chapter  16
6 Pages

Avital Ronell Talking on the Telephone

Were these funereal accompaniments, works of art, utensils of so me unfathomable sort? The French publicist M. Henry Paccory has asserted that these objects were used for the transmission of speech "and that the chambers in which they were found were nothing less than ancient telephone booths .... Two miles, he thinks, was the limit of the distance over which the subject of the pharaohs could project his voice" (HT, 5). [ This history seems a bit fanciful-so much so that one would want to enlist the counsel of a contemporary Egyptologist to seeure an argument of these proportions. But like Bell's inability or unwillingness to confirm the receivership of the early telephone, we are caught in the same theoretical bind. So why introduce the possibility of a hookup to the pharaoh's Egypt? Only to suggest that the entire Mosaic intervention can be read according to telephonic protocols; a Heideggerian competition of the earth and sky, the pharaoh's vaulted pyramid booths pitted against the open lines of monotheism's suppression and abolition of divine party lines * The Telephone Wars of the Egyptians and the Hebrews * The electric flash that announced to Moses that God was on the li ne * The transcription of that person-to-person call * Moses was the only mortal to have seen the Mouthpiece. But here we are heading toward a dead sea of speculation, at which point it is always safe to attempt an exodus * At the same time, we do not wish to limit our ventures, however precarious and telephonically unverifiable in the end, to Western phenomena. Again, in the interest of fairmindedness, ancient telephony among the Chinese deserves mention, if only to encourage others to pursue in greater detail this line of inquiry. As with any newborn archaeology, it needs time to develop, and many teachers.