The Fate of Literary Studies in the Age of Digital Hyperculturality
Rolf J. Goebel
In his study Hyperkulturalität: Kultur und Globalisierung (2005), the Korean-German cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han develops the notion of hyperculturality. Akin to the digital hypertext, hyperculture denotes a rhizomatic space of de-substantialized dispersal; it is without memory; and it celebrates a post-auratic placelessness where the hypercultural tourist freely surfs from one “here” to another. His concept celebrates uncritically the seemingly free movement of the human subject within the unlimited network of simultaneous positions. Han seems to replicate rather than undermine the consumer fetishism of postindustrial, late-capitalist commodity society, which he labels the “hypermarket of cultures.” He de-historicizes the present by disregarding today’s cultural amnesia and the dangers or possibilities of an open-ended future. However, Han’s theory enables us to ask questions that go beyond the celebration of hyperculture without simply bypassing it: How do we redefine the study of the traditional literary canon when the hyperculture of digital media technologies seems to deconstruct (authorial) subjectivity, aesthetic autonomy, and localized readers (idealist categories commonly associated with the literary)? How do we resituate the notion of literary fiction in the seemingly infinite web of hypertexts, digital image series, and soundscapes? How do we rescue and recalibrate the notion of cultural authenticity in the wake of hypercultural simulacra? How do we understand the postcolonial notion of the subversive inscription of the Other into dominant discourses when we are told that cultural locality doesn’t matter any longer? And finally: How do we redefine (or find again) places of enunciation in the real from where we may articulate our identities, collective memories, and shared aspirations?