Is Paper the New Vinyl?

A Conversation with Klaus Benesch at Temple University, Philadelphia PA (November 2022)

Is Paper the New Vinyl?

Book Culture and the Future of the Humanities

A Conversation with Klaus Benesch,  Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Munich (Germany) and currently an “LMU International Research Professor” at Harvard University.  Benesch is the author of  The Myth of Reading:  Book Culture and the Humanities in the Information Age (2021).  

Benesch will be introduced by Miles Orvell (Director of Graduate Studies)  and will be in conversation with Prof. Priya Joshi and Prof. Steven Newman  and with Temple Graduate students in English

Today, intellectuals and, by extension, university professors appear to have lost what little political clout they have had in the past, and their influence, even within the academy, is dramatically dwindling.   The reasons are many–including a changing media environment that increasingly forces intellectuals into a fierce competition for attention with everybody ‘out there,” a competitoin which takes place largely on the internet, the central vehicle for cultural formation.   In my new book, The Myth of Reading, I argue that the current media revolution is of a scale comparable only to the Copernican turn in physics or the dawn of the Gutenberg age.  The new media have not only changed how we read and write; they have triggered a crisis in Western book culture and the values represented by the book.  For the Humanities generally, the book has been for centuries the standard of knowledge and intellectual authority.  The waning of the culture of the book has contributed greatly to the  demise of the humanities, challenging the university to define the contemporary role of intellectuals.  Can a case be made for their relevance in a world that is flooded by misinformation and where social media propagate the homogenization of novelty?

Klaus Benesch is Professor of English and American Studies at LMU, the University of Munich and is currently an “LMU International Research Professor” at Harvard University.  Benesch has written on technology and culture, space and modernity and on the information age.  Recent publications include “The Myth of Reading” (t.b.p., 2023) [Mythos Lesen. Buchkultur und Geisteswissenschaften im Informationszeitalter (2021]; Walking and the Aesthetics of Modernity (coedited with François Specq, 2016); Rethinking the American City: An International Dialogue (coedited with Miles Orvell, 2014); Culture and Mobility (editor, 2013); and Romantic Cyborgs: Authorship and Technology in the American Renaissance [paperback 2010 (2002)]. He has served on the Advisory Board of the Encyclopedia of American Studies Online and is general editor (with David Nye, Jeffrey Meikle, and Miles Orvell) of ‘Architecture Technology Culture’ (ATC), a monograph series published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.  Benesch has taught at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), École normale supérieure (Lyon), the University of Bordeaux (Montaigne), the University of Venice (Ca’Foscari), Venice International University (San Servolo), and the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). From 2006 through 2013, he was Director of the Bavarian American Academy, Munich.