going far behind where we usually see it emerge in the political and ethical dilemmas of our age. Wills offers a highly original approach to contemporary debate concerning the human and goes back into the whole space of the unknown and unforeseen that constantly threatens to overtake our naively human perspective.

Jean-Luc Nancy

In this highly original book David Wills rethinks not only our nature before all technology but also what we understand to be technology. Rather than considering the human being as something natural that then develops technology, Wills argues, we should instead imagine an originary imbrication of nature and machine that begins with a dorsal turn—a turn that takes place behind our back, outside our field of vision.

With subtle and insightful readings, Wills pursues this sense of what lies behind our idea of the human by rescuing Heidegger’s thinking from a reductionist dismissal of technology, examining different angles on Lévinas’s face-to-face relation, and tracing a politics of friendship and sexuality in Derrida and Sade. He also analyzes versions of exile in Joyce’s rewriting of Homer and Broch’s rewriting of Virgil and discusses how Freud and Rimbaud exemplify the rhetoric of soil and blood that underlies every attempt to draw lines between nations and discriminate between peoples. In closing, Wills demonstrates the political force of rhetoric in a sophisticated analysis of Nietzsche’s oft-quoted declaration that “God is dead.”

Forward motion, Wills ultimately reveals, is an ideology through which we have favored the front—what can be seen—over the aspects of the human and technology that lie behind the back and in the spine—what can be sensed otherwise—and shows that this preference has had profound environmental, political, sexual, and ethical consequences.

Dorsality

David Wills is professor in the departments of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and of English at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the author of several books, including Prosthesis and Matchbook. His work develops ideas concerning the relation between the human and the technological.

Dorsality

Dorsality is a fierce engagement with the question of technology, going far behind where we usually see it emerge in the political and ethical dilemmas of our age. Wills offers a highly original approach to contemporary debate concerning the human and goes back into the whole space of the unknown and unforeseen that constantly threatens to overtake our naively human perspective.

Jean-Luc Nancy

Today, when more and more people seem to believe that they must ‘move forward’ at all costs, David Wills' Dorsality arrives just in time to provide a powerful and badly needed reminder that what moves and concerns us is not necessarily situated in our 45-degree frontal field of vision.

Samuel Weber

Wills engages in groundbreaking thinking in regards to human relations to technology. Although Wills sometimes writes with a Derridean interest—or should I say flair?—for tropes, he always clearly returns to issues of a present and political nature. For anyone writing or thinking about technology—especially the question of technology where continental philosophers are concerned—his articulation of technology as the rupture of the integral subject is especially insightful. As such, this is a must read for anyone who believes that their criticism, or art, has an affect on, or the ability to change today’s world.

Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies

Inventive, complex, and theoretically attuned.

Year’s Work in English Studies

Dorsality aims to enact its thesis--not just to represent a concept or describe a figure, but to perform a turn that is politically, ethically, and sexually significant with every turn of the page.

Reviews in Cultural Theory