Showing posts with label LANGBEHN Volker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LANGBEHN Volker. Show all posts

Feb 28, 2014

Watching TV with Arno Schmidt
Arno Schmidt (1914-1979) is not a well-known figure in German media studies. For the most part, his writings have never enjoyed large audiences and his complex works seem destined to stay at the margins of critical inquiries. Although Schmidt has slowly gained recognition as a "giant of postwar German Literature,"academic criticism so far has produced only a paucity of serious scholarly inquiries. One of Schmidt's primary concern was to outline the various forms of knowledge formation. The changing nature of these processes of knowledge formation through television and radio posed a special interest. The shift in the transfer of knowledge, from a written text as the storage room of information, to immaterial knowledge production, in the media of radio and television, finds its succinct expression in Schmidt's literary text Zettels Traum. Embedded in a narrative that claims to preserve our cultural past and present and to serve as a dialogue partner between reader, writer, and text, Zettels Traum, I argue, brings to the forefront the problematic nature of the immaterialities of communication as exemplified in news broadcasting in postwar Germany. The immateriality of communication signals the dissolution of the complex configuration of closed narratives and simultaneously replaces the traditional form of memory with images that orchestrate our forgetfulness. These images play an important role in the cultural reproduction of particular ideological configurations. My paper focuses upon the mechanisms of cultural reproduction as expressed through Schmidt's key figures Daniel Pagenstecher and his wife Wilma in his magnum opus Zettels Traum, and their discussion of the West German "Tagesschau" and the East German "aktuelle Kamera." The goal of this paper is to show how the politics of sequencing influences the way we conceptualize television information.
I would like to begin with a brief introduction to Zettels Traum and its central characters. Schmidt divides Zettels Traum into three columns, each of which corresponds to a particular theme. The center column reflects upon events which took place between 1965 and 1969, the time in which Zettels Traum (ZT) was actually written, and introduces to the reader the texts of Edgar Allan Poe. The center column of Zettels Traum foregrounds the various texts of Poe. Daniel Pagenstecher himself an author, as well as central narrator of the events in Zettels Traum, lives a scholar-hermit's existence near a village in Northern Germany, and assists his friend Paul Jacobi, likewise a writer, in the translation of Poe's works into German. The action is confined to the events of a single summer day. Present are Wilma, Paul Jacobi's wife, and the Jacobi's teenage daughter Franziska, who thinks she is in love with the much older Dan. Throughout the day, the five discuss Edgar Allan Poe's writings and what they reveal of his life and ideas. During the discussions Dan offers his explanation of his theory of language, the etym-theory, to the left of the main column. While the figures discuss the works of Poe in the center column, in this left-hand column Dan tells stories about Poe's life and inserts citations from Poe's texts that illustrate his etym-theory of language. Serving as a type of footnote, the right-hand column contains citations and comments that supply additional information and references to other texts.
As a whole Zettels Traum is interspersed with descriptions from various disciplines, from architecture (in the context of Poe's narratives, ZT 437), landscaping (ZT 78), mathematics (in the context of the construction of a literary text, ZT 1182), to astronomy and cosmology (ZT 112, 142, 1240), and psychology (with endless references to Sigmund Freud, ZT 187, 225), history (ZT 468), to contemporary pop songs from England, for example, Petula Clark's Down Town from 1964 (ZT 396, 987, 1273). The text also contains numerous declared and tacit quotations that draw on many literary, texts in world literature including those of Jean Paul, Novalis, Schlegel, Cervantes, Döblin, Rabelais, Proust, Wieland and Joyce, to name but a few. The reader also encounters visual reality fragments, such as photos, sketches, and clips from recipe books, newspapers and menus. Also inserted are photos of fashion models (ZT 993, 1209), a camper van (ZT 969), a sticker of a mushroom can (ZT 1021), a sticker of a "Bierwürfel mit Kümmel" (ZT 1148) and many drawings by Arno Schmidt himself (ZT 4, 577, 1092, 1083, 1131, 1240). Schmidt's own sketches prove particularly important as he views them as the visual representation of localities described in Zettels Traum: "Deswegen habe ich mir angewöhnt, zu meinen Büchern - vielfach - Grundrisse [of localities - V.L.] - mitzugeben, oder Zeichnungen" (VzZT 13). Such inclusion of drawings and photos, Schmidt explains, support or illustrate things discussed in the center column: "die genau das darstellen was ich sagen will oder auf die ich im Text Bezug nehme die - irgendwie die Handlung gefördert haben" (VzZT 14). Visual representations support or replace the linguistic representation by invoking an over-determined imagery and, as the critic Strick argues, question "die Möglichkeit eines definitiven Verständnisses, eines handgreiflichen 'Sinns.'" As a symbolic representation, they invoke associations appealing to the creative imagination.
Schmidt's merger of various disciplines through poetic representation must be seen within the larger context of his encyclopedic project labeled "Großn Dichtungn" (ZT 1047), which seeks to reconstruct and weld together knowledge buried in memory. The textual voyage into various disciplines, literary texts, or political events, as well as the bringing forth of historical and philosophical junctures, reinforces Schmidt's goal "[a]lles, was je schrieb, in Liebe und Haß, als immerfort mitlebend zu behandeln" (BA II:2:142). As a polyglot historian in search of a storage room of information and who defines himself through his "sündhafte Belesenheit" (ZT 269), Schmidt valorizes the dictum expressed by Schweighäuser in Die Schule der Atheisten, "man kànn gar nich ›mit WissnsStoff überladn‹ sein" (SdA 191).
By incorporating fragmented remnants of the past into Zettels Traum, Schmidt enables the reader to experience the past in the present by understanding its relevance for the present. Reading Zettels Traum as a collection of various strands of historic events permits the reader to learn new ways in which to understand the self and the past. Reconfigurations of the past serve as a means of refreshing the "Generationsgedächtnis" (ZT 307) because we live in "Zeiten, da Alles vergessen wird" (SdA 33). The past that is no longer available contributes to the reader's new understanding of time and space since it is recuperated for the domain of a present day experience.
Schmidt's archaeological discoveries are made possible only through this multifold system of references which Dan calls a "zäh=gefüttertes anachronistisches Ungetümlein von 1300 Seitn" (ZT 425). This statement reminds the reader of Friedrich Schlegel's theory of the novel: "nach Großn Dichtungen, sei daß Höchste auf der Welt? Große NachschlageWerke zu liefern" (ZT 1047). For Dan, the old and forgotten texts unearthed in the vaults of our memory banks and compiled in Zettels Traum assume the role of a data base whose task it is "große=Massn von Details zu sammeln; und durch den Druck zur Aufbewahrung zu gebm" (ZT 1201). As an assemblage of narratives, the purpose of Zettels Traum is to provide a repository for our cultural information and legacy. Schmidt views the multiple forms of knowledge inserted in a literary text as a means of communicative circulation: "ein verschränkter Ahnen=, & Enkel=Dienst" (SdA 177). Authors of the past as well as scientific discoveries and other discourses establish a network of information that "preserv[es] a vanished civilisation" (SdA 33). The written form of cultural information allows the reader to revisit, that is, reread, and reflect upon material.
But new technological inventions such as television mark a shift in how we perceive and understand the flow of information. Schmidt already recognized this shift in 1961 in his radio essay, "Heinrich Albrecht OppermanHundert Jahre (Einem Mann zu Gedenken)." In this instance, the narrator complains about the transient nature of the immaterialities of information, "[i]ch bin ein Gegner von ‹Schall & Rauch & Rundfunk›!" (BA II:2:154). The narrator's voiced opposition toward television and radio documents Schmidt's concern for the growing impossibility of having any recourse to the information offered by radio and television. This opposition, however, does not suggest that Schmidt opposes TV and radio. Rather, as the reader will discover in the discussion between Daniel Pagenstecher and his wife Wilma regarding the West German "Tagesschau" and the East German "aktuelle Kamera," the desire for knowledge is a double-edged sword.
Dan and Wilma divide their discussion of the news into two segments analyzing these two broadcasts. Dan introduces the reader to the West German "Tagesschau." Structured according to topics, the news program offers a mixture of domestic politics, army maneuvers, miscellaneous events of the day, foreign affairs, a commentary on the Karl-May Festival in Bad Segeberg, and a weather report. The segment opens with Dan viewing a political debate in the West German parliament concerning the student movement and its "sit-ins." In the debate, the speaker of the SPD tries to distance himself and the party from this form of political opposition: "[d]er Sprecher der SPD...beteure, daß seine Partei.[wie stets seit 66]..nie etwas mit Intellektuelln gemeinsam gehabt habe, "und zwar von Ihrer Gründung=an!" (ZT 1162). Instead of directly addressing the specific differences in their political views, the speaker characterizes the student movement as hippies, a "Haufe Student(in)en -(halb=nakkD; in zerrissenen Kleidern; betont=ungewaschn; die Herrn 'Rennomisten' mit gräßlichn Bakkn Bärtn,...Typm, die man sich am bestnjn in mondlosn Nächtn nich=anschaut" (ZT 1162). The images of the German Left's extra-parliamentary opposition (APO) display the demonstrators as good for nothings; as oversexed, LSD-consuming hippies. Upset by the images, Wilma responds: "Wenn doch Unsre Obrichkeit endlich=mà ein Einsehen & Dreinschlagn hätte" (ZT 1162). Wilma's reactionary wish is promptly fulfilled by the German minister of justice who announces:
Was die noch übrijn...Intellektuelln anlange?, so sei zwar sein persönliches Credo: 'better hang wrong fellow than no fellow at all"..."was die Gammler betreffe, so werde man ihre Anzahl der nächsten Wochn...entscheidend reduzieren; vermittelst der gutn=altn §§ 182, 235, & 237 des Strafgesetzbuches. (ZT 1162) 
Wilma's response reveals how desire and the wish for identification are at work in television viewing. Since Schmidt immersed himself in Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams and his premise of Zettels Traum was "»auf Traumbasis zu schreiben«" (ZT 35), I view both terms from a psychological perspective. Thus, the process of identification entails the unconscious as a locus in which to anchor subjectivity and consequently as the source of ideological interpellation. In this instance the relation between identification and desire in the constitution and functioning of subjectivity supply the basic mechanisms of interpellation. Two opposing mechanisms are at work in the process of identification and desire. When I identify with somebody or something and thereby gain my identity, all other desires incongruent with this identity most likely experience repression. At the same time, identification also functions as cause and effect of desire. On the one hand, desire causes me to aspire to live by the qualities with which I identify. On the other hand, identification is the effect of desire since it responds to my desire for being somebody for someone.
With these mechanisms in mind the news segment reveals the following concerning Wilma's reaction. Her response shows that her desire focuses on the law and the minister of justice. Constituted by the symbolic order and epitomized in our notions of Justice, Truth and Order, the law signals the ultimate authority and source of meaning, what Jacques Lacan termed "master signifier." Through the identification with these identity-bearing words, the subject finds its particular pre-determined position within the hierarchical structure of society and its differences. The master signifier stands in for the subject, functions as bearers of our identity and represents the ultimate authority of meaning. It signifies the ideals toward which we must strive.
As the quotation shows, the law functions as the bearer of Wilma's identity. This is evident in her reaction when the APO "apparently" attempts to damage the master signifier. Wilma recognizes herself in and through the law and seeks to be recognized by others as a law-abiding citizen. The result of this process of interpellation is the establishment of a cluster of master signifiers as the ego-ideal originating in the child's attempt to be desired and loved. This desire eventually turns into the wish to be recognized by the Other. What is important is that assuming identity of this signifier endows Wilma with the continuity and coherence essential to identity. As a result, the master signifier integrates Wilma into a community of law-abiding citizens since she is able to communicate and reproduce these signifiers of law and order.
Functioning both as the internal and external authority, the law regulates Wilma's social reality. The established dichotomy between those who believe in the law and those who do not creates an unquestioned control mechanism. The justification of this dichotomy is the principle of belief. As the external authority, the law determines Wilma's internal reasoning, since she believes in and identifies with the law, and, subsequently, she internalizes the law. Wilma believes in the Justice and Truth of the law and does not realize that the law has created a symbolic network in which she is now caught. She obeys the law not only because it is good or beneficial to her, but also because it is the law: "Custom is the whole equity for the sole reason that it is accepted. That is the mythic basis of its authority. Anyone who attempts to bring it back to its first principle destroys it." Projected images of the APO shown in contrast to the Law as symbol of Justice, Truth, and Order initiate Wilma's reactionary desire. By recognizing its importance to her, she identifies with the law and the structural ordering of society. This recognition is a mis-recognition, an imaginary experience of the meaning of the Law.
Any kind of opposition, therefore, is a threat to her belief and identity, that is, the internal authority. The passage of the emergency laws, the "NotstandsGesetz" (ZT 1162), accompanied by the images of the jubilant conservative faction of parliament, receives "donnernenden Beifall der rechtn Seite des Hauses...die freilich schön über die Mitte & tief id linkn Flügl hinein=reichte" (ZT 1162). Reinforcing images create unity and stability and, in this instance, correspond to the tendency of the three-party system in postwar Germany to move toward political consensus. The desire for stability and political consensus, continuity and harmony, creates an unquestioned tolerance for repression among the population in the interest of a successful fight against political extremism. Hence, an extreme dose of "law and order" (e.g., the emergency laws, opposed by the SPD in 1965 but supported in May 1968), strengthens the already efficient law enforcement and belief systems.
The binary structure of representation of the news projects images of extremism to which the seemingly unified political factions respond with the new laws. Any differentiation between the view points of the various political factions is omitted. Images of an ugly, filthy, chaotic and radical student movement create animosity within the viewers and set up a dichotomy between "good" and "bad." Wilma's response typifies this distinction and results in the rejection of any sort of political opposition that might threaten her own identity and social stability. The collapse of the traditional opposition by the SPD to which Dan refers when he declares, "[i]n DeutschLand diffamirt die 'Linke' immer sich=selbst" (ZT 1163), dispels the myth of German politics as a Streitkultur (culture of dispute), and exposes an opportunistic party that merely oscillates between different political positions. The Kiesinger/Brandt coalition of 1966-1969 provides ample evidence of such desire for political consensus.
Whereas the above news segment about domestic politics addressed the master signifier, the Law evoked through the employment of the physical images, the following segment of the "Tagesschau" plays on the narcissistic form of imaginary desire.
The segment shows the protests of the civil rights movement in the U.S. and protesters' clashes with Cleveland police. Dan, now playing the devil's advocate of the ordinary TV-viewer, comments on the images:
Die putzn ihre Nigger aber anständich weg!". /Tcha, 'Unruhen in Cleveland (oh hei oh!); jedoch wenije sec lang; (& vorsichtshalber meist 'Nachtaufnahm'm; da sah man nur die regnglänzendn Stahlhelme der Nationalgarde, sowie unzählige tollwütig=verdrehte AugnPaare. (ZT 1164)
According to Dan, the "Nationalgarde" signifies the superiority of the white race that secures law and order. As the word "Nationalgarde" implies, at stake in this scenario is the national interest. The symbolic Other, the "Nationalgarde," leads Dan to actively identify with the signifiers given in the code constituting this Other. As the viewer, Dan attempts to embody these qualities or attributes valued by this symbolic Other. Again, the reader discovers qualities such as "being a good American, "being a good citizen," or "being patriotic." Dan desires to embody not only the "Nationalgarde" but also other signifiers bearing a metonymic or metaphoric relation to the master signifier. The shining steel helmet ("regnglänzende Stahlhelme") is synonymous with "masculinity," "toughness" or with "being a man." With his narcissistic desire, Dan gravitates between all these positions or images that constitute his ego-ideal. Consequently, his identification wih the "Nationalgarde" provokes the anticipated response: "Solln se=se doch Alle nach Afrika transportier'n: (dieser ganze, unnötig dunkle Continent, muß sich sowieso erstma ausrevoluzzern" (ZT 1164). The message conveys the belief that America belongs to the civilized white race in which peace and harmony reign: "Und die weißn=USA hättn ooch=Ruhe" (ZT 1164). In contrast, Africa is the site of revolution and torture. Thus these images divide the world into an idyllic, civilized, first world and a third world or as Blumenbach formulates it, into a "zivilisierte und pazifizierte Erste Welt des materiellen und ideellen Wohlstandes einerseits, eine unterpriviligierte Dritte Welt der Armut, Bürgerkriege, Folterungen und so weiter andererseits." In analogy to the comparison Africa-America that paralleles a binary structure of black-white or uncivilized and civilized, television establishes a hierarchical ordering of how to view the world.
For a mere split second, only the strange looking eyes ("tollwütig=verdrehte AugnPaare") betray the black man's ("Nigger") presence in the dark and projects visions of animalistic behavior. Black becomes synonymous with uncontrolled rabid, wild animals, that must be eradicated since their diseases cannot be cured and thus may spread. All of these threatening images reinforce the stereotype of black people as uncivilized members of "Primitive Culturen" (ZT 1164), whose demonic behavior is inconsonant with standards of behavioral expectations in America.
Many others who watch the news are similarly inscribed by these unconscious structures. Since these similar, formative experiences are attributable to a particular society or discourses, a collective aspect of the unconscious emerges. To continue my example, Dan defends his blatant racism and call for apartheid, by referring to his experience in 1945 as a German refugee from the East: "[w]aren nicht Wír=aus=dem =Osten auch 12 Milljon'n" (ZT1164). This justification through comparison exposes the racist overtones of the refugee debate that prevailed in 1965. The West German attitude toward Eastern Europe and its refugees underscores the inability of West Germans to overcome the lingering racism that finds its historic trajectory in Nazi Germany and its judicious legitimization in Article 116 of the Basic law which defines the nation as an evolutionary community based on ethnic descent. Dan's comparison of his World War II experiences and the subsequent racist attitude toward refugees with the civil rights movement points to this transindividual quality of the unconscious. The collective experience of the unconscious gains its cohesive power through the common currency of cultural signifiers as well as other discourses. Yet as Dan's analogy suggests, these cultural signifiers do not acknowledge national boundaries.
The "Nachrichter in SchlagZeiln" (ZT 1163) inserted between the segment about the student movement and the civil rights movement further demonstrates the viewer's reliance on images rather than on any reflective exchange. This segment narrates a multiplicity of events such as "Australiens MinisterPräsident hatte sich zu Tode geschnarchelt./31.000 Krankheitn gebe es bis jetz auf der Welt./Münchens letzde GasLaterne... ." (ZT 1164). The overflow of information makes it impossible to follow the news content, and forces the viewer to rely on the visual images. However, the absurdity of this so-called news program points to the powerful arbitrariness involved in selecting which information to broadcast. Insertions of natural disasters and other tabloid trivia in the political sphere of news broadcasting function as an instrument of diffusion and distraction. They represent deliberate attempts to depoliticize the media, thereby enhancing its political power. Irrelevant information distracts the viewer from receiving actual political events and portrays, for instance, the cause of death of the Australian prime minister as a significant event.
The random nature by which information is selected for news broadcast suggests that the sequencing of news focuses on the symbolic production as the ordering discourse. The more rapid the segments, the greater the possibility of a non-homogeneous experience. The changing speed of topics organizes the forgetting of the viewer, and effectively functionalizes how we conceptualize information. Inevitably, the overflow of information suffocates its communicability. This paradox--the news providing information and the viewer not being able to remember--serves as the ideological means of structuring the individual experience of news events. We are in greater need of orientation for our common understanding, and thus seek anchoring points, visual images, with which we can identify. The "Tagesschau" provides these images, these symbolic structures that are constitutive of our relation to the world and, consequently, do not allow for the readability of the world. Experiences of the world are a media experience, a structural illusion creating the impression that we have gained mastery of the world in the form of meaningful comprehension. Watching TV allows only for one particular mode of comprehension, a certain type of discursivity that neutralizes the multiple and fluctuating content of messages. Hence, the "Tagesschau" signifies the impossibility of interpretation and, as such, the imposition of rigid contraints of meaning.
Before going into a more detailed discussion of the presentation of news information, I would like to turn to the East German "aktuelle Kamera." The less structured and much shorter "aktuelle Kamera" consists of only one major block of views on the Vietnam war and other short clips discussing preparations for the celebration of the October revolution, which Pagenstecher mocks as "ein Komitee für's OktoberFest" (ZT 1165), a traditional Bavarian drinking fest. In addition, we see "Ordensverleihungen" for "Verdiente Eisenbahner des Volkes" (ZT 1165) and events focusing on the rebuilding of the GDR. These pictures create images of the GDR as a collective and implies political unity, a successful state, and emphasize the feeling of pride at being a citizen of GDR society. Modalities of desire, will and hope nourish the image of an ideal community and invite the viewer to be part of the collective experience of success and happiness. The viewer's relation to the mode of production thus lies in the imaginary relation. The invasion of unconscious desires aims at social consensus as a matter of imaginary affirmation.
The next image confirms the desire for such consensus by parodying the role of the literati in the East German society. The "AuThoren= CullecTief ?" notes what "der 1.HenklMann geäußert hatte. Oder der 2.Oder das 'kollektiefe Ganze'" (ZT 1166). The "AuThoren=Cullectief," referred to as a fools' collective, as the representative of the cultural production of social realism, presents the image of proclaimed equality between workers and writers within the GDR society. Commenting upon the East German writer's collective, Dan equates it with the cultural production of West Germany as exemplified by the Karl-May festival in Bad Segeberg: "was Deutsche Ars & Cunt betrifft, so wird Ei'm auch hier ma wieder die Wahl schwer gemacht, was widerlicher sei, Ost oder West" (ZT 1166). Dan dismisses both news segments as affirmative, mass-mediated forms of culture imploding any critical values imbedded in aesthetics. The "aktuelle Kamera" features a "Guitarristn=Trupp" with worker's songs as an indirect response to the "Tagesschau" segment about the Spanish musician, Andrés Segovia thereby explicitly demonstrating the complementarity of East and West German news broadcasts. Dan contemplates, "schier wie bestellt: um den Gegensatz zu SEGOVIA=ebm so recht zu verdeutlichn" (ZT 1165), and exposes the structural similarity of East and West German news and their ideologically affirmative positions:
Jacke wie Hose, ob O oder W: Unterdrückung wird 'Aufrechterhaltung der Ordnung' genannt - sprechsDe dagegn, heißde 'mißvergnügt.' Die Nachrichtn Maschin'n der W ein Trauerspiel d Freiheit; im O SklâwnIdylle. (ZT 1165)
The television medium thus functions as a cultural reproduction system of narrative configurations which radically changes the form of knowledge formation in the present. Replaced by something new, the status of knowledge assumes a specific form of information distribution. Television presents itself as disconnected and to some extent irrelevant, against the horizon of experience of the viewer, who struggles to integrate the information into the totality of his world. In contrast to the reading of printed media, which can be interrupted and then resumed again indefinitely, the fast pace of reception of TV shows cannot be controlled. Our viewing habits and attention span adjust to the medium itself. The "facts" presented are ephemeral and already disappear with their appearance. If the viewer wishes to keep up with the "onslaught" of information, s/he has to adjust his/her viewing of the representations. "Schneller Schauen" (SdA 190) is the motto if one does not want to sacrifice knowledge because of one's own lack thereof. One of the narrators in Schmidt's Schule der Atheisten describes this resignative position: "Ich geh' in's TV um mich zu zerstreuen, nich um mir den Kopf vollzupakkn" (SdA 190). The degree of complexity in the reception of information channels our viewing and leads to a decreased analytical sharpness.
To conclude my discussion of the representation of news media in Zettels Traum, I would like to emphasize the following point: the dispersal of world events into discontinuous, successive, and non-contradictory messages guarantees the misrecognition of the world and widens the gap between technical representation of information and the real world. Our television offers a representation of chaos and the world around us in a secured order of images. This order leaves the false impression that we are actually in control of the world. TV messages constitute signs that impose upon the viewer new modes of perception and relations. Claims for the representation of "truth" and "objectivity" by "Tagesschau" and "aktuelle Kamera" function to neutralize the unique character of actual world events by replacing them with a multiple universe--"Multiversum" (ZT 1264)--of mutually reinforcing and self-referential images. Technical codes of symbolic distribution become a means by which to reinterpret the world, and serve as an instrument of social control. Our window to the world is our TV, which mocks our understanding of communication as an exchange, as a reciprocal space of speaking and responding.
Communication by way of television is an intransitive and monolinear experience which Paul exposes as an attempt at ideological manipulation, "[W]olln ma sehn, ob wir ''n genau so schnell bekannegießern könn" (ZT 1162). Recognizing that watching TV demands the passive consumption of images resulting in an inability to respond critically to the overflow of information, Paul pretends to engage in a dialogue with the news anchor's greetings: "Gutn Abmd Meine Dan" & Herrn" (ZT 1161). Paul responds with an impertinent: "Grüß Dich" (P knapp;/)" (ZT 1161). This mockery symbolizes the hopeless desire to engage in a critical exchange and demonstrates monolinear communication ad absurdum. The fast pace of presentation and the sequencing of news items reduce the viewer in a passive receiver of information. Speed and images are more important than arguments. Our desire for clarity, the "Wunsch nach wolltätlicher Klarheit" (ZT 510), receives its fulfillment in a "Verzehnfachung der Berieselung" (ZT 471). We witness the disintegration of our communicative structures under the sign of passive consumption. Images and signs constitute the organizing principles of our viewing of the world. In Schmidt's Zettels Traum, the newscasts of both East and West, with their systematic alternation of the news form, dictate a single form of reception, that of consumption. However, the primary function of each message is to refer to another message and establish in the world a whole divisible system of interpretation. For instance, arguments by Jean Baudrilliard that "the medium of TV circulates through its technical organisation the idea (or ideology) of a world visualisable and dividible at will"find their confirmation in Dan's experience of television. Aware of this mechanism, Dan responds, "Bloß gut, daß der Propaganda, wenichstens=teilweise, die Waage gehaltn wird, durch's schlechtes Hinhörn" (ZT 471). In other words, one best responds by being a bad listener or viewer. Schmidt's description of East and West German television confines us to the role of viewers at the margins. Watching TV with Arno Schmidt inevitably leads to the reader's (viewer's) recognition of the problematic nature of the immaterialities of communication.

Volker Langbehn ©
Department of German, Scandinavian, & Dutch
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN 55455