PJAS 12 Autumn-3

Zofia Kolbuszewska
William Gibson’s Debt to the Culture of Curiosity: The Wunderkammer, or, Who Controls the World?
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 12 (Autumn 2018), pp. 291-306

Abstract: The article discusses transformations in William Gibson’s employment of the theme and poetics of the Wunderkammer from his two early novels, Neuromancer (1984) and Count Zero (1987), to Zero History (2010), his last-but-one novel. The exploration of Gibson’s representations of various Wunderkammer collections and arrangements in these books reveals his ever more pronounced recourse, over time, to the culture of curiosity as a diagnostic instrument. By interrogating the changing function of the Wunderkammer in Gibsons’ oeuvre, along with all its early-modern and contemporary associations with curiosity, it is possible to tease out the complexity of the writer’s evolving view of the duality, and the fusion, of the digital and the material, as well as his keen understanding of how the late capitalist market functions. Through his diagnostic representations of various cabinets of curiosities, Gibson reverses tendencies governing the transformations of the Wunderkammer as a collection of curia from the 16th to the 18th century, as well as overturning the relationship between the collection as a representation of available knowledge and the desire to create synthetic life. Gibson’s novels, which represent postdigital reality by analogous means, can thus be designated as postdigital analog writings that, according to Michael Punt, give expression to contemporary consciousness formed “in the Wunderkammer.”

Keywords: Wunderkammer, curiosity, Joseph Cornell, synthetic life, artificial intelligence, late capitalist market, postdigital analog writing

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.12/2/2018.03

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