Operation Valhalla

Writings on War, Weapons, and Media

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: Published: April 2021

Media Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

Operation Valhalla collects eighteen texts by German media theorist Friedrich Kittler on the close connections between war and media technology. In these essays, public lectures, interviews, literary analyses, and autobiographical musings, Kittler outlines how war has been a central driver of media's evolution, from Prussia's wars against Napoleon to the so-called War on Terror. Covering an eclectic array of topics, he charts the intertwined military and theatrical histories of the searchlight and the stage lamp, traces the microprocessor's genealogy back to the tank, shows how rapid-fire guns brought about new standards for optics and acoustics, and reads Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow to upset established claims about the relationship between war, technology, and history in the twentieth century. Throughout, Operation Valhalla foregrounds the outsize role of war in media history as well as Kittler's importance as a daring and original thinker.


“As demonstrated by his famous mapping of the three media operations—recording, transmitting, processing—onto ‘trenches,’ ‘blitz,’ and Ronald Reagan's Star Wars, war for Friedrich Kittler was the principle that drove media history. Although a provocation for whiggish as well as for critical thinking that found the telos of media history in humanity's progress toward democracy or capitalism's perversion of democracy, Kittler's highly original approach to media analysis opened up a road to a posthumanistic theory of media which has never been more timely than today.” — Bernhard Siegert, author of Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real

“The preeminent thinker of media in the past half century, Friedrich Kittler speaks to deep concerns of the digital age in a voice that is philosophical, wry, learned, obscure, indirect, profound, and always stimulating. To read him is to have your neurons rearranged. Kittler’s work is essential.” — John Durham Peters, coauthor of Promiscuous Knowledge: Information, Image, and Other Truth Games in History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Friedrich Kittler (1943–2011) was a Professor of Media Aesthetics and History at Humboldt University in Berlin and the author of numerous books, including Discourse Networks 1800/1900 and Gramophone, Film, Typewriter.

Ilinca Iurascu is Associate Professor of German at the University of British Columbia.

Geoffrey Winthrop-Young is Professor of German at the University of British Columbia.

Michael Wutz is Rodney H. Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor of English at Weber State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Editor's Preface / Ilinca Iurascu, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, and Michael Wutz  vii
Introduction: The Wars of Friedrich Kittler / Geoffrey Winthrop-Young  1
Part I: Guns, Germans, and Steel: The Hardware(s) of War
1. Free Ways (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)   53
2. A Short History of the Searchlight (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  62
3. Fragments of a History of Firearms (Translated by Michael Wutz)  69
4. Tanks (Translated by Michael Wutz)  73
Part II. Wires, Waves, and Wagner
5. Noises of War (Translated by Michael Wutz)  79
6. Playback: A World War History of Radio Drama (Translated by Michael Wutz)  91
7. Operation Valhalla (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  110
8. When the Blitzkrieg Raged (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  117
Part III. Vanishing Animals and Returning Nomads
9. Animals of War: A Historical Bestiary (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  123
10. On Modern Warfare: A Conversation with Alexander Kluge (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  127
11. Of States and Their Terrorists (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  136
Part IV. Love and War
12. Manners of Death in War (Translated by Michael Wutz)  151
13. Ottilie Hauptmann (Translated by Ilinca Iurascu)  166
Part V. Pynchon's War
14. On a Novel That Would Not Only Be Fiction . . . (Translated by Michael Wutz)  193
15. De Nostalgia (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  198
16. Media and Drugs in Pynchon's Second World War (Translated by Michael Wutz)  211
Part VI. Kittler on Kittler
17. Biogeography (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  227
18. Theology (Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young)  233
Notes  235
Bibliography  273
Index  287
Credits  295
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1184-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1071-5