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Review: Pathways of the Mind

The late John Miles Foley (1947–2012) was a highly respected scholar of oral poetry. In his last book, Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind (2012), which is the print version of his Pathways Project wiki, he proposes a structural analogy between the way oral poets fashion their performances and the manner in which web users traverse the links of the hypertext medium. From this analogy, the author proceeds to spin an end of print yarn, suggesting that the web liberates us from the tyranny of the book and returns us to the happier dispensation that prevails under the culture of oral poetry.

I find this claim unconvincing and express my reservations in a review article.

Foucault and the European Journal that never was

While looking in my papers for something else entirely, I’ve just come across a few copies of the pilot issue of Das Europäische Journal der Bücher & Autoren, published in January 1999, printed on 42 g/m2 paper at 245 mm x 400 mm. The Journal was intended as an implementation in German of the publishing model pioneered by the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. With a print run of 60,000 copies and a minimum of 48 pages per issue, the monthly was going to retail for 8 Deutsche Mark, 8 Swiss Francs, or 56 Austrian Schilling.

By the time I met the journal’s prospective publisher and editor in chief, a middle-aged academic from Southern Germany, he seemed anxious rather than hopeful about the project. He had made a huge investment of time, effort and enthusiasm into a project that may have been doomed from the beginning. He was worn down by protracted battles over funding. Knowledgeable people with whom I discussed the project told me it didn’t stand a chance as its market was too small.

Regardless, I contributed a few illustrations to the effort, one of which was the caricature of Michel Foucault flashing a wide grin, posing with an archaeologist’s spade.

The caricature is not a patch on the great David Levine‘s work for the New York Review of Books, but what ever is?

Das Europäische Journal der Bücher & Autoren never made it beyond its pilot issue.