Showing posts from March, 2013


The Ozrics lived up my road opposite my favorite pub. Many were the evenings outside that pub, just off Wimbledon Common. My brother gigged with them (drums) a few times, and if he'd been less freaked out would have made it to the audition and gotten the job. (They said so later.) They used to like my electric violin playing. Poor Roly. And it's Easter.

Some More ASLE Speakers

It turns out my Ph.D. students Derek Woods and Diana Leong will also be at ASLE. Fantastic!

Diana is working on race and OOO. It is a rapidly developing area--stay tuned.

Derek and I just had a very nice chat with his other main guy Cary Wolfe, to figure out the next stage or two of his life.

Happy Easter

(1) Christianity should be a little bit scary. It's best when it's a little bit scary.

(2) Happy Eostre. Here's Michael Tippett.

The Arrival of Spring: Take 2(?)

Assuming Spring was about to start when it was warm a few weeks ago was a miscalculation on my part. Between then and now, it got cold again, dumped a bunch of snow on Ohio, and now the weather is tantalizingly warm again. The question being, will it continue that trend?

Hopefully it will. It hit the mid-60s today, and the temperature tonight has hovered around 50 degrees. Would any moths be out? I turned on the light to see.

A few moths were out, and my hopes for the bug season rose again. It's difficult to describe just how antsy I get after the absence of insects all throughout winter, so finding anything after months and months is exciting.

This similar moth was also attracted to the light. I like how well its antennae show up in this photo, they're distinctly pectinate and large, meaning it's probably a male. Their larger antennae help them sense the female's pheromones so they can find each other for some hanky panky.

And of course, an early-season mothing atte…

Pagan? Looking for Easter Fun?

Welcome Michael Miller

Congratulations to Michael, who is coming here in the Fall. We loved having you over the other week!

Agrilogistics Autoimmunity

The poor bees. Thanks Dirk Felleman.

Think about this:

Dionysus' sacred animal is the bee.
Easter is a Christian takeover of a pagan ritual.
Christianity is Platonism for the masses (Heidegger).
The beyond is more important and more real than the mundane (Christianity).
Monsanto's profits are more real and important than bees (agrilogistics).


Thanks Cliff Gerrish. This chap has tuned into the ethical and political (not to say the psychological) problem of hyperobjects. There's just one problem. It's not like overwinding a watch, to the extent that it's perfectly possible to think these things; terribly easy in fact, in some sense. The problem is that you can't unthink them. And you shouldn't: unfortunately your ethics is now duty bound to bear them in mind. So if we are watches we are definitely broken.

It's interesting to me, as a student of the modernity versus premodernity story, which is a story about how we went from a watch or clock like social state (Levi-Strauss) to an engine like one. Yep. This guy has tuned into the problem, for sure.

Anti-Laruelle Ray Gun

What is the Principle of Sufficient Non-Philosophy?

The Line of Reality

"People can have religions. But they shouldn't cross the line of reality." Claire Morton (9) on how some people insist that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

Welcome Elena Valdez

Congratulations Elena, we think you made the right decision! Another great addition to the graduate roster for next year.

Rice Humanities Symposium CFP (eco scholars nb)

Rice University English Symposium

September 13-14, 2013
Ecology and the Environmental Humanities

The 2013 English Symposium at Rice University invites responses to the ecological and nonhuman turns in the humanities. These turns are undoubtedly responses to environmental crises, food shortages, global warming, factory farming, and species extinction, but this symposium is also interested in discussing the emergence of nonhumans, such as matter, objects, animals, systems, technology, and media, in our critical conversations surrounding these problems.

While the humanities have an opportunity to challenge the problems and solutions put forth by scientific discourses, the Anthropocene, the post-Natural, and the Posthuman come to challenge humanism. What are humanities scholars able to contribute to the conversations concerning ecology and nonhumans?

Papers can address these topics across a variety of periods, genres, disciplines, and theoretical frames, such as:

Affect Theory


Consumerism Class

Next fall, for the undergrads of Rice:

We are going to investigate the art, literature, music and more of consumerism, which spans from the late eighteenth century to now.

The goal is to see how deeply ingrained consumerism is in the way we think, write and read (and otherwise appreciate things), and that this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but certainly one that should be studied.

I'm the author of four books on consumerism including a study of vegetarianism in the Romantic period.

Picasso Black and White

I've always been more into Matisse than Picasso--maybe it's the opposite with Graham--but this exhibition here in Houston is terribly compelling. One wonders after all this time what it is that makes it almost all so good. It's the confidence of the lineation perhaps? I'm standing here in front of his version of Las Meninas for the hundredth time, maybe in my life, and wondering about it.

I associate Picasso with a certain kind of violence. Asked "Who did that?!" by a Nazi officer confronted with Guernica, Picasso said maybe the best thing anyone has ever said: "You did."

Wow, that's even better than Gandhi's "I think it would be a very good idea," when asked what he thought of western civilization.

"You Cannot Say There Is No Coffee"

In our ordinary experience, there is the world and there is you. Recognizing this does not mean that you are going against the Buddha’s teaching of egolessness. There is definitely something there, which is the working basis and magic of the path. You cannot negate that you taste a good cup of coffee. You cannot say that there is no coffee and there is no “you” to taste it—there are such things! Mindfulness of life is based on that kind of immediate appreciation. The meditation practice is to learn to appreciate the immediateness of what is happening right here and now.
--Trungpa Rinpoche

Heptosexual Microbes

Thanks Cliff Gerrish. But the byline should not have been, given the sexual mechanism, "You complete me." It should have been "You incomplete me."

The Secret Life of Plants

We were (Jane Bennett, me et al.) all sent this rather charming PDF for the May Princeton event.

Tuned City Brussels

Congratulations Mark Celeste

Another great acceptance item. Mark Celeste, who is a very very promising Victorianist, will be working with me, Helena Michie, Thad Logan and the rest of the long nineteenth century crew here. Well done sir. Welcome to Rice.

Some New Talks

1. American Academy of Religion. With Jane Bennett, Adrian Ivakhiv, William Connolly and more. The young Hegelians can come and drool on us poor new materialists! This November I believe.

2. Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies (March 2014), keynote.

3. Tuned City, Brussels. Later June.

Other talks are in Future Talks.

Congratulations Jade

Congratulations to Jade Hagan, who has accepted an offer to come and study with me and the other crazy cats here! Rice is overflowing with good stuff right now in the way of support for the ecologically minded humanist.

Extinction Toons

Polar Bear Cafe. Thank you Duskin Drum. Very very good.

Thank Heavens

A New Essay

I'm writing a really long essay for the journal diacritics, for an issue that will be invoke perhaps the most famous issue, “Nuclear Criticism,” for which Derrida contributed one of his best (in my view) essays. This one will be called “Climate Change Criticism.”

I've written a fuzzy version of my essay, which can be about 10 000 words long. I'm very pleased with the title: 

Ecology Kitsch Parchment (MP3)

With me and Bruce Holsinger. It was incredibly good on a number of levels to reconnect with him this way. You'll see. Listen as Bruce and I blithely ignore everything between the late fourteenth century and 1985. Oh and Scritti Politti is involved. And animal skin.

Subject to Change Liveblog 14

Callum Ingram (UVa)

“Democrats in Space: Critical Geography and Material Efficacy” 

How to account for objects, eg the persistence of architectural built space in the power of the Supreme Court
Rawls: misses how objects condition politics and exceed signification
Hobbes: natural laws as social products
Meyer: constitutive model, good but vague (political norms develop within bounds of constitutive possibilities)
Harvey: things are a variable, not an expression nor container of politics: reduction to normative structures
Latour, Whatmore: theory constrained by the fact that everything is social circumstances
pragmatism: don’t we need what works best for our politics?
yet this misses out on OOO and new materialisms, that things are not able to be what we say what they are
I’m a democrat, and does that mean I get to push things around?

This was a most interesting talk. My notes have not done it justice, because it was fast, fierce and awesome. Sorry! There was an incredible handout which I shall tr…

Subject to Change Liveblog 13

Justin Butler (U Minnesota, Twin Cities)

“Biopolitics and Biopoetics: Materialism and Object-Oriented Ontology” 

I try to steer this more towards the political
I want to step towards biopoetics especially as an alternative to ecopoetics
by trying to attune some poetic thought to genetic processes
Raymond Williams: affirmation of materialism’s categories based on what it discovers in the world
the newness built in to this is then legitimized or discarded
new knowledge leaves the old fixed in the past: structured in obsolescence
vulnerable to the paradox that it eschews fixity only to congeal categories, definitions, order
it ceases to be materialism by doing what it says materialism ought to do
obfuscation of self-renewal << biopolitics (regimes of categorization)
Foucault: managing territory >> managing people through biometrics
biopolitics is about making live
administration of biological life
>> reducing the objects to something less than they are
A foundation of OOO is its regar…

Subject to Change 12

Jeroen Nieuwland (Charles University in Prague)

“Hybrid Contingencies: Entanglements of Expression, Text, and Bodies in Conceptual Poetry”

I’m interested in chaos change, serendipity, contingency: radical uncertainty
Stephen Gould: punctuated equilibrium all kinds of crises
Meillassoux: the necessity of contingency every object is contingent in itself but conceptual poetry frames pieces of the world as objects allows this contingency to come forth
Craig Dworkin: parsing a book from 1874 on grammar
poetry books of transcripts of abused children (good heavens)
radical contingency in which anything can function as a poem
expression is displaced from the subject to the object
lyricism is transcendent while contingency is immanent, affective (how different is this really) each form is contingent in itself (where have we heard this before) Duchamp’s urinals conceptualism is allegorical: minimal difference between original frame and its relocation  Morton: rift between appearance and essence
one object with i…

Subject to Change 11

Ann Mazur (University of Virginia)

“Props in Victorian Parlour Plays: The Periperformative Object”

Transformative potential of home theatricals.  Creative use of props. Slaying a mouse with a poker.  textual scholarship that dismiss objects forget that props aren’t just signifiers they can become absorbed into the play action (Stauffer) Can become part of the play’s cultural tradition Henry II’s planting of seeds props contain their past Daniel Deronda: the diamond necklace Sedgwick: letter is peri-performative, avoiding performative sentences “I dare you” vs “not on my account” -- a changing of the nature of what is agreed >> makes it more potent you need the necklace for the letter to have its full effect the return of the necklace is supernatural: she can tell she’s going to get it back ogre’s head or beast’s head instructions: complex mesh and you can make it!  e.g. Rumplestiltskin that involves a trap door! 

Subject to Change Liveblog 10

Joao Paulo Guimaraes (SUNY Buffalo)

“Malleable Bodies and Unreadable Beings: Eduardo Kac and Leslie Scalapino’s Poetics of Unnaming,”

Kac is a pure relationist
Scalapino is a Buddhist relationist
bioart: genes have no intrinsic meaning

Harman: this is reductionism (overmining): beings expended by their relations

It seems as if Scalapino is also saying this: dependent origination
malleability of animals and humans
use of Nagarjuna: he does not intend to imply that reality is nothing at all
lack of existence just means lack of essence or boundaries

Scalapino’s view is not that things are expended in their relations
similar to Buddhism’s investigation of the mind
hidden potentials of the body
everything carries within it a childlike self-destructive potential
while writing she felt she had to be in conflict with herself
humor: panting like a dog (Guimaraes is researching how before modernity, Nature could be funny)

bioartists: plant-animals fantasies etc. 
bodies as utterly plastic and contingent
vs Scala…

Why the Comedy Ouroboros?

Let's start with why it's so compelling—apparently also for Ian, who generously took on my charge to make one.

I think it's because the snake seems so terribly keen on eating itself, in the same way that my rather young cat looks rather intense when he is imitating what he takes to be kissing, namely holding your fingers with his teeth, without biting.

The thing is, is the ouroboros fascinated by the biting or—and this is perfectly reasonable given where his/her gaze is placed—fascinated by being fascinated?

I'll add here that this is a major intervention in ouroboros imagination. Most ouroboroi are rather frightening looking, or rather opaque. The nearest one to Ian's is this:

It's not as good is it? I quite like the slightly defeatist ennui of this one:

But most others are terribly serious.

Subject to Change Liveblog 9

Gary Grieve-Carlson (Lebanon Valley College)

“ ‘No Greek will be able / to discriminate my body’: Charles Olson’s Objectism and the Decentering of the Human Subject” 

Olson’s discovery of Whitehead
Whitehead’s decentering of the object, the mechanistic theory that is the “orthodox creed” of scientism
contemporary physics versus the mechanics of simple location
“If I see a planet I am not seeing the actual planet--instead chemicals are causing a subjective experience of the planet” (it’s the old undermining/overmining one-two; it’s not that different from the old scientism!)
Principles of Natural Knowledge
our commonsense view of subjects and objects is false
so we need not to think of discrete subjects and objects but as events that unfold across time and space
an event prehends into unity the different aspects of nature that it includes
events can overlap and nest within one another
they exist diachronically and synchronically
the observer and observed are aspects of events
1950 Olson’s Maximus p…

The Dark Side of the Household Object (MP3)

A talk about OOO, Pink Floyd and ecology, at UVa's awesome Subject to Change conference. Thank you Jesse Bordwin (who introduced me), Tom Berenato and all the other incredible people. Thank you Bruce Holsinger! It's good to know you all these years sir.

Subject to Change Liveblog 8

Kaushik Viswanath (Notre Dame)

“Animating the Inanimate: An Ecological Reading of Arun Kolatkar’s Poetry”

On Kolatkar’s ecological vision
postcolonial readings of the poems can be essentialist and reductive
1. emphasis on ecocentric perspective (world is interdependent)
2. humility
3. skepticism concerning hyper-rationality

1. a ruined temple has been occupied by a small family of dogs
2. forays into the animals’ interiority
3. religious tone, not wanting to be conned: not belief but perception

the speaker sees all kinds of broken things in the temple
“the dark side of the object” (Morton)

“that’s no doorstep, that’s a pillar on its side--yes that’s what it is”

Pie Dog: a stray that sits on the streets; not a projection of the speaker
“I look a bit like a seventeenth century map of Bombay”
engagement with neglected environments

Subject to Change Liveblog 7

Amanda Montei (SUNY Buffalo)

“Transcorporeality and Ecological Critique in Hanna Weiner’s The Fast

Hanna Weiner as a marginal poet who claimed she was clairvoyant (she was schizophrenic)
often she is analyzed as a pathological symptom
ignoring her radical relation to the environment
early performance works: vacuuming the streets and giving hot dogs away
Stacy Alaimo: transcorporeality
The Fast: a record of a period of acute chemical sensitivity
claimed to see words on her forehead: printed on outside or emerging from beyond, or inside?
words have a political-ecological awareness, she claims
destabilization of the “anthropomorphic, autopoetic lyric I”
vs “the spectral nature of Cartesian duality”
hard to draw a line between human and nonhuman these days
“viscous porosity” of distinction (Nancy Tuana)
hot dog performance: hidden ingredients, “the traffic in toxins” (Alaimo)
relation to chemical sensitivity in The Fast, an autobiographical novella
acid trips and release of energy in spine
urinating in p…

Subject to Change Liveblog 6

John Trevathan (U Minnesota Twin Cities)

“The Mouth of Literature: Experimental Ecological Poetry in Galicia”

Prestige oil spill 270 miles off coast of Galicia
Manuel Rivas, The Disappearance of Snow talks about it
oil as “little trails of clay” (in the political discourse); narratives of denial
>> strategy like Goya’s etchings: what one cannot see expressing what one cannot say
The Mouth of the Prestige; we are forced to see that a nonliving thing is speaking to us about its silent yet volatile capacity
recycling of symbols as protest art; use of umbrellas
the March of Suitcases; bagpipes; conch shells
unbinding icons from their regional connotations
alliances between things and people moving away from cliches
ecological fragility: pluralism of people and habits
dehumanizing is about denaturalizing the everydayness of objects not removing the human
ultra-objects like hyperobjects (!)
The Disappearance of Snow a unique undertaking in four languages
<> Ortega’s descriptions of early avant…

Subject to Change Liveblog 5

Sharon Kunde (UC Irvine)

“Slimed! Meshy Baptisms in Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘At the Fishhouses’ ” 

Bishop, At the Fishhouses
human bleeding into the environment
symbolic violence << overfishing
Baptism: symbolism that transforms matter
attempts to baptize the seal fail: netting
seal as symbol, emblem, mark
“diving into the narcissism of anthropomorphization” (Morton)
true escape is to extend narcissism: seal regards the speaker while the speaker sings hymns to it
free swinging indifferent element of temporal horizon
speaker imagines water contact as threatening
Derrida: possibility of sharing possibility of nonpower
language as a kind of net: not the same as knowing
not the original thing but a new thing or experience
something that escapes 
the flowing element in which we are immersed misses something
figure of the water as a figure of knowledge
speaker keeps bumping up at the edges of finitude
as an act of dark ecology

Subject to Change Liveblog 4

Poems and Things panel

Mande Zecca (Johns Hopkins)

“The Combined Refraction of Everything Else: John Ashbery’s Objects” 

objects complicate what we think of Ashbery
Rain Taxi--a symposium on Ashbery’s working environments
The Disappearance of Objects (on the rise of the postmodern city)

assumption that Ashbery’s arrangements of objects <> his textual arrangements
eg his penchant for catalogs

NY transition in 50s and 60s, homogenization: abstraction 
>> assemblage based art of Johns, Oldenburg; taking up refuse and fragments
to counteract the leveling out of their milieu
erosion of place

Ashbery’s poetry of this period inflected with a similar anxiety

early critics of Jasper Johns deemed them too literal (Greenberg)
or critique of the modernist I
or a commentary on gay life in postwar America

but the closest according to Shannon is Hal Foster’s “The Passion of the Sign”
a crisis of signification: pure or literal signifiers are freed from the ballast of their signifieds

Auden: infamous forewo…

Subject to Change Liveblog 3

Tyler Babbie and Katelyn Kenderish (U Washington Seattle)

“Anthologizing the Landscape: Poetics of Plants in Places” 

Three works that elucidate the meanings within landscapes
Botkin, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell (2012) << Discordant Harmonies
Scolds readers for not having paid enough attention the first time
Beg that complex ecology becomes a world changing philosophy

idea of balance of nature << Greece
modern science as revealed truth
Apollonian/Dionysian nature

Schama, Landscape and Memory
troublingly “historical” 
focus on America as if the new world inherits European history

recognition of where a place exposes its history
mountains etc as background
“landscapes are culture before they are nature”

Skinner on ANT
Latour: the social is not an invisible thing but an association
landscapes are not shadows of archetypes but rather are interactions between collectives
Praises Jonathan Skinner, Birds of Tifft

>> analysis of HD’s “Sea Garden”
Sea Garden’s relational aesthetic

Subject to Change Liveblog 2

"Poems and Things"

Kevin Holden (Yale), “Allotropic Series” 

poetry’s relation to the nonhuman
<< poetry nonparaphraseable
<< poetry autotelic

>> analysis of Clark Coolidge, Space (1970) and The Crystal Text (1986), Christian Bok, Crystallography

“the crystal cannot speak 
the good book cannot speak”

writing at the crystal and off it
the poet speaks at the crystal but the crystal is dumb and cannot speak back
line breaks as cracks in the poem’s surface

“writing that leaves things alone”
“closed voice”
poem as a thing, an inorganic organism

not that poems can’t mean or can’t be thought
poetry is and operates by a supersaturation of meaning (it is ALL meaning)
something remains hard and nonhuman, irreducible to consciousness

otherness, singularity arise from the words themselves
logically impossble condition in which each word is equally important
Mandelstam: poetry’s hyperkinetic energy; poem can’t be flattened or exchanged
meaning separable from physiological effects


Subject to Change Liveblog 1

Poems and Things Panel 1

Joe Albernaz (UC Berkeley), “William Blake’s Apocalyptic Ontology: An Encounter between Blake and Object-Oriented Philosophy”

OOO (displacing the human from its centrality) <> Blake (human form divine)

Blake actually quite close to OOO! 
Albernaz now gives a brief introduction to SR
rejection of post-Kantian preoccupation with human being and human access
>> OOO
>> definition of “object” 
definition of encounters between any objects at all as exemplifying the zuhanden/vorhanden gap

Then an introduction to Blake
Shelley, Wordsworth, Clare, can be appropriated as OO (Morton) but Blake seems tougher
final plate of final major work, Jerusalem: 

Such is the Cry from all the Earth from the Living Creatures of the Earth
And from the great City of Golgonooza in the Shadowy Generation
And from the Thirty-two Nations of the Earth among the Living Creatures
All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone, all
Human Forms identified. living going forth &…

There's a First Time for Everything

Such as hearing "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" in Five Guys, Dulles(t) airport.

Invasive Insects in Ohio: The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

Globalization strikes again! The main invasive pests I've been hearing about in Ohio over the past few years have been the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) and Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), but I now have a new one to add to my list: the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae). The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) is a true bug in the order Hemiptera and is sort of like an aphid. Adelgids suck plant juices out of conifers, and HWA prefers hemlock trees, specially the eastern and Carolina hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis and Tsuga caroliniana, respectively). This is a problem.

HWA was introduced into the US from Asia in the 1920s, first in the Pacific Northwest, and then in Virginia in the 1950s. That was the start of its foothold in the east, and it spread to other states from there, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It didn't reach Ohio until 2001, and has spread into about 27 counties since then.

Unfortunately, in 2012 it was detected in my home county, …

Dennis McKenna: Human-Plant Co-Evolution

I’m the attorney who represented the Peyote Church is here to introduce McKenna: 
we need visionaries who can stretch and even shatter the outer limits of our imaginal reality. 
no account of the universe is complete without considering entheogenic reality
this gentleman is wearing a very natty suit and tie!
McKenna is a founder of HEFFTER research institute: therapeutic uses of psychoactive substances derived from nature

I want to share with you today a series of speculative ideas that have to do with palnt-human coevolution, which has been going on for millions of years. 
Plants are all around us. We don’t pay much attention to them, even though we depend on them. They are very different from us. But when you think about them they are really weird
They don’t move around, they don’t respond to their environment through behavior. They have strange reproductive habits. They require another species, often, to complete their cycle. Plants just do it, even though it would be a little kink…