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DismantlingsWords against Machines in the American Long Seventies$
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Matt Tierney

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501746413

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501746413.001.0001

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(p.29) Chapter 1 Luddism

Matt Tierney

Cornell University Press

This chapter explains why Luddism is a metaphor that threads through the Long Seventies in the work of poets, activists, and thinkers, each of whom applies literature to the task of dismantling the technocentric world. It includes Édouard Glissant who offers an optimistic promise of literature's power to break systems, writing poetry that can “thicken” the “machine that the world is.” Audre Lorde is more skeptical, opening the possibility that even literature may be one among the “master's tools” that are inapposite to the task of dismantling. Joanna Russ is more skeptical still, in her insistence that scholars and science-fiction writers should “give up talking about technology” and W.S. Merwin imagines an intelligent machine that is fated to be relinquished. Such literary and theoretical practices do not oppose technology as such, but instead oppose large-scale forms of exploitation by dismantling the machines at their disposal. The chapter also talks about Epistemological Luddism, a specific form of Luddism that provides a critical defense against late-twentieth century technological politics and a dedramatization of the false choice for or against technology.

Keywords:   Luddism, Long Seventies, Édouard Glissant, Audre Lorde, Joanna Russ, W.S. Merwin, machine, Epistemological Luddism, dedramatization, technology

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