Intangible Materialism: The Body, Scientific Knowledge, and the Power of Language
by Ronald Schleifer
University of Minnesota Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-8166-4467-4 | Paper: 978-0-8166-4468-1
Library of Congress Classification PN56.M35S35 2009


Taking as his point of departure Norbert Weiner’s statement that information is basic to understanding materialism in our era, Ronald Schleifer shows how discoveries of modern physics have altered conceptions of matter and energy and the ways in which both information theory and the study of literature can enrich these conceptions. Expanding the reductive notion of “the material” as simply matter and energy, he formulates a new, more inclusive idea of materialism.

Schleifer’s project attempts to bridge the divisions between the humanities and the sciences and to create a nonreductive materialism for the information age. He presents a materialistic account of human bodily experience by delving into language and literature that powerfully represents our faces, voices, hands, and pain. For example, he examines the material resources of poetic “literariness” as it is revealed in the condition of Tourette’s syndrome. Schleifer also investigates gestures of the hand in the formation of sociality, and he studies pain as both a physiological and phenomenological experience.

This ambitious work explores physiological analyses, evolutionary explanations, and semiotic descriptions of materialism to reveal how aspects of physical existence discover meaning in experience. 

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