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The Laws of CoolKnowledge Work and the Culture of Information$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226486987

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.001.0001

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Speaking of History

Speaking of History

Toward an Alliance of New Humanities and New Arts (With a Prolegomenon on the Future Literary)

(p.373) Chapter 12 Speaking of History
The Laws of Cool

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

The humanities stand to gain “cool” from the arts, while the arts might gain in return from the humanities a historical rationale for the new aesthetics (including “viral aesthetics”) currently struggling to emerge from the suffocating post-industrial credo of ceaseless, heedless creativity. The social, ethical, and aesthetic adequacy of the creative arts in the age of knowledge work seems to depend on acquiring such an aesthetic legitimation. What is socially redeeming about an art that resembles “cyberterrorism,” which in turn resembles “bioterrorism,” which itself is the “poor man's version” of nuclear terrorism, and so on up the scale of apocalypse in the contemporary logic of terrorism and counterterrorism? This chapter discusses the importance of an alliance between the arts and contemporary humanities to explain the legitimacy of the new aesthetic ideologies. It explains how, in the view of the contemporary humanities, history fundamentally transcodes creation as destruction, and vice versa. Finally, it examines the unique future of literature in the information age as well as the future of “literary history” and how it can contribute to the future literary.

Keywords:   humanities, arts, history, future literary, information age, literary history, literature, cyberterrorism, viral aesthetics, cool

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