Rainer Guldin (PhD) was Lecturer of German Language and Culture at the Faculties of Communication and Economic Sciences at the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano (Switzerland) from 1996 to 2022. He studied English and German Literature in Zurich and Birmingham (Great Britain). His diploma was dedicated to the American writer H. P. Lovecraft, and his Ph.D. thesis focused on the work of the German writer Hubert Fichte. He taught courses and held seminars at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil (2001), the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar (Germany) (2003), and the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies of the University of Manchester (England) (2013). He was also visiting professor (Cathedra IEAT/Fundep) at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte (UFMG) Brazil (2012). In 2013 and 2015, he taught a course on multilingual literature at the University of St. Gallen (HSG) (Switzerland). Publications: Vilém Flusser – Hundert Zitate (together with Andreas Müller-Pohle), Berlin 2020; Metaphors of Multilingualism. Changing Attitudes towards Language Diversity in Literature, Linguistics and Philosophy, Routledge, New York, 2020; O homem sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser, Annablume, Sāo Paulo (2017); and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie, transcript, Bielefeld 2017 (together with Gustavo Bernardo); Translation as Metaphor, Routledge, New York 2016 and 22018; Politische Landschaften. Zum Verhältnis von Raum und nationaler Identität, transcript, Bielefeld 2014; Spiegelgeschichten. Zu Hubert Fichtes und Hans Henny Jahnns Thomas Chatterton, Rimbaud Verlag, Aachen 2010; Wolkenformationen […] aus dem Dunst der Möglichkeiten. Zur nubigenen Einbildungskraft, Walther König, Cologne 2009; Vilém Flusser (together with Anke Finger and Gustavo Bernardo), W. Fink UTB, Paderborn 2009; Die Sprache des Himmels. Eine Geschichte der Wolken, Kadmos, Berlin 2006; Philosophieren zwischen den Sprachen. Vilém Flussers Werk, Wilhelm Fink, Munich 2005.
Articles of Rainer Guldin
Cotton Wool. On Flusserian Methodology and Terminology
Flusser’s attempt to cross-fertilize the disciplines, to synthesize philosophy, art and science, relies on the use of hybrid multifocal terminology. This implies the use of different strategies: horizontal expansion through multiple successive translation, vertical segmentation through etymology, integration of conceptual opposites, crossbreeding between disciplinary areas, exploration of the phonetical and visual side of words, wordplay. Furthermore, these main strategies are not used on their own, but combined in different and always changing ways with each other. The borders of words are not fixed. They overlap, mix and merge. I would like to explore Flusser’s writing and thinking styles in order to approach and understand the challenges stemming from his idiosyncratic innovative methodology.
Literary Translingualism in Switzerland: Pierre Lepori and Beat Christen
The Swiss writer Conrad Ferdinand Meyer had two languages at his disposal, German and French. He hesitated, but in the end he opted to write in German. His decision was deeply affected by the outcome of the French-German war of 1870, which led to the unification of Germany. Contemporary Swiss writers do no longer have to grapple with such heartbreaking decisions. Quite the opposite is the case. In the last few decades, new forms of translingual writing have come into being. They have created a dense dialogical net across the country linking the four linguistic regions with each other. In this paper I would like to discuss two significant examples of this new form of translingual literature. Pierre Lepori combines Italian and French and Beat Christen writes in German and French.
„Ich habe gegen Pathos zu kämpfen gehabt […].“ Zur Entstehung und Bedeutung von Vilém Flussers Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert. Versuch einer subjektiven Synthese
This essay deals with Vilém Flusser’s first finished, but still unpublished book Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert, which was most probably written in the mid-1950s. The book consists of six chapters linked to each other in an unfolding spiral: politics, society, science, art, philosophy and religion. Flusser’s main aim is to try to synthesize the West with the East: modern Western science with the Indian philosophy of the Vedanta, the contemporary Western concept of art with that of Chinese culture and the Judaic-Christian belief with Hinduism and Buddhism. This synthesis is possible because the West and the East have been slowly evolving in the same direction. The book is remarkable both from a thematic and a stylistic point of view. It is the very origin, and construction site of Flusser’s work to come. Flusser has discarded some of the ideas put forward in Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert, but retained many others transforming them over the course of the years. Furthermore, Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert allows a reflection on the origins of Flusser’s writing, and on the development of his style.
Ménage à trois: Riflessioni sulle nozioni di diafanità e trasparenza nell’opera di Mira Schendel, Jean Gebser e Vilém Flusser
This paper deals with the difficult friendship between Mira Schendel and Vilém Flusser, as well as the role, which the life and work of the German philosopher, writer, and translator Jean Gebser (1905-1973) played in their dialogue. In the late 1960s, Schendel and Flusser studied and discussed Gebser’s Ursprung und Gegenwart. Schendel, who visited Gebser in Switzerland in 1968, was profoundly influenced by his spiritual view of reality and used his notion of Diaphanität (transparency) to interpret her own early work. In a few essays and in the Bodenlos’ chapter dedicated to Schendel, Flusser reinterpreted the work of the Brazilian artist in terms of his own philosophy, transforming the religious notion of Diaphanität into the sole ability to see beyond the surface of things. This, however, is only one aspect of the complex relationship between the three thinkers. The paper also deals with the impact the text in Bodenlos had on the Flusser-Schendel relationship and with the pervasive influence of Gebser’s work upon Flusser’s thought between the 1950s and the 1980s. Gebser’s model of the four different and succeeding Bewußtseinsmutationen, mutations of conscience, proposes five different dimensions (Bewußtseinsstrukturen), which move from zero to the fourth dimension. This notion can also be found in Flusser’s model of code evolution, which he developed in Into the Universe of Technical Images. Flusser proposed five stages, which move, however, in reverse, from four to zero dimensionality.
“To make music with visionary power”. On the Relationship of Music and Mathematics in Vilém Flusser’s Work
This essay deals with the relationship of mathematics and music in Vilém Flusser’s work, an aspect that has not received the attention it deserves. Related issues are the complex dialectics of sound, number, image and word as well as the relationship of hearing and seeing. The essay focuses on two texts written 22 years apart but closely connected to each other: The History of the Devil (1963) and Into the Universe of Technical Images (1985). This makes it possible to illustrate the inner coherence of the whole oeuvre and the persistence with which Flusser kept returning to the same central issues of his thinking and writing. In the context of the issue discussed here, this leads to an all-encompassing synthesis of several diverging aspects. In the new computerized technical images mathematics and music, the West and the East, art and science merge, the senses and the codes come together, the eye, the ear and the fingertips, the visual, the acoustic and the tactile converge and fuse creating a new unheard of and unseen multilingual, multi-mediatic and multi-discursive unity.
Fluss/er. Circle – Spiral – Cloud
This text is an attempt to capture Flusser’s thinking and its evolution over the years by focusing on three interrelated images: the circle, the spiral and the cloud. The first two are based on Flusser’s translation and retranslation theory, which negates the notions of simple progress, linearity and hierarchy. The third one is related to the last phase of Flusser’s thinking organized around the notions of calculation and the dot-like structure of digital images. Clouds are seen as swarms of free-floating points of view created by calculatory combination, as fields of possibility. The text begins with a short reflection on Flusser’s own name suggesting a direct link between it and some central tenets of his philosophy. The proper name Flusser is an image that can be used to interpret Vilém Flusser’s own thinking.