Geologies of Finitude: The Deep Time of Twenty-First-Century Catastrophe in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega and Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia

July 15, 2016

Geologies of Finitude: The Deep Time of Twenty-First-Century Catastrophe in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega and Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia

I am pleased to report that my essay, “Geologies of Finitude: The Deep Time of Twenty-First-Century Catastrophe in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega and Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia,” was just published in the most recent issue of Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. This essay has been in the works for some time, and I am happy to see it emerge into the light of day.

An abstract: The twenty-first century has seen a transformation of twentieth-century narrative and historical discourse. On the one hand, the cold war national fantasy of mutually assured destruction has multiplied, producing a diverse array of apocalyptic visions. On the other, there has been an increasing sobriety about human finitude, especially considered in the light of emerging discussions about deep time. This essay argues that Don DeLillo’s Point Omega (2010) and Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008) make strong cases for the novel’s continuing ability to complicate and illuminate contemporaneity. Written in the midst of the long and disastrous United States incursions in the Middle East, DeLillo and Negarestani raise important political questions about the ecological realities of the War on Terror. Each novel acknowledges that though the catastrophic present cannot be divorced from the inevitable doom at the end of the world, we still desperately need to imagine something else.


Mid-Summer Links 2016

June 27, 2016

Nuclear and Environment

Naomi Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World.”

Aamna Mohdin, “Fearing a Nuclear Terror Attack, Belgium Is Giving Iodine Pills to Its Entire Population.”

Annabell Shark, “MoMA, The Bomb and the Abstract Expressionists.”

Alex Wellerstein, “The Demon Core and the Strange Death of Louis Slotin.”

Lake Chad disappearing over the past fifty years.

Continent 5.2.

And RDS-37 Soviet hydrogen bomb test (1955).


US and International Politics

Glenn Greenwald, “Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions.

Slavoj Žižek, “Could Brexit Breathe New Life into Left-Wing Politics?”

John Oliver on Brexit.

Dan Sinykin, “Trump and the End Times.”

The editors of Salvage, “Lèse-Evilism: On the US Election Season.”

Peter E. Gordon, “The Authoritarian Personality Revisited: Reading Adorno in the Age of Trump.”

8-Bit Philosophy, “Is Trump Really a Fascist?”

Thoughts and Prayers: The Game.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “The Cynical Sit-In.”

Lyman Stone, “Could eNationalism Be a Thing.”

Lynn Vavreck, “American Anger: It’s Not Politics. It’s the Other Party.”

Elizabeth Drew, “Trump: The Haunting Question.”

Andrew Sullivan, “Democracies End when They Are  Too Democratic.”

Jodi Dean, Crowds and Party.

Derek Thompson, “Donald Trump and the Twilight of White America.”

Jennifer Sabin, “The Newly Emboldened American Racist.”

Cory Doctorow, Second Life‘s Trump Army Lays Siege to Bernie Sanders’s Virtual HQ with Swastika Cannons.”

Kevin Rigby Jr. and Hari Ziyad, “White People Have No Place in Black Liberation.”

Amanda Gross, “A Resurrection Vision.”

Maltz Bovy, “Checking Privilege Checking.”

Gennetta M. Adams, “Prince Wrote a Slow Jam about Donald Trump and It Is Glorious.”

Larry Wilmore’s Remarks at the 2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the 2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

The Dandy Goat, New York Times Sure This the Biting Editorial to Sink Trump for Good.”

And ?.


National Security State

Jenna McLaughlin, “Spy Chief Complains That Edward Snowden Sped Up Spread of Encryption by 7 Years.”

Sadie Levy Gayle, “CIA ‘Mistakenly’ Destroys Copy of 6,700-page US Torture Report.”

CIA Undercover, “This Former CIA Officer’s Secret Life Taught Her One Lesson: Listen to Your Enemy.”



Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, David Golumbia, “Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities.”

Adam Crymble, “Digital Hubris, Digital Humility.”

Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool.”

Jonathan Basile, Library of Babel and “Putting Borges’s Infinite Library on the Internet.”

All of Pynchon Notes has been archived and is available online.

Martin John Callanan, Alberto Toscano, Sarah Brouillette, and Tom Eyers, “Paranoid Subjectivity and the Challenges of Cognitive Mapping – How is Capitalism to be Represented?”

David Weinberger, “Rethinking Knowledge in the Internet Age.”

Amanda Petrusich, “Why Record Stores Mattered.”

Alan Liu, drafts for Against the Cultural Singularity.

Tim Peters, “Emojis, Comics, and the Novel of the Future.”

Paul Miller, “What Is LitRPG and Why Does It Exist?”

Houman Barekat, “The Internet-y Novel.”

Brian Ang, Theory Arsenal.

Annalee Newitz, “Movie Written by Algorithm Turns Out to Be Hilarious and Intense.”

Aja Romano, “A Guy Trained a Machine to ‘Watch’ Blade Runner.”

Jeff Guo, “I Have Found a New Way to Watch TV, and It Changes Everything.”

Parody of TED Talks.

And watch an artificial intelligence learn how to play Super Mario World live.


Literature and Culture

Alain Badiou, “Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art.”

Carrie Battan, “Beyoncé’s Lemonade Is a Revelation of Spirit.”

Kitty Empire, “Beyoncé: Lemonade Review – Furious Glory of a Woman Scorned.”

Molly Fischer, “Think Gender Is a Performance? You Have Judith Butler to Thank for That.”

Mark Sussman, “Butler, Speech, and the Campus.”

Ben Lerner, from The Hatred of Poetry.

Marjorie Perloff, “Old Possum’s Nest: A Second Look at the Poetry of T. S. Eliot.”

Carolyn Kellogg, “A Rare Interview with Don DeLillo, One of the Titans of American Fiction” and “Don DeLillo’s Deep Freeze: Zero K Takes on Death, Futurists and Cryonics.”

Crystal Alberts, ed., “Don DeLillo,” special issueOrbit.

Nick Ripatrazone, “On Don DeLillo’s Deep Italian-American Roots.”

Reza Negarestani, “What Is Philosophy? Part One: Axioms and Programs” and “What Is Philosophy? Part Two: Programs and Realizabilities.”

Eileen Joy, “The Boy Who Couldn’t Change the World: An Open Letter to Verso Books and The New Press.”

Carl Straumsheim, “All Rights Reserved.”

Steve Berliner, “What’s Wrong with the Aaron Swartz Book.”

Joe Fassler, The Lorax and Literature’s Moral Obligation,” interview with Lydia Millet.

Emily Harnett, “How the Best Commencement Speech of All Time Was Bad for Literature.”

Sam Levine, “David Foster Wallace’s Famous Commencement Speech Almost Didn’t Happen.”

Daniel Dixon, review of The Unspeakable Failure of David Foster Wallace, by Clare Hayes-Brady.

Mark Wollaeger, rejected review of The Limits of Critique, by Rita Felski.

Ning Ken, “Modern China Is So Crazy It Needs a New Literary Genre.”

Joshua Rigsby, “Internet User Cory Doctorow,” interview with Cory Doctorow.

Liesl Schillinger, “Multilingual Wordsmiths, Part 1: Lydia Davis and Translationese.”

boundary 2, “Announcing b20: An Online Journal.”

Katie Fitzpatrick, “Beyond Cool,” review of Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction, by Lee Konstantinou.

Maggie Doherty, “After Irony,” review of Cool Characters and Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism, by Rachel Greenwald-Smith.

Lee Konstantinou, Fartcopter Has the Answer.”

Gregory Jones-Katz, “How Should We Study Deconstruction?”

McKenzie Wark, “Make Kith not Kin!”

“John Ashbery with Jarrett Earnest.”

Aaron Bady, Daredevil and the Problem of Not Bad.”

Timothy Aubry, review of Workshops of Empire, by Eric Bennett.

Elizabeth Helsinger, review of Theory of Lyric, by Jonathan Culler.

Tom Eyers, Speculative Formalism: Literature, Theory, and the Critical Present.

Verso Podcast, “Walter Benjamin: The Storyteller.”

Jose Cardoso, The Game Worlds of Jason Rohrer Is an Insightful Look at the Work of a Key Voice in Gaming,” review of The Game World of Jason Rohrer, by Patrick Jagoda and Michael Maizels.

G. D. Dess, “What Happened to Purity?: Jonathan Franzen and the Aspirations and Disappointments of a Contract Writer.”

Boris Kachka, “‘I Just Don’t Find American Literature Interesting’: Lit-Blog Pioneer Jessa Crispin Closes Bookslut, Does Not Bite Tongue.”

Leora Fridman, “Unregulated Glamor,” review of The Pulp vs. the Throne, by Carrie Lorig.

Theodore Gioia, “Changing the Game: Game of Thrones Rewrites the Rules of Modern TV.”

Rowan Keiser, “In Conclusion, Game of Thrones Is a Franchise of Contrasts.”

Vinson Cunningham, “Budweiser and the Selling of America.”

Lester Spence, “The Other Game Seven.”

Dan O’Sullivan, “Breaking Cleveland’s Curse.”

Schuyler Chapman, “Will This Kill That?: Henry James, the Representational Arts, and New Media (Part 1).”

Amanda Reed, “Black Art Matters: Pitt Founds Center on Black Poetry.”

Alexander Provan, “Getting Closer to the Source” and “A Note on Standard Evaluation Materials.”

Matthew Kelly, “I Can’t Take This: Dark Souls, Vulnerability, and the Ethics of Networks.”

MLYNXQUALEY, “It’s Pub Day: 5 Reasons to Read Basma Abdel Aziz’s Terrifying, Hopeful, Dystopic Fantasy The Queue.”

Warren Ellis, Normal.

Charles Yu, “Fable.”

Nina Sabak,  “Language Arts for the Gifted Child.”

Chuck Kinder, The Silver Ghost.

Jonathan Moody, “Against Blinders.”

And Ken Burns, “2016 Stanford Commencement Address.”


Humanities and Higher Education

Alan Burdziak, “University of Missouri Expected to No Longer Allow Protest on Campus.”

Barbara J. King, “Resisting The Corporate University: What It Means To Be A ‘Slow Professor.'”

Emma Vossen, “Publish or Perish: What If We Perished?”

Hamilton Nolan, “The Horrifying Reality of the Academic Job Market.”

Stephen Milder, “The Elephant in the Seminar Room: Should the PhD Be Saved?”

David Perlmutter, “Academic Job Hunts from Hell.”

Chad Wellmon, “Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in an Age of Disenchantment.”

Irina Popescu, “The Educational Power of Discomfort.”

Kim Brooks, “Death to High School English.”

Meghan Duffy, “You Do Not Need to Work 80 Hours a Week to Succeed in Academia.”

Curt Rice, “Why Women Leave Academia and Why Universities Should Be Worried.”

Chris Lehmann, “Blame It on Higher Ed.”

Colleen Flaherty, “Refusing to Be Measured.”

Being Human, podcast of the University of Pittsburgh’s Year of the Humanities.

Carl Straumsheim, “Leave It in the Bag.”

Robin Lee Moser, “I Would Rather Do Anything Else than Grade Your Papers.”

John Minichillo, “What Your Professor’s Remarks on Your College English Paper Really Mean.”

And Existential Comics, “Epictetus Was a Hardass Professor.”


Pittsburgh and Tucson

Ed Simon, “Hell with the Lid Taken Off: A Pittsburgh Reading List.”

Tucson named only US World City of Gastronomy.

And Bartholomew Q. Kryzinski, “Pittsburgh, In Theory: The Transportation Imaginary.”

End of the Semester Links, Spring 2016

April 24, 2016

Nuclear and Environmental

Justin Gillis, “Scientists Warn of Perilous Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries.”

Ross Andersen, “We’re Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction.”

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, “On Extinction and Capitalism.”

Robert Macfarlane, “Generation Anthropocene.”

Will Worley, “Radioactive Wild Boar Rampaging around Fukushima Nuclear Site.”

Rebecca Evans, “Weather Permitting.”



Jacob Brogan, “The Supreme Court Won’t Stop Google From Scanning Every Book in Existence.”

Panama Papers.

Fredric Jameson, “In Hyperspace.”

Michelle Moravec, “The Never-ending Night of Wikipedia’s Notable Woman Problem.”

Colleen Flaherty, “Streamlining Citations.”

Selim Bullut, “Vivienne Westwood’s Son is Burning His £5m Punk Collection.”

Chloe Olewitz, “A Japanese AI Program Just Wrote a Short Novel, and It Almost Won a Literary Prize.”

Jethro Mullen, “Computer Scores Big Win against Humans in Ancient Game of Go.”

Lise Hosein, “How Christian Bök Made a Bacterium Write Poetry to Him.”

Paul Resnikoff, “In 2015, Vinyl Earned More Than YouTube Music, VEVO, SoundCloud, and Free Spotify Combined.”

“This . . . Robot Says She Wants to Destroy Humans.”

Hyperallergic, “Anish Kapoor Coats ‘Cloud Gate’ in the Darkest Black Known to Humanity.”

Robinson Meyer, “How to Write a History of Videogame Warfare.”

Jed Whitaker, “New NES Emulator Displays Classic Games in 3D.”

Joe Blevins, “Koyaanisqatsi Recreated with Just Watermarked Stock Footage.”

Ed Young, “Most of the Tree of Life Is a Complete Mystery.”

The Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature.

And Lincoln Michael, “David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books.”




As part of an attempt to answer the question How is Trump Possible? (which someone should steal as the title of their book), I’ve gathered together a wide variety of explanations and related ephemera.

Simone Chun, “Noam Chomsky: ‘I Have Never Seen Such Lunatics in the Political System.'”

Thomas Frank, “Millions of Ordinary Americans Support Donald Trump. Here’s Why.”

Lauren Berlant, “The Trumping of Politics.”

Glenn Greenwald, “The Rise of Trump Shows the Danger and Sham of Compelled Journalistic ‘Neutrality’ and “Donald Trump’s Policies Are Not Anathema to US Mainstream, but an Uncomfortable Reflection of It.”

Charles Simic, “Sticking to Our Guns.”

Robin James, “Hello from the Same Side.”

Chris Hedges, “The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism.”

Amanda Taub, “The Rise of American Authoritarianism.”

Emma Lindsay, “Trump Supporters Aren’t Stupid.”

Patricia Lockwood, “Lost in Trumplandia.”

George Souvlis Maria-Christina Vogkli, “A New Electorate: Mike Davis on Clinton, Trump, and Sanders.”

Matt Walsh, “Dear Trump Fan, So You Want Someone To ‘Tell It Like It Is’? OK, Here You Go.”

Gavin Speiller, “Why I’m Supporting the Demonic Creature That Emerged from the Depths of Hell in This Year’s Presidential Election.”

And Tom O’Donnell, “Here’s Why I Am a Proud Godzilla Supporter.”


Economic and International

George Monbiot, “Neoliberalism: The Ideology at the Root of All of Our Problems.”

Thomas Piketty, “America’s Frightening Oligarchy.”

“Lèse humanité.”



Literature and Culture

Jon Pareles, “Prince, an Artist Who Defied Genre, Is Dead at 57.”

Peter Coviello, “Is There God after Prince?”

Charles Curtis, “Just How Good Was Prince at Basketball?”

Ervin Dyer, “A New Center for African American Poetry, Poetics.”

Poetry and Race in America, University of Pittsburgh Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.

Claudia Rankine, “Sound and Fury.”

Boris Kachka, “Claudia Rankine Challenges White Teachers, Pities White Racists in AWP Keynote.”

Geoffrey Bennington, “Embarrassing Ourselves,” review of Of Grammatology, by Jacques Derrida, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, introduction by Judith Butler.

Eli Thorkelson, review of Why There Is No Poststructuralism in France, by Johannes Angermuller.

Matthew Mullins, “Are We Postcritical?” review of The Limits of Critque, by Rita Felski.

David Golumbia, “Code Is Not Speech.”

Lee Konstantinou, “We Had to Get Beyond Irony: How David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, and a New Generation of Believers Changed Fiction.”

The Great Concavity, a David Foster Wallace podcast.

Mark Sussman, “David Foster Wallace as Burkean Conservative: More D. T. Max on Every Love Story is a Ghost Story.”

John Jeremiah Sullivan, “David Foster Wallace’s Perfect Game.”

Mark Soderstrom, “Unequal Universes.”

Ian Bogost, “The Art—and Absurdity—of Extreme Career Hopping.”

Bruce Robbins, “Working on TV.”

Angie Cruz and Oindrila Mukherjee, editors, Atravesando: An Aster(ix) Anthology.

Ashley Hutson, “Lit Mag Committed to Social Change is Intense, Provocative, and Simply Good Reading.”

Ben Woodard, “A Blood More Red, a Red So Deep.”

Reynaldo Anderson, “Afrofuturism 2.0 and the Black Speculative Art Movement: Notes on a Manifesto.”

Jay Rachel Edidin, “One of the Original X-Men Is Gay.”

Ashaki M. Jackson, Surveillance.

George Sterling, “A Wine of Wizardry.”

Simon Parkin, “Hideo Kojima’s Mission Unlocked.”

Robert L. Kehoe III, “‘The Sharp Edge That Finds Us: Edward Mendelson’s Moral Agents and the Question ‘What Is Man?'”

Marta Bausells, “Why We Read: Authors and Readers on the Power of Literature.”

Black Ocean Press, “Designing the Tomaž Šalamun Series.”

Alia Al-Sabi, “Fan Mail: Taylor Baldwin.”

Butterbirds, Rugged Bug.

A profile of one of my amazing students: “Sarah Lane: The Gamechanger.”

Stephanie Roman, “Shadow of the Colossus: Ecology of Boss Fights.”

And in headlines you cannot make up, Helena Horton, “Microsoft Deletes ‘Teen Girl’ AI after It Became a Hitler-Loving Sex Robot within Twenty-Four Hours.”


Humanities and Higher Education

Andrew Hoberek, “Melissa Click and American Anger.”

Frank Pasquale, “Automating the Profession: Utopian Pipe Dream or Dystopian Nightmare?”

Colleen Flaherty, “The Power of Grad Teaching,” “Academics Get Real,” and “End of the Line in Wisconsin.”

Matthew Johnson, “State College of Florida Officially Scraps Tenure in Testy Meeting.”

Andrew Simmons, “Literature’s Emotional Lessons.”

James Doubek, “Attention Students: Put Your Laptops Away.”

Laura McKenna, “The Ever Tightening Job Market for PhDs.”

And Cards against the Humanities.



Deborah Fallows, “Language as Art in Pittsburgh.”

Kate Giammarise, “Pittsburgh Residents Voice Affordable Housing Concerns.”

Review of David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” at C21: Journal of 21st-Century Writings

April 21, 2016

David Foster Wallace and the Long ThingProduct Details

In the fourth issue of the new journal, C21: Journal of 21st-Century Writings, Mark West has written a nicely positive review of David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”: New Essays on the Novels (2014), edited by Marshall Boswell, in which I have an essay, “‘Then Out of the Rubble’: David Foster Wallace’s Early Fiction.” West also reviews Gesturing Towards Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy (2014), edited by Robert K. Bolger and Scott Korb (somewhat less positively).

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism” and “Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction”

April 11, 2016

I’ll be giving two talks in Pittsburgh over the next two months on May 13 and June 22, 2016.


1. Friday, May 13, 2016 — 2:30 – 4:30. Part of a panel on “The Novel in or against Neoliberalism” at the 2016 Studies in the Novel Conference, The Novel in or against World Literature, Wyndham University Center – Oakland Room II.

Chair: Jen Fleissner, Indiana University

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism,” Bradley J. Fest, University of Pittsburgh

“The Novel in India and Neoliberalism,” H. Kalpana, Pondicherry University

“The Novel and Neoliberal Empathy,” Alissa G. Karl, The College at Brockport-SUNY

“Immanent Value in The Golden Bowl,” Paul Stasi, University at Albany-SUNY


The Megatext and Neoliberalism

With the steadily increasing storage capacity and processing power of contemporary information technology, enormously large texts are beginning to emerge that rival the books and libraries once imagined by Jorge Luis Borges. For instance, at some point in the near future, poet and novelist Richard Grossman will install Breeze Avenue—a five thousand volume, three million page “novel”—as a reading room in Los Angeles, and will also make this text available online in a fluid version that will change roughly every seven minutes for a century. Grossman’s text is, quite simply, too big to read; it is a megatext. This paper will consider the appearance of the unreadably massive novel as an emergent form native to the neoliberal era.

The writing, publication, and distribution of megatexts are impossible without the informatic, technological, and economic transformations of neoliberal globalization. For instance, the composition of Breeze Avenue would be inconceivable without big data and algorithmically generated text, without significant funding and personal wealth (Grossman was a high-level executive for a multinational financial firm in the 1970s), and without transforming the labor of the author from writing to managing. Mark Z. Danielewski’s twenty-seven volume meganovel-in-progress, The Familiar (2015-    ), takes full advantage of contemporary digital composition and production to create a work deeply enmeshed in the digital present by self-reflexively remediating the new media forms made possible by the distributed networks and posthuman technologies of the twenty-first century—including electronic literature, premier serial television, social media, videogames, and YouTube. And Mark Leach’s seventeen volume, ten thousand page, open source, digitally generated meganovel, Marienbad My Love (2008), takes advantage of crowd-sourced, collective authorship, reflecting the always-on unpaid digital microlabor that has come to characterize work in the overdeveloped world. Understanding such texts as unique outgrowths of and important critical reflections upon the age of neoliberalism allows us to explore important questions about the role of the novel in the twenty-first century and the possibilities for responding to the nonhuman logics of contemporaneity.



2. Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 1:30 – 3:00, I’ve organized a panel on “Videogame Adaptation” with Jedd Hakimi and Kevin M. Flanagan, colleagues in the Film Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh, for the Keystone DH 2016 Conference, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh. (A schedule of the conference.)


Videogame Adaptation


As videogames continue to emerge as a dominant twenty-first-century form, it is becoming clearer that they have complex relationships to other media. This panel, part of a larger collaborative project, will address issues of adaptation and videogames from a transmedia perspective, drawing particularly on the resources provided by film and literary studies.


Videogame Adaptation: Some Experiments in Method
Kevin M. Flanagan, University of Pittsburgh

This paper outlines the concerns and conceptual practices of videogame adaptation, noting the many ways in which videogames shape, or are shaped by, ideas, narratives, and mechanics from other media. In situating videogames into the discourses of textual transformation that animate current work in adaptation studies, I argue that traditional approaches to adaptation in English departments (which privilege novel-to-film adaptation in a one-to-one correspondence) have a lot to learn from games, which function as adaptations at all stages of their production and consumption. I also demonstrate how adaptation studies challenges claims to medium specificity that form a foundational conceit of videogame studies.


Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction
Bradley J. Fest, University of Pittsburgh

Most critics of contemporary literature have reached a consensus that what was once called “postmodernism” is over and that its signature modes—metafiction and irony—are on the wane. This is not the case, however, with videogames. In recent years, a number of self-reflexive games have appeared, exemplified by Davey Wreden’s The Stanley Parable (2013), an ironic game about games. When self-awareness migrates form print to screen, however, something happens. If metafiction can be characterized by how it draws attention to language and representation, this paper will argue how self-reflexivity in videogames is best understood in terms of action and procedure, as metaproceduralism.


Playing Los Angeles Itself: Experiencing the Digital Documentary Environment in LA Noire
Jedd Hakimi, University of Pittsburgh

Almost everything about the predominantly faithful depiction of 1947 Los Angeles in the recent, police-procedural videogame LA Noire (2011) was based on archival material, including period maps, photography, and film footage. And while scholars have thought extensively about how film spectators experience mediated depictions of real-world cities, the videogame player’s parallel experience has been relatively unexplored. Accordingly, I take LA Noire’s simulacrum as an opportunity to reflect on what happens when a real-world environment is adapted into the setting for a videogame. Specifically, I position LA Noire in the tradition of the “city-symphony” film and a particular sub-set of Film Noir known as the “semi-documentary” to make the case LA Noire contains crucial aspects of the documentary image. Consequently, LA Noire is not so much creating a fictional, diegetic world, as it is presenting our own world back to us in a manner that changes the way we experience the world in which we live.

Spring Break Links 2016

March 8, 2016

It has been a very busy past few months, and my links have suffered. But spring break has provided some lovely, unencumbered time, so here are many, many links (futilely) attempting to catch up with what’s been happening in the world. (In the interest of space, I’ve also passed over some of the more visible recent stories.)


Nuclear and Environmental

Paul Krugman, “Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial.”

Democracy Now, “Naomi Klein on Paris Summit: Leaders’ Inaction on Climate Crisis Is ‘Violence” Against the Planet.”

Adrienne LaFrance, “The Chilling Regularity of Mass Extinctions.”

Isabelle Stengers, In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism.

Sebastian Anthony, “Scientists Discover an Ocean 400 Miles Beneath Our Feet that Could Fill Our Oceans Three Times Over.”

Kylie Mohr, “Apocalypse Chow: We Tried Televangelist Jim Bakker’s ‘Survival Food.'”

Alex Trembath, “Are You and Upwinger or a Downwinger?”

Eric Bradner, “Newly Released Documents Reveal US Cold War Nuclear Target List.”



The Electronic Literature Collection, vol. 3.

The Library of Jacques Derrida.

Metacanon: American Fiction 1900-1999.

McKenzie Wark, “Creators of the World Unite,” review of Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, by Cory Doctorow.

“Libricide: Literature on the Destruction of Books and Libraries.”

The Vault of the Atomic Space Age.

Kia Makarechi, “Iran Set to Unveil Collection of Western Art Largely Unseen Since 1979 Revolution.”

Robinson Meyer, “The Decay of Twitter.”

Dennis Perkins, “I Worked in a Video Store for 25 Years. Here’s What I Learned as My Industry Died.”

Miles Bowe, “Download 30GB of Lost Cassettes from the 80s Underground.”

Nicole Dewandre, “The Human Condition and the Black Box Society,” review of The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information, by Frank Pasquale.

Will Partin, “When a Videogame World Ends.”

Samantha Hunt, “A Brief History of Books That Do Not Exist.”

Alexander Provan, “The Last Platform.”

Bradford Bailey, “Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (1963-67).”

naxxu, “Here’s a giant 800-track alt/indie-focused 90’s playlist in chronological order.”



James Fallows, “On the Impossibility of Fighting ISIL.”

Paul Mason, “The End of Capitalism Has Begun.”

Slavoj Žižek, “In the Wake of Paris Attacks the Left Must Embrace Its Radical Western Roots.”

Sam Kriss, “Building Norway: A Critique of Slavoj Žižek.” and “Why Slavoj Žižek Is Wrong About the Syrian Refugee Crisis—And Psychoanalysis.”

Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants.”

Etienne Balibar, “In War.”

Jeffrey Fleishman, “‘Poetry is a witness’ to Suffering Wrought by Syria’s Civil War.”

Neel Ahuja, “Still Ahead Somehow,” review of The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism, by Paul Amar.


Literature and Culture

Charles Simic, “Age of Ignorance.”

David L. Ulin, “In Numero Zero, Umberto Eco Has his Mind on Conspiracy–Again.”

Ann E. Bromley, “In Memoriam: Ralph Cohen, Professor Who Transformed Literary Criticism.”

Adam Fitzgerald, “On the Black Avant-garde, Trigger Warnings, and Life in East Hampton: In Conversation with Poet Dawn Lundy Martin.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s National Book Award Acceptance Speech.

David Simpson, “Terror Talk and Political Management.”

Matthew Mullins, “Are We Postcritical?” review of The Limits of Critique, by Rita Felski.

Fred Moten, “On Marjorie Perloff.”

Tameka Cage Connely, “Try Me: Beneath the Art of Terrance Hayes.”

Joshua Mostafa, “The View from Nowhere,” review of Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literatures, by Aamir R. Mufti, and Born Translated, by Rebecca L. Walkowitz .

David Palumbo-Liu interviews Amitav Ghosh, “The Opium Wars, Neoliberalism, and the Anthropocene.”

October no. 155, “A Questionnaire on Materialisms.”

John Freeman, “Ben Lerner Is Apprehensive.”

Sadie Stein, “Ben Lerner on The Lichtenberg Figures.”

Reynaldo Anderson, “Afrofuturism 2.0 and the Black Speculative Art Movement: Notes on a Manifesto.”

Kate Kellaway, “Claudia Rankine.”

Edward Mendelson, “Obama as Literary Critic.”

Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young, “The Program Era and the Mainly White Room.”

Alison Flood, “Lost Shelley Poem Execrating ‘Rank Corruption’ of Ruling Class Made Public.”

Colin Dayan, “Throw Away Your Mind.”

Sam Kriss, “Abandon the Future.”

Zachary Loeb, “The Ground Beneath the Screens,” review of A Geology of Media and The Anthrobscene, by Jussi Parikka.

Duncan Thomas, “The Politics of Art: An Interview with Jacques Rancière.”

Virginia Jackson, “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.”

Adrian Parr, “What Is Becoming of Delezue?”

Dinah Lenney and Arne De Boever Interview Christopher Schaberg and Ian Bogost, “Here Comes Everything.”

Nicola Masciandaro, “Wings Flock to My Crypt, I Fly to My Throne.”

Zak Bronson, “Living in the Wreckage,” review of Salvage: Amid This Stony Rubbish, no. 1.

Heather Scott Partington, “Life-in-progress,” review of Submission, by Michel Houellebecq.

Spencer Kornhaber, “The Rapper of Refugees: What’s M.I.A.’s ‘Borders’ Video Really About.”

Adam Fleming Petty, “The Spatial Poetics of Nintendo: Architecture, Dennis Cooper, and Video Games.”

Michah McCrary, “Many Layers, Many Guises: An Interview with Sven Birkerts.”

Aaron Shulman, interview with Robert Coover.

Tom Bissel, “Everything About Everything: David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest at 20.”

John Baskin, “Death Is Not the End.”

D. T. Max, “Beyond Infinite Jest.”

Arthur Chu, “How Jessica Jones Absorbed the Anxieties of Gamergate.”

Tammy Oler, “Oh, the Humanity,” review of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy.

Paul Kincaid, “The Destruction of Genre,” review of Slade House, by David Mitchell.

Elizabeth G. Dunn, “The Myth of ‘Easy’ Cooking.”

Ester Bloom, “How ‘Treat Yourself’ Became a Capitalist Command.”

Fandor Keyframe, “What Is ‘Lynchian’?”

Rachel Will, “Robert Pruitt’s New Works Juxtapose African Culture and Space Objects.”

Richard Jean So and Andrew Piper, “How Has the MFA Changed the Contemporary Novel?”

Cathy Day, “My Critique of a Critique of MFA Programs.”

Moran Sanderovich, sculptor.

Robin James, “Hello from the Same Side.”

Aaron Bady, “Our Star Wars Holiday Special.”

Sam Kriss, “Smash the Force.”

Steve Paulson, “No Warp Drives, No Transporters: Science Fiction Authors Get Real.”

Julia Johanne Tolo, “Margaret Atwood Is Writing a Superhero Comic Book.”

Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”: The Movie.

David Sims, “Why Would People Watch Shia LaBeouf Watch Himself?” and Fallout 4: Have Dog, Will Travel.”

M. H. Miller, “Jason Rohrer Will Be the First Video Game Designer to Have a Solo Museum Show.”

Michael Maizels and Patrick Jagoda, The Game Worlds of Jason Rohrer.

Nathan Reese, “An Exhibition That Proves Videogames Can Be Art.”

Mike Sterry, “The Totalitarian Buddhist Who Beat Sim City.”

William Hughes, Undertale Dares to Players to Make a Mistake They Can Never Take Back.”

A. Will Brown, “Matthew Barney: River of Fundament.”

Meghan Tifft, “An Introverted Writer’s Lament.”

Emily Carlson, Symphony No. 2.

Tracy K. Smith, “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?”

Mark Sussman, “David Bowie, the Language of the Tribe, Weirdness, and so on.”

After Happy Hour Review issue #4.

Ashley Hutson, “Lit Mag Committed to Social Change is Intense, Provocative, and Simply Good Reading,” review of Asterix (Fall 2015).

Rose Eveleth, “Imagination Battles: What Will the Future Look Like?” review of Speculations (The Future Is ___), edited by Sarah Resnick.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy is coming to TV!

And Kobe Bryant, “Dear Basketball.”


Humanities and Higher Education

Andrew Hoberek, “Why I Continue to Support Melissa Click.”

Laura McKenna, “Should Professors Be Fired for Damaging a College’s Reputation?”

Goldie Blumenstyk, “As Big-Data Companies Come to Teaching, a Pioneer Issues a Warning.”

Colleen Flaherty, “Academics Get Real,” on #realacademicbios.

Sol Gittleman, “Tenure Is Disappearing. But It’s What Made American Universities the Best in the World.”

Rani Neutill, “My Trigger Warning Disaster.”

John Warner, “Students Aren’t Coddled. They’re Defeated” and “Kill the 5-Paragraph Essay.”

Bill Schacknerh, “Campaign Underway to Unionize Pitt Faculty” and more here and here.

Susan Harlan, “Rubric for the Rubric Concerning Students’ Core Educational Competency in Reading Things in Books and Writing about Them.”

And Claire Vaye Watkins, Derek Palacio, and Anni McGreevy, “Academic-Job Listings for My Exes.”



Adam Smeltz, “Study Finds Black Men Left Out of Pittsburgh’s Rebirth.”

Raymar Hampshire, “Why I Left: Pittsburgh Has an Expiration Date.”

Nick Coles, “Black Homes Matter: The Fate of Affordable Housing in Pittsburgh.”

Robin Clarke wins the University of Pittsburgh’s 2015 Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement.

MLA 2016 Panel: The Anthropocene and Deep Time in Literary Studies

December 1, 2015

At this year’s MLA Convention in Austin, Texas, I will be on a panel on The Anthropocene and Deep Time in Literary Studies. I have included the information on the panel and an abstract for the paper I will be presenting below.


670. The Anthropocene and Deep Time in Literary Studies

Saturday, 9 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., 6B, ACC

Program arranged by the forum LLC 20th- and 21st-Century American

Presiding: Heather Houser, Univ. of Texas, Austin

Speakers: Gerry Canavan, Marquette Univ.; Bradley J. Fest, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Kristin George Bagdanov, Univ. of California, Davis; Rebecca Wilbanks, Stanford Univ.

Session Description:

The notion of the Anthropocene was coined in 2000 to highlight that human beings’ transformation of the planetary environment will be visible in the geological strata. Beyond its crucial influence in the environmental humanities, the Anthropocene links to discussions of deep time in literary studies. This session taps into and elaborates on these two ongoing discussions.


“Fictional Quantities That Make Themselves Real”: Speculation, Petropolitics, and Deep Time in Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia

Since its publication in 2008, Reza Negarestani’s experimental work of “theory-fiction,” Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, has become somewhat of a literary touchstone for a variety of writers and thinkers revolving in the orbit of speculative realism. Resembling what would happen if Deleuze and Guattari collaborated with H. P. Lovecraft, Cyclonopedia is a serious, albeit ironic encounter with non-correlationist thought, with speculation, deep time, and hyperobjects of all kinds. It is also a rigorous literary attempt to think through climate change, the War on Terror, and the petropolitical realities of the twenty-first century. This paper will explore a variety of issues that converge in Negarestani’s remarkable book. Beginning with Cyclonopedia’s implicit emphasis on how speculation is necessary for thinking the present (rather than, say, rationalism, measurement, or management), this paper will argue that Negarestani’s encounter with geology and nonhuman hyperobjects indicates that experimental literature may be uniquely suited to thinking about deep time and the realities of climate change in a way unavailable to more conventional narratives. If Steven Shaviro has recently suggested that “at its best, speculative philosophy rather resembles speculative fiction,” then Negarestani’s “novel” is evidence of what might happen when speculative philosophy becomes speculative fiction. Cyclonopedia is not only an important text for thinking about nonhuman entities and deep time in an age of observable climate change, it is also an important entry into the ancient debate between poetry and philosophy. Less a “novel after theory” than theory as novel, Cyclonopedia demonstrates that literature will continue to play an important role for understanding the Anthropocene.