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

February 20, 2015

Below is an abstract for a paper I will be presenting at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, taking place February 26-28, 2015. I will be presenting this paper on a panel titled, “Postcolonial Finance and Disaster Capitalism in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Fiction.” The panel will be taking place 2:45 – 4:15 Saturday, February 28th, in room 122 of the Humanities Building at the University of Louisville.

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

Abstract: The twenty-first century has seen a remarkable confluence and transformation of twentieth century narrative and historical discourse. On the one hand, the Cold War nuclear sense of an ending and US national fantasy of Mutually Assured Destruction has multiplied, producing a diverse array of eschatological imaginaries. Indeed, in the age of disaster capitalism, this multiplication has caused some to revise earlier concerns and to now suggest that we are “witnessing the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.” On the other hand, there has been an increasing sobriety from a host of intellectuals and writers about human finitude, especially considered in light of the postnatural condition of the Anthropocene, with its present focus on deep ecological and cosmological futures. Human extinction is no longer shocking; it is a mute fact of geologic time. At the intersection of multiplying, immediate, and local disaster—both real and imagined—and a perspective on the deep history of human finitude, this paper will argue that Don DeLillo’s Point Omega (2010) and Iranian writer Reza Negarestani’s remarkable Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008) make strong cases for the novel’s continuing ability to complicate and illuminate human finitude and historical temporality in contemporaneity. Written in the midst of the long and disastrous US incursions in the Middle East from two distinct transnational, philosophical, and aesthetic standpoints, DeLillo and Negarestani raise important political questions about vital materiality in the age of hyperobjects and the ecological realities of the War on Terror. In decidedly different and complimentary ways, each novel acknowledges that though the twenty-first century has made it clear that the catastrophic present cannot be divorced from the inevitable doom at the end of the world, we still desperately need to imagine something else.


Robin Mackay’s “A Brief History of Geotrauma”

February 14, 2015

I have been working on Reza Negarestani‘s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008) and I ran across this fascinating introduction to Negarestani by Robin Mackay that I cannot help but share. The work below is tilted “A Brief History of Geotrauma, or: The Invention of Negarestani.”


David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”

July 19, 2014

David Foster Wallace and the Long Thing

David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing”: New Essays on the Novels, edited by Marshall Boswell, to which I have contributed an essay, “‘Then Out of the Rubble': David Foster Wallace’s Early Fiction,” is set to appear 31 July 2014. This volume collects revised versions of essays from two special issues of Studies in the Novel from 2012 (44.3 and 44.4). I am delighted to be included in this excellent collection. See the blurbs at Bloomsbury’s site and read the first review from Publisher’s Weekly. It is reasonably priced right now, and Amazon has it listed in stock (before its release date . . .). Here is a description of the book:

Of the twelve books David Foster Wallace published both during his lifetime and posthumously, only three were novels. Nevertheless, Wallace always thought of himself primarily as a novelist. From his college years at Amherst, when he wrote his first novel as part of a creative honors thesis, to his final days, Wallace was buried in a novel project, which he often referred to as “the Long Thing.” Meanwhile, the short stories and journalistic assignments he worked on during those years he characterized as “playing hooky from a certain Larger Thing.” Wallace was also a specific kind of novelist, devoted to producing a specific kind of novel, namely the omnivorous, culture-consuming “encyclopedic” novel, as described in 1976 by Edward Mendelson in a ground-breaking essay on Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” is a state-of-the art guide through Wallace’s three major works, including the generation-defining Infinite Jest. These essays provide fresh new readings of each of Wallace’s novels as well as thematic essays that trace out patterns and connections across the three works. Most importantly, the collection includes six chapters on Wallace’s unfinished novel, The Pale King, which will prove to be foundational for future scholars of this important text.

 

Table of Contents:

Marshall Boswell, “Preface.”

 

Part I: Wallace as Novelist

Adam Kelly, “David Foster Wallace and the Novel of Ideas.”

Toon Staes, “Wallace and Empathy: A Narrative Approach.”

Allard den Dulk, “Boredom, Irony, and Anxiety: Wallace and the Kierkegaardian View of the Self.”

Andrew Warren, “Modeling Community and Narrative in Infinite Jest and The Pale King.”

 

Part II: The Novels

Bradley J. Fest, “‘Then Out of the Rubble': David Foster Wallace’s Early Fiction.”

Philip Sayers, “Representing the Entertainment in Infinite Jest.”

David Letzler, “Encyclopedic Novels and the Cruft of Fiction: Infinite Jest‘s Endnotes.”

Stephen J. Burn, “‘A Paradigm for the Life of Consciousness': The Pale King.”

Conley Wouters, “‘What Am I, a Machine?': Humans and Information in The Pale King.”

Ralph Clare, “The Politics of Boredom and the Boredom of Politics in The Pale King.”

Marshall Boswell, “Trickle-Down Citizenship: Taxes and Civic Responsibility in The Pale King.”


July Links

July 9, 2014

(It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted links, so some of this is already pretty dated, but heck . . it’s also been a jam-packed couple of weeks in the news.)

 

Nuclear

Nina Strochlic, “Britain’s Nuke-Proof Underground City.”

Forthcoming book: Fabienne Colignon’s Rocket States: Atomic Weaponry and the Cultural Imagination.

 

Environment

Lindsay Abrams, “The Ocean Is Covered in a Lot Less Plastic Than We Thought–and That’s a Bad Thing.”

James West, “What You Need to Know About the Coming Jellyfish Apocalypse.”

Brad Plumer, “Oklahoma’s Earthquake Epidemic Linked to Wastewater Disposal.”

 

Iraq

Charles M. Blow, “The Gall of Dick Cheney.”

The gall of Blackwater.

 

National Security State

David Bromwich on Barack Obama, “The World’s Most Important Spectator.”

Patrick Tucker, “The Military Doesn’t Want You to Quit Facebook and Twitter.”

Conor Friedersdorf, “The Latest Snowden Leak is Devastating to NSA Defenders.” They’re just collecting massive amounts of banal stuff from innocent American citizens, and it’s basically open to search at The Washington Post. But wait, there’s more.

Barton Gellman, Julie Tate, and Ashkan Soltani, “In NSA-Intercepted Data, Those Not Targeted Far Outnumber the Foreigners Who Are.”

And more: “If You Read Boing Boing, the NSA Considers You a Target for Deep Surveillance.”

But if you try to keep your stuff private from the NSA, then almost assuredly they will start spying on you and will consider you an “extremist.”

 

Hyperarchival

Andrew Leonard, “The Supreme Court Just Outlawed the Future of TV.”

Vindue Goel, “Facebook Tinkers with Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry.”

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, “Canceled Message Part I and Part II.” On internet erasure and accumulation.

Teju Cole, “The Atlas of Affect.”

 

Economics

Paul Krugman’s review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century in The New York Review of Books, “Why We’re in a Second Gilded Age.”(Think I might have posted this before, but now that I’ve finished Piketty’s Capital, it deserves another go-round.)

Cory Doctorow on Piketty’s Capital.

Nivedita Majumdar, “Why We’re Marxists” (also a reflection on Piketty).

Wolfgang Streeck at the New Left Review, “How Will Capitalism End?”

Nick Hanauer writes an open letter to his fellow richest .01%: “Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution. And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.” (Perhaps improving employment practices at Amazon would be a good place to start. . . .)

 

Science

Natalie Wolchover, “Have We Been Interpreting Quantum Mechanics Wrong the Whole Time?”

 

Literature and Culture

An interview with J. Hoberman, maker of White House Butler Down (2014).

J. Hoberman reviews Snowpiercer (2014), “Revolt on the Polar Express.”

Peter Frase also discusses Snowpiercer (which I am going to see soon!).

Google’s weird selfies.

Google Selfies

Aaron Kunin, “An Essay on Tickling” at Triple Canopy.

China Miéville’s “Polynia.”

Critical Inquiry has launched The CI Review.

Daniel Wallis on Colorado.

Lebron James will announce Decision 2.0 at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. (I hope it’s Phoenix. Please be Phoenix.) “To help him with his decision, the N.B.A. star has assembled an esteemed circle of advisers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the scientist Stephen Hawking, all of whom are expected to be in attendance for the United Nations announcement.”

And my friend’s band Alter Der Ruine just released their new album, I Will Remember It All Differently.

 

Humanities and Higher Education

Kevin Carey, “Americans Think We Have the Best Colleges. We Don’t.”

Fredrik deBoer responds, emphasizing that US higher ed has perpetually been the site of crisis narratives.

Ryan Anderson, “Academia and the People Without Jobs.”

And grades get inflated at Harvard simply because TAs just can’t take the whining anymore. (Note to my students: there is little information in this article on how to effectively raise one’s grade. . . .)

 

World Cup

One of the best Existential Comics yet: “World Cup Philosophy: Germany vs France.”

Tim Howard is amazing, but will we remember that?

Twitter’s reaction to Germany dismantling Brazil.

 

And I just got my copy of David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” in the mail. Amazon says it is in and for sale even though it comes out July 31st. I’ll have a post on it in the next couple weeks.


Abstract: Apoclaypse on Repeat: William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All and the Nuclear Imagination

May 14, 2014

Below is an abstract for a paper I will be presenting at the 2014 American Literature Association Conference, taking place May 22-25. I will be presenting this paper on a panel organized by the William Carlos Williams society, titled, “William Carlos Williams: The Poet-Doctor as Environmentalist.” The panel will be taking place 11:10-12:30 on May 23.

Apocalypse on Repeat: William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All and the Nuclear Imagination

Long out of print after their initial publication in 1923, the prose sections of Spring and All offer remarkable critical avenues for discussing William Carlos Williams’s environmentalism. Serving as both a frame for some of his more well-known poetry and a theoretical engagement with the volume’s central concern—the imagination—the prose of Spring and All cannot help but strike a contemporary reader with its anticipation of the post-apocalyptic and eco-disaster narratives of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To begin the aesthetic work of poetic composition, Spring and All enacts total destruction followed by material repetition in order to allow Williams to formulate an imagination distinct from a romantic apocalyptic, a formulation essential for the development of his ecopoetics. The imagination in Spring and All is a material force. It is vibrant, organic, and radioactive. It is scientific and geological, and it is concerned with atomic physics well before the atom was split. This paper will argue that Spring and All articulates what I have called elsewhere a nuclear imagination. Drawing upon current reconsiderations of modernism’s relationship to atomic technology and my own conversations with J. Hillis Miller about Williams’s poetry and romanticism, I will suggest that Williams, through embracing this destructive, recursive, ironic, nuclear imagination, abandons an eschatology that could in any way be positive, even as something to be gone “beyond.” In this way, reconsidering Spring and All opens up a space for the contemporary environmental imagination that is neither apocalyptic nor post-apocalyptic, but rather thoroughly material and ecological.


Elaine Scarry Has a New Book on Nukes, and Other Links

February 24, 2014

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a discussion of Elaine Scarry‘s new book, Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom (2014). Nathan Schneider has written an extensive review of Thermonuclear Monarchy, “A Literary Scholar’s Voice in the Wilderness: Elaine Scarry Fights American Complacency About Nuclear Arms.” Scarry is also the author of the monumentally important, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (1987).

“Melting Ice Makes the Arctic A Much Worse Heat-Magnet than Scientists Feared.”

January was actually one of the warmest months on record.

And more disastrous weather to come.

Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels writing for Jacobin on the University Illinois-Chicago faculty strike.

Davis and Michaels explaining why they’re striking at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Noam Chomsky: Zombies are the New Indians and Slave in White America’s Collective Nightmare.”

“David Foster Wallace, Mathematician.”

Samuel Cohen on Wallace, “Future Tense.”

My friend David Letzler reviews Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge (2013).

On Dead Poets Society (1989) and the humanities.

“Feminism, Depravity, and Power in House of Cards.” I just finished watching the fairly incredible second season last night.


More Doomy Doom and Less Doomy Doom

February 15, 2014

More Doomy

Brad Plummer has an interview with author of The Sixth Extinction Event, Elizabeth Kolbert (who was also on The Daily Show the  other night) at The Washington Post.

“The NSA and Climate Change: What We Know So Far,” by Joshua Eaton.

“How Iowa Flattened Literature,” or rather, the CIA and the Writer’s Workshop.

NASA is going to turn the moon into computronium, ur, I mean give licenses to mine it.

Less Doomy

David Foster Wallace’s letter to his editor.

Dragonlance should be the next fantasy movie franchise. I agree, esp. if it means they make the Legends series into films.

A new anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction, Wastelands 2, edited by John Joseph Adams.

A pretty scathing review of Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament (2014) that actually makes me want to see it more.

And a book I had an essay appear in last year, The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World, was just selected as one of Zer0 Books‘ best books of 2013.


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