“Witty, sophisticated, and sharply written, Michael North’s Novelty tackles the oxymorons lurking in the subtitle with gusto and a wide scope of learning, ranging from the classical Greeks to modernist writers like Pound to the art criticism of the 1960s and 1970s. In exploring the multiple valences and models of the new, North accomplishes that most elusive of achievements: explaining how something can at once be new and old, recurrent and unexpected. Highly recommended not just for academics but for the general reader as well.”
N. Katherine Hayles, author of How We Became Posthuman
A History of the New
|Publication date: November 12, 2013 ||$26.00/£18.00 |
|International publication date: November 19, 2013 ||978-0-226-07787-1 |
In almost every field of human endeavor, novelty is a driving force, an obsession in the arts, sciences, and philosophy for millennia. But every age has grappled with the fundamental problem of the pursuit of novelty: If everything has to come from something, how can anything truly new enter the world? With Novelty, Michael North offers a dazzling tour of how people have attempted to understand and explain the concept of the new, from the puzzles of the pre-Socratics to the art world of the 1960s and ’70s. The terms of the debate, he shows, were established before Plato, and have changed very little since: novelty, philosophers argued, could only arise from either recurrence or recombination. The former, found in nature’s cycles of renewal, and the latter, seen most clearly in the workings of language, between them have accounted for nearly all the ways in which novelty has been conceived in Western history, taking in reformation, renaissance, invention, revolution, and even evolution. As he pursues this idea through centuries and across disciplines, North exhibits astonishing range, drawing on figures as diverse as Charles Darwin and Robert Smithson, Thomas Kuhn and Ezra Pound, Norbert Wiener and Andy Warhol, all of whom offer different ways of grappling with newness as such.
North’s erudition and range are matched only by his ambition, and Novelty will be a landmark work, synthesizing the past and pushing us forward into the (ever-new) future.
Michael North is professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles and the author of several books, including The Dialect of Modernism, Reading 1922, and Camera Works. He is available for interviews.