7.24.2008

The Future of Invention

WARNING: This is NOT a review... yet!

I just picked up my copy of John Muckelbauer's book, The Future of Invention: Rhetoric, Postmodernism, and the Problem of Change. Sadly, it's only available in hardcover and e-book. I had trouble getting it in e-book, so I had to get the print version. It seems that Publisher's Row, the e-distributor of choice for SUNY Press, requires an Adobe Acrobat plug-in that doesn't work very well with Macs. When I questioned them about why I couldn't open the file I downloaded, they suggested I use Outlook Express as my browser. Great! Make me use an outdated Microsoft product. Anyway, they were kind enough to refund my $20 with no questions asked... but still.... aaargh!

OK, the first chapter of the book is available online and I've read that. Muckelbauer does a great job outlining Deleuze's stance on difference and repetition. And it stands as a nice critique of the "third-way" approach. If change is something rhetoric strives for, either in an audience or in learning, then how do we enact change that doesn't come back to haunt us by repeating the same mistakes as before. This, I take Deleuze as saying, is ultimately the problem with Hegel. The spirit of history haunts us all. And, if we're not careful, we run away from Hegel's spirit only to find he has already arrived at our destination (kind of like Old Man Willow along the Withywindle).

So, I'm hoping Muckelbauer opens new paths and connections out of the Hegelian Old Forest. I'm also hoping to see how it can act as a companion piece to Byron Hawk's A Counter-History of Composition since that argues for a vitalism Deleuze used to escape the forest (by tunneling under it? a rhizome?). And, as has been my project for a couple years, I hope Muckelbauer points some possible connections for an immanent composition. It may seem obvious to argue, but, like Hegel's spirit -- hell as Hegel's spirit -- transcendence still haunts composition. The critical potential is often cast in transcendent terms and leads us toward certain pieties we should be loath to embrace.

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