I’ll be presenting a paper at the 2009 CUNY English Graduate Conference: “Projection: Speculating on Presence, Absence, and Nonsenese. . .” this friday, at 1:00.  Here’s my abstract.

The Eco-Jeremiad:
Projecting Crises of the ‘Moment’

In recent years the long history of end-time projection has seen added to its corpus an increasingly numerous amount of ecological disaster narratives which, unlike religious or nuclear apocalypses, would seemingly not depend for their narrative coherence upon what Frank Kermode calls peripeteia (moment of change or turning point), if for no other reason than environmental disaster has been/is already occurring, and as such its originary moment cannot be clearly localized.  This is arguably significantly different than the nuclear text, which Derrida claims to be a “phenomenon [which] is fabulously textual. . . to the extent that, for the moment, a nuclear war has not taken place: one can only talk and write about it.”  And yet many eco-disaster texts have retained the narrative necessity of the moment of disaster, as if one can only talk or write about it because it has not taken place: Kim Stanley Robinson’s abrupt climate change in the Science in the Capital trilogy, the paradigmatic instance of this when characters literally runfrom the cold in The Day After Tomorrow, the instantaneity of nature’s revenge in Shyamalan’s The Happening, or the speculative necessity of Weisman’s non-fictional The World Without Us to have humanity vanish in a flash—all depend upon disastrous peripeteia.   This paper will investigate the relationship between the recent prevalence of such narratives and their rhetorico-ideological function—a mode which I would like to call the eco-jeremiad—so as to ultimately propose/project the possibility of an emergent eco-discourse capable of accounting for the failure of traditional eschatological temporality to represent eco-disaster, a failure all the more productive in revealing the impossibility of mapping past projections of disaster upon a present in which it is or has been always already occurring.

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