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Evolution of Type,


Evolution of Type

“When and to whom in the dim past the idea came that man’s speech could be better represented by fewer symbols [to denote certain unvarying sounds] selected fromthe confused mass of picture ideographs, phonograms, and their like, which constituted the first methods of representing human speech, we have no certain means of knowing. But whatever the source, the development did come; and we must deal with it. To present briefly the early history of the alphabet requires that much collateral matter must be disregarded and a great deal that is omitted here must necessarily be taken for granted; the writer desires, however, to present what seems to him to be a logical and probable story of the alphabet’s beginnings.”
Frederic W. Goudy,  “The Alphabet and Elements of Lettering” (1918)

A letter, a sign suggesting a sound and thus in combination suggesting a world, has to be of organic origin. In this belief I continued to dissect further letters. In some of them, to my utmost surprise, I discovered calcium carbonate skeletons, similar to sea corals. It is only the beginning of my journey into the evolution of letters but I dare to assume conform evolution to mammals at this stage.

This essay introduces an online experiment in the composition of scholarly hypertext that resulted in a website entitled The Arcades Project Project. My argument in favor of such endeavors begins with a discussion of “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which I examine alongside “The Author as Producer” and “A Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” focusing on Benjamin’s distinction between progressive and regressive compositional and educational techniques.  In these essays, Benjamin identifies a way of thinking about progress that is “totally useless for fascism.”  This involves a refashioning of the apparatus of perception as a means of eliciting change. I argue that Benjamin makes this argument structurally in The Arcades Project by adopting passages as its title concept, providing an image of thought that lends itself easily to structural modification, improvisation and adaptation that is diffused throughout his structural apparatus.  In this way, The Arcades Project serves as an example of what Benjamin identifies as “the structure of awakening.” This concept of structure is then combined with the call by many Benjamin scholars to respond to his work, not through analysis and argument, but through continuation.  My response takes the form of this website.”

-Heather Marcelle Crickenberger



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