Pellucid Paper: Poetry and Bureaucratic Media in Early Modern Spain
by Adam Wickberg
Pellucid Paper offers a new history of the materiality of Early Modern poetry and its relation to political power, memory and subject constitution. The book explores the broad media practices in which some of the most canonical Spanish Golden Age poetry was produced. It departs from the intersection of media theory, historiography and materiality of Early Modern culture in a radical rethinking of the nature of the relationship between the imaginary and the real using the concept of cultural techniques. Working with the operative sequences of the material and the symbolic of epistemological configurations of art, literature and power relations, it demonstrates how media and materiality were a crucial part of both the political and the aesthetic already in Early Modernity. It studies these operations in Early Modern Spain in the reign from Philip II to Philip IV. The development of a paper based bureaucracy as a means of sustaining large-scale power relations bridging distances in space and time forms the locus of the book. Pellucid Paper is informed by German Media theory and specifically the more recent developments of Cultural Techniques, which enables a fresh and imaginative take on Early Modern culture. The book offers a radical account of the dynamic relationship between the death oriented aesthetics of vanitas, techniques and media of storage and a form of mediated presence that permeates the inseparable spheres of the political and the aesthetic.
Adam Wickberg is a Postdoctoral fellow in media history at the Environmental Humanities Lab at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin (MPWIG I). His current research concerns the Early Modern media history of the Anthropocene, where he traces the global changes of long distance governing of nature brought about by early Spanish colonialism. The project studies the human-nature relationship of Iberian colonial history using the critical aspects of media and anthropogenic altering of natural habitats as a material and discursive practice. The bureaucratic use of paper – documents, files, maps, surveys, orders – as a form of governance of nature over great distances is a focal point of the study.