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Hillel Schwartz

Hillel Schwartz is the author of Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond.

Titles by This Author

Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles

The Culture of the Copy is a novel attempt to make sense of the Western fascination with replicas, duplicates, and twins. In a work that is breathtaking in its synthetic and critical achievements, Hillel Schwartz charts the repercussions of our entanglement with copies of all kinds, whose presence alternately sustains and overwhelms us. This updated edition takes notice of recent shifts in thought with regard to such issues as biological cloning, conjoined twins, copyright, digital reproduction, and multiple personality disorder. At once abbreviated and refined, it will be of interest to anyone concerned with problems of authenticity, identity, and originality.

Through intriguing, and at times humorous, historical analysis and case studies in contemporary culture, Schwartz investigates a stunning array of simulacra: counterfeits, decoys, mannequins, and portraits; ditto marks, genetic cloning, war games, and camouflage; instant replays, digital imaging, parrots, and photocopies; wax museums, apes, and art forgeries—not to mention the very notion of the Real McCoy.

Working through a range of theories on biological, mechanical, and electronic reproduction, Schwartz questions the modern esteem for authenticity and uniqueness. The Culture of the Copy shows how the ethical dilemmas central to so many fields of endeavor have become inseparable from our pursuit of copies—of the natural world, of our own creations, indeed of our very selves. The book is an innovative blend of microsociology, cultural history, and philosophical reflection, of interest to anyone concerned with problems of authenticity, identity, and originality.

Praise for the first edition

“[T]he author...brings his considerable synthetic powers to bear on our uneasy preoccupation with doubles, likenesses, facsimiles, replicas and re-enactments. I doubt that these cultural phenomena have ever been more comprehensively or more creatively chronicled.... [A] book that gets you to see the world anew, again.”
The New York Times

“A sprightly and disconcerting piece of cultural history”
—Terence Hawkes, London Review of Books

“In The Culture of the Copy, [Schwartz] has written the perfect book: original and repetitive at once.”
—Todd Gitlin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond

When did the “silent deeps” become cacophonous and galaxies begin to swim in a sea of cosmic noise? Why do we think that noises have colors and that colors can be loud? How loud is too loud, and says who? Attending, as ears do, to a surround of sounds at once physical and political, Hillel Schwartz listens across millennia for changes in the Western experience and understanding of noise. From the uproarious junior gods of Babylonian epics to crying infants heard over baby monitors, from doubly mythic Echo to amplifier feedback, from shouts frozen in Rabelaisian air to the squawk of loudspeakers and the static of shortwave radio, Making Noise follows “unwanted sound” on its surprisingly revealing path through terrains domestic and industrial, urban and rural, legal and religious, musical and medical, poetic and scientific. At every stage, readers can hear the cultural reverberations of the historical soundwork of actresses, admen, anthropologists, astronomers, builders, composers, dentists, economists, engineers, filmmakers, firemen, grammar school teachers, jailers, nurses, oceanographers, pastors, philosophers, poets, psychologists, and the writers of children’s books.

Drawing upon such diverse sources as the archives of antinoise activists and radio advertisers, catalogs of fireworks and dental drills, letters and daybooks of physicists and physicians, military manuals and training films, travel diaries and civil defense pamphlets, as well as museum collections of bells, ear trumpets, megaphones, sirens, stethoscopes, and street organs, Schwartz traces the process by which noise today has become as powerfully metaphorical as the original Babel.

The endnotes and bibliography are not available in the physical book. Download both here.

Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles

The Culture of the Copy is an unprecedented attempt to make sense of our Western fascination with replicas, duplicates, and twins. In a work that is breathtaking in both its synthetic and critical achievements, Hillel Schwartz charts the repercussions of our entanglement with copies of all kinds, whose presence alternately sustains and overwhelms us.

Through intriguing, and at times humorous, historical analysis and case studies in contemporary culture, Schwartz investigates most varieties of simulacra, including counterfeits, decoys, mannequins, ditto marks, portraits, genetic cloning, war games, camouflage, instant replays, digital imaging, parrots, photocopies, wax museums, apes, art forgeries, not to mention the very notion of the Real McCoy.

At the same time Schwartz works through a range of modernist, feminist, and postmodern theories about copies and mechanical reproduction, posing the following compelling question: How is it that the ethical dilemmas at the heart of so many fields of endeavor have become inseparable from our pursuit of copies—of the natural world, or our own creations, indeed our very selves?

The Culture of the Copy is a stunning, innovative blend of microsociology, cultural history, and philosophical reflection that will fascinate anyone concerned with problems of authenticity, identity, and originality.