Rewiring the Real

In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo

Mark C. Taylor

Columbia University Press

Rewiring the Real

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Pub Date: October 2014

ISBN: 9780231160414

344 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $26.00£22.00

Pub Date: January 2013

ISBN: 9780231160407

344 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£63.00

Pub Date: January 2013

ISBN: 9780231531641

344 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $25.99£22.00

Rewiring the Real

In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo

Mark C. Taylor

Columbia University Press

Digital and electronic technologies that act as extensions of our bodies and minds are changing how we live, think, act, and write. Some welcome these developments as bringing humans closer to unified consciousness and eternal life. Others worry that invasive globalized technologies threaten to destroy the self and the world. Whether feared or desired, these innovations provoke emotions that have long fueled the religious imagination, suggesting the presence of a latent spirituality in an era mistakenly deemed secular and posthuman.

William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo are American authors who explore this phenomenon thoroughly in their work. Engaging the works of each in conversation, Mark C. Taylor discusses their sophisticated representations of new media, communications, information, and virtual technologies and their transformative effects on the self and society. He focuses on Gaddis's The Recognitions, Powers's Plowing the Dark, Danielewski's House of Leaves, and DeLillo's Underworld, following the interplay of technology and religion in their narratives and their imagining of the transition from human to posthuman states. Their challenging ideas and inventive styles reveal the fascinating ways religious interests affect emerging technologies and how, in turn, these technologies guide spiritual aspirations. To read these novels from this perspective is to see them and the world anew.

This book exemplifies what an entire area within religious studies—'religion and literature'—should be yet has never quite become: a genuinely interdisciplinary, existentially attuned, and constructively ambitious enterprise engaged with our most timely social and cultural questions.

Thomas Carlson, University of California, Santa Barbara

Mark C. Taylor is, in my view, without peer as the most important postmodern secular theologian thinking and writing today. In Rewiring the Real, he leads the reader through difficult, even treacherous, contemporary literature in a teacherly and illuminating fashion, in the process sharing scores of philosophical and a/theological insights in the realms of economics, architecture, network theory, complexity theory, critical literary theory, politics, pedagogy, and aesthetics.

David Miller, Syracuse University

Lucid, erudite, and illuminating, Taylor's converse with four provocative authors offers a guide to the digital galaxy. The fictions of William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo are astutely explicated and drawn into engaging accounts of philosophy, religion, economics, art, and technology. The result is a tempting elucidation of the expanding systems of commerce and conception that today constitute our uncanny existence.

Houston A. Baker Jr., Vanderbilt University

Intellectually luminous and generically unplaceable, Rewiring the Real, in its investigations of the theory of poetry and life, embodies all the dreams of an artful philosophy, carving out new possibilities in literature and technology for the religious imagination.

Jenny Davidson, Columbia University

Taylor's not only posing the question, he's living it: Can art bring the salvation religion once promised? It has become clear, if it wasn't before, that Taylor is undertaking nothing less than a comprehensive philosophy of culture.

Paul Lieberman, cultural correspondent and author of Gangster Squad

A stunning capstone achievement. I judge that at the end of the twenty-first century, Taylor will be one of a handful of cultural critics still worth reading. This is a book to the claims of which every person aspiring to cultural literacy should subject him/herself.

Ray L. Hart, Boston University

Provocative, engaging, significant...

N. Katherine Hayles, Los Angeles Review of Books

Rewiring the Real is a collection of wide-ranging and incisive conversations about contemporary fiction and useful... primer to Taylor's thought.... Taylor is a gifted explainer with a remarkably direct and personable style...

College Literature
List of Illustrations
1. Counterfeiting Counterfeit Religion: William Gaddis, The Recognitions
2. Mosaics: Richard Powers, Plowing the Dark
3. Figuring Nothing: Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves
4. "Holy Shit!": Don DeLillo, Underworld
5. Concluding Unscientific Postscript: Two Styles of the Philosophy of Religion

Read the chapter "Nexus" from Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don Delillo

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About the Author

Mark C. Taylor is professor of religion and chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His most recent books are Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill; Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy; Field Notes from Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living; After God; Mystic Bones; and Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption.