The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

Front Cover
Macmillan, 1994 - Reference - 231 pages
29 Reviews
In The Gutenberg Elegies, nationally renowned critic Sven Birkerts powerfully argues that we are living in a state of intellectual emergency - an emergency caused by our willingness to embrace new technologies at the expense of the printed word. As we rush to get "on line," as we make the transition from book to screen, says Birkerts, we are turning against some of the core premises of humanism - indeed, we are putting the idea of individualism itself under threat. The printed page and the circuit driven information technologies are not kindred - for Birkerts they represent fundamentally opposed forces. In their inevitable confrontation our deepest values will be tested.
Birkerts begins his exploration from the reader's perspective, first in several highly personal accounts of his own passion for the book, then in a suite of essays that examines what he calls "the ulterior life of reading." Against this, Birkerts sets out the contours of the transformed landscape. In his highly provocative essay "Into the Electronic Millenium" and in meditations on CD-ROM, hypertext, and audio books, he plumbs the impact of emerging technologies on the once stable reader-writer exchange. He follows these with a look at the changing climate of criticism and literary practice. He concludes with a blistering indictment of what he sees as our willingness to strike a Faustian pact with a seductive devil.

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Review: The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

User Review  - Megan - Goodreads

It's hard to believe this book was written almost a decade ago, the insights into technology and entertainment are still so fresh. Except he uses the phrase "electronic media" instead of the common ... Read full review

Review: The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

User Review  - EM - Goodreads

I don't really like non-fiction. At all. But this book worked really well for a school project, and though I don't like non-fiction, this book was good. I was interested in what Birkerts had to say ... Read full review


Introduction The Reading Wars
Part I The Reading Self
Part II The Electronic Millennium
Part III Critical Mass Three Meditations
Coda The Faustian Pact
Afterword to the 2006 Edition
Cited Material

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About the author (1994)

Sven Birkerts is the author of "Reading Life: Books for the Ages," "Readings,"
"The Gutenberg Elegies," and a memoir, "My Sky Blue Trades," He teaches at Harvard University and at the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the editor of "AGNI," He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.

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