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The Author / as Editor / as Producer. Preliminary Notes on the Aesthetic Function of the Editor

Conference paper
Authors Nils Olsson
Published in R/EPRESENTATIONS and R/ECONFIGURATIONS of the D/IGITAL. C(ONFERENCE): Thinking Through the Digital in Literature – Representations + Poetics + Sites + Publications
Place of publication Linköping
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Valand Academy
Language en
Keywords Editorial practice, media studies, Walter Benjamin, intermediality, publishing
Subject categories Book and library history, Technology and culture, General Literature Studies, Specific Literatures, Aesthetics, Literary Composition


In Walter Benjamin’s ”The Author as Producer”, the writer is urged to identify with the worker in terms of a producer – i.e. not only on an ideological level, but with regards to the technological conditions of production within a given historical moment – in order to become both politically and aesthetically effective. This, in turn, must take place through an elimination of the demarcation lines between specific mediums and their affiliated competences. In this sense (at least according to Benjamin, in 1934), doing away with the ’barrier’ between text and image, for instance, would be a way of escaping a bourgeois production apparatus. One aspect of this idea of the author as producer, is that the author here assumes the figure of what is essentially an editor: someone who identifies, collects, modifies, constellates and distributes cultural artifacts – regardless of medium, regardless of publishing surface; a practice that is not medium specific, and implies an unconstrained mobility between different technologies of cultural production and distribution. One consequence of the general digitalization of contemporary culture is that the distinction between the figure of the author and the editor has become eminently uncertain. Can Benjamin’s 1934 reflection on cultural production be beneficial for developing tools to describe what one could call an recent editorial turn of artistic practice? Is this assumed ’turn’ actually a longer historical process, made visible by the emergence of digital editing (in a broader sense)? And in what ways can it help to uncover hitherto hard to discern aspects of historical art and literature?

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