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Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi

2005
Author:

Timothy C. Campbell

Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi

Correlates Italian and European modernism with early wireless technology

Timothy C. Campbell demonstrates that Guglielmo Marconi's invention of the wireless telegraph had an impact on poetry and aesthetics and linked the written word to mass politics. Reading works such as Rudolf Arnheim's 1936 study Radio and Ezra Pound's Cantos, Campbell presents an alternative history of modernism that bears in mind the media environment brought about by the emergence of the wireless.

An intricately and compellingly argued analysis of the new media conditions under which writing functions in the early twentieth century.

Barbara Spackman, University of California, Berkeley

Wireless technology has become deeply embedded in everyday life, but its impact cannot be fully understood without probing the contributions of the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), who ushered in the beginning of wireless communication. Marconi produced and detected sound waves over long distances, using the curvature of the earth for direction, and laid the foundations for what we know as radio—the original mobile, voice-activated, and electronic media community.

Timothy C. Campbell demonstrates that Marconi’s invention of the wireless telegraph was not simply a technological act but also had an impact on poetry and aesthetics and linked the written word to the rise of mass politics. Reading influential works such as F. T. Marinetti’s futurist manifestos, Rudolf Arnheim’s 1936 study Radio, writings by Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Campbell reveals how the newness of wireless technology was inscribed in the ways modernist authors engaged with typographical experimentation, apocalyptic tones, and newly minted models for registering voices. Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi presents an alternative history of modernism that listens as well as looks and bears in mind the altered media environment brought about by the emergence of the wireless.

Awards

Media Ecology Association’s Lewis Mumford Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Technics Award winner

Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi

Timothy C. Campbell is assistant professor of Italian at Cornell University.

Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi

An intricately and compellingly argued analysis of the new media conditions under which writing functions in the early twentieth century.

Barbara Spackman, University of California, Berkeley

Campbell’s analysis is both clear and compelling.

Journal of Radio Studies

For several reasons, this is an important book in the field of literature and technology studies. Besides giving an excellent survey of our actual knowledge on the history of the telegraph,in which it foregrounds the cultural background and the surrounding stories, Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi contains in the very first place a series of well-conceived and very illuminating close readings of some major figures and events of the Marconi age. Campbell’s readings offer many new insights into the authors he is studying, and his work encourages the reader to go back to the texts themselves in order to read them afresh. In short, Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi is a challenging but very rewarding book that fills in an enormous lacuna in our knowledge of the first half of 20th-century culture and whose ideas should become dramatically useful for new research in the field of literature and technology studies.

Leonardo

This is a complex book. It offers a very different sense of Marconi and the ‘marconistas’ of the period.

CBQ: Communication Booknotes Quarterly

Will prove particularly enlightening to readers concerned with the relationship between politics and the mass media in the 21st century. Highly Recommended!

Choice

His history is, in general, precise and related in consistently interesting ways to the texts he examines.

Modernism/Modernity