Technologies of Wonder by Susan Delagrange
The Female Wunderkammern Continued...
Delagrange draws a lengthy analogy between hypermediated multimedia and feminism alongside other underrepresented minorities. In chapter two she states, “a foundation for questioning the prevailing logocentric perspective was first laid by feminist historiography, which uncovered a history of denial, a history that claimed women’s bodies are incapable of being rhetorical, a history that either refused women access to the public sphere or denigrated and disavowed their performances there” (20). She uses a thick layer of rhetorical language to cover the cogs and gears that are her underlining argument. Her seemingly strange argument comes alive as a new mechanism once she juxtaposes her ideas next to images of Joseph Cornell’s Boxes and the curious wunderkammern. A possible image she is conveying is that technology has given us spaces that are boxes of wonder with may opportunities in store.
Upon the first read, the book came across at first as strange and confusing because there seemed to be several ideas and images unrelated to each other all in one chapter. This may be the feeling the author was attempting to invoke in her readers, however. That may be the same feeling academics get when they see images and visuals in professional work: they don’t fit in and seem unrelated to the text. Delagrange spends a great portion of her book reaffirming how images are not quite accepted in such works. She explains how images are seen as unprofessional or unwanted in academic and professional work, which she tries multiple times to relate back to the way women’s bodies are viewed—as taboo. When a new media emerges, she says (such as images in textual work), “the process of remediation takes a predictable path. At first, an emergent medium looks much like its predecessor. Photography, for example, initially resembled painting” (24). It’s not until this new media begins to become it’s own creature, and be taken seriously apart from it’s “parent”, that it becomes taboo, applies its own hypermediacy, and resists a unified perspective. In a way, this new image-heavy text becomes strange and “wonderful”—a thing of wonder.