Un projet Labex Arts H2H
en /fr
2012 - 2016

Reading: literature and source code
By Yves Abrioux

Professor of English literature, University of Paris 8


In her 2011 Programmed Visions. Software and Memory, Wendy Chun picks up Laurence Lessig’s definition of computer code as law and further specifies it as logos. The way that code conflates legislation with execution is, she further argues, dependent on its perception as source. Chun references Plato’s Phaedrus and Goethe’s Faust when pointing to the performative power of code. I propose to reformulate the question in terms of the “calling forth” or “pro-vocation” which Heidegger associates with the essence of technology, in contrast to Greek or Platonic poïesis. My paper will evoke in this context the use of the “letters” of nuclear biology in Christian Bök’s “Xenotext” project and, more particularly, in his 2015 publication The Xenotext. Book 1. It will question the formulation of gene “expression” as a form of “reading” and turn to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter to suggest an alternative approach to performative reading/writing and thus illustrate the continuing relevance of literary competence to digital subjects entangled in the axiomatics of code.


About the autor

Yves Abrioux is professor of English literature at the University of Paris 8 : Vincennes–Saint-Denis. His research projects are situated at the interface between literature, art, philosophy, science and technology.

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Un projet Labex Arts H2H