Tuesday, 20th of December 2011, 8 pm GMT
Title: Notes Toward a Speculative Realist Literary Criticism
Tweeter: Eileen A. Joy is Associate Professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she teaches courses in medieval literature, contemporary fiction, cultural studies, and critical theory. She is the Lead Ingenitor of the BABEL Working Group (www.babelworkinggroup.org), Co-Editor of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies (http://www.palgrave-journals.com/pmed/index.html), Co-Editor of O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies (http://ozone-journal.com), and Co-Director of punctum books (http://punctumbooks.com). She has published numerous essays and articles on medieval literature, cultural studies, post/humanism, and ethics (website: http://www.siue.edu/~ejoy).
Abstract: Relative to the current debate over “close” versus “symptomatic” (New Historicist + psychoanalytic + skeptical) reading strategies, I’d like to outline a series of leading questions relative to what an inhuman or post/human “close reading” might look like, especially under the cross-disciplinary influence of the movements known as “speculative realism,” “object-oriented ontology,” “dark ecology,” “weird realism,” and “vibrant materialism” (as mainly typified in the work and thought of Graham Harman, Levi Bryant, Ian Bogost, Timothy Morton, and Jane Bennett). This will also serve as a springboard to collectively explore what Michael Witmore, in his essay “We Have Never Not Been Inhuman” (published in the inaugural issue of postmedieval on the post/human), suggested with respect to the inhuman characteristics of literary narrative:
Mathematics and diagrams have often been associated with an anti- or inhuman reduction of complexity into ‘graphs and numbers’, a reduction that we associate with the rise of experimentalism in the seventeenth century. Why should this be so? Are there not, on the one hand, ways in which narrative itself is—particularly in terms of plot—designed to implement a strategic reduction in complexity among the social and physical sources of change and transformation in the world?
Our work with narratives puts us in touch with forms of reduction or compression that are every bit as diagrammatic and so (potentially) inhuman as those who study the compression algorithms of physics or planetary biology. The key for us is the way in which narratives of human action introduce counterfactual ideals—impossible, limiting, but also operative and effectual—that are immanent in the objects we study, not simply projections of the creators or interpreters of those objects. The issue here is where one locates the absence of the human, just as a century ago, it was where one located its essence.
This brief Twitter University lecture will work to open up new questions relative to the possibilities and problematics of what might be called close, inhuman reading—an “inhuman” reading, moreover, that does not dispense with “humanist” reading ethics, per se, but rather, fortifies them through non-human-centric lenses and concerns.
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