MLA 2019 Panel: New Nuclear Criticism

At this year’s Modern Language Association Convention in Chicago (January 3-6, 2019), I will be speaking on a round table discussing the New Nuclear Criticism. I have included the information on the panel and a tentative abstract for the paper I will be presenting below. More information about the panel is available at kristingeorgebagdanov.com.

 

For previous essays of mine on nuclear criticism, see:

““Apocalypse Networks: Representing the Nuclear Archive”;

“The Inverted Nuke in the Garden: Archival Emergence and Anti-Eschatology in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest;

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

 

246. New Nuclear Criticism

Friday, January 4, 2019, 10:15 AM–11:30 AM, Hyatt Regency – Randolph 3

The panel is sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment.

Presider: Frances Ferguson, U of Chicago

Presenters: Jada Ach, U of South Carolina, Columbia, Bradley J. Fest, Hartwick C, Jessica Hurley, U of Chicago, Kristin George Bagdanov, U of California, Davis, Kyoko Matsunaga, Kobe City U of Foreign Studies, Inna Sukhenko, U of Helsinki

Session Description: The year 2019 marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the 1984 colloquium at Cornell University on nuclear criticism and the publication of a special issue of Diacritics collecting the Cornell papers. Do we need a new nuclear criticism? Panelists explore what a new nuclear criticism in the context of ecological crisis might look like by drawing on archives, methods, and approaches not previously included in nuclear criticism’s original manifestation.

 

Jacques Derrida’s “No Apocalypse, Not Now” at Thirty-Five

Abstract:  2019 will mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the 1984 colloquium at Cornell University on nuclear criticism and the publication of a special issue of Diacritics collecting its papers. The conference occurred at a historical moment of heightened tension between the United States and the Soviet Union unseen since the chilling days of October 1962. But in the intervening years, which have seen the end of the cold war, a reduction of the US and Russia’s nuclear arsenal, a nuclear treaty with Iran, and waning cultural depictions of global nuclear war, the project of nuclear criticism has seemed less vital and, indeed, at times rather anachronistic. Though significant contributions in the ongoing discussion regarding literature of the first and second nuclear ages have been made by a new generation of scholars such as Paul K. Saint-Amour, John Canady, Daniel Cordle, Daniel Grausam, Jessica Hurley, and others (e.g., the 2013 collection, The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World), and nuclear criticism, for others, has been subsumed under a broader concept of risk criticism inspired by the thinking of Ulrich Beck (e.g., the work of Ursula K. Heise and Paul Crosthwaite’s collection, Criticism, Crisis, and Contemporary Narrative [2011]), most would agree that literary and critical engagements with the threat of nuclear war have taken a back seat to more pressing global concerns, particularly the realities of climate change and the emergence of the Anthropocene as an important cross-disciplinary concept for understanding the present.

It seems apparent, however, that in the dark days since November 2016, literary and cultural theorists must once again confront the issue(s) of global (and limited) nuclear war and the cultural, political, economic, and social conditions that allow the persistence of what Elaine Scarry has called a “thermonuclear monarchy” in the US, particularly as this power now rests in such unpredictable hands. So the time is ripe to not only revisit the concept of nuclear criticism, as this panel proposes to do, but one of its most important, founding documents: Jacques Derrida’s “No Apocalypse, Not Now: Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives” (1984).

This paper will reconsider Derrida’s seminal text in light of two major transformations. First, I will track and assess what Derrida calls the “nuclear referent,” particularly as it has found its way into twenty-first-century depictions of ecological disaster, representations I will suggest have now reinscribed themselves in the contemporary cultural imagination of nuclear war. Second, I will again take seriously “No Apocalypse, Not Now”’s emphasis on the fabulous textuality of nuclear war and its threat to the archive, particularly in light of the dissemination and proliferation of new exceptionalist national fantasies via the internet visible in “fake news” and the resurgence of US nationalism. This paper will argue that Derrida’s essay–and nuclear criticism more broadly–considered at the intersection of these two cultural transformation, might provide us with reinvigorated tools for confronting the new nuclear realities of contemporaneity.

End of the Semester Links, Fall 2018

Nuclear and Environmental

Fourth National Climate Assessment.

Deconstructed, “Will the US Ever Give Up Its Nukes?”

“Trump Says US Will Withdraw from Nuclear Deal with Russia.”

Wilfred Wan, “The Nuclear Threat Is Rising: Europe Cannot Just Stand and Watch.”

Will Steffen, et al, “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.”

Kate Aronoff, “‘Hothouse Earth’ Co-Author: The Problem Is Neoliberal Economics” and “With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation.”

Kim Stanley Robinson, “To Slow Down Climate Change, We Need to Take On Capitalism.”

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June 2018 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Joshua Miller, “Ed Markey’s Career-Long Fight against Nuclear Weapons.”

Donald J. Trump’s letter to Kim Jong-un.

Avery Anapol, “Lindsey Graham: War with North Korea Would Be ‘Worth It’ in the Long Run.”

Anton Troianovski, “Putin Claims Russia Is Developing Nuclear Arms Capable of Avoiding Missile Defenses.”

Kim Stanley Robinson, “Empty Half the Earth of Its Humans. It’s the Only Way to Save the Planet.”

Ursula K. Heise, “Climate Stories” and Kate Marshall, “The Readers of the Future Have Become Shitty Literary Critics,” reviews of The Great Derangement, by Amitav Ghosh.

Kate Aronoff, “Denial by a Different Name.”

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February 2018 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Tim Fernholz, “US Nuclear Tests Killed Far More Civilians than We Knew.”

Democracy Now, “Daniel Ellsberg Reveals He Was a Nuclear War Planner, Warns of Nuclear Winter and Global Starvation.”

Daniel Bessner, “On the Brink.”

Alastair Tancred, “A Nuclear First Strike of North Korea Is ‘Tempting’, Says Legendary US Diplomat Henry Kissinger as Kim Jong-un Warns Trump Is Pushing Toward War.”

“Senator Markey Blasts Trump Administration’s Reckless Nuclear Posture Review.”

Helena Feder, “The Realism of Our Time: Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson.”

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Special Issues of CounterText on Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents

I have written an essay, “Reading Now and Again:  Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature across Continents,” which will appear in the spring issue of CounterText: A Journal for the Study of the Post-Literary, the second of two special issues devoted to Thinking Literature across Continents (Duke UP, 2016). I’ll provide more information about this essay at a later date.

In the meantime, the first issue of CounterText addressing Ghosh and Miller‘s book (vol. 3, no. 3) is now available. Additionally, a conversation between Marjorie Perloff, Charles Bernstein, and the two authors opening the special issue is available from behind the journal’s paywall.


“Thinking Literature Across . . .,” special issue, CounterText, table of contents:

Marjorie Perloff, J. Hillis Miller, Charles Bernstein. and Ranjan Ghosh, “The CounterText Conversation: Thinking Literature. . . .”

Maria Margaroni, “Dialogics, Diacritics, Diasporics: Ranjan Ghosh, J. Hillis Miller, and the Becoming-Now of Theory.”

Georges Van Den Abbeele, “Literary Intransigence: Between J. Hillis Miller and Ranjan Ghosh.”

Claire Colebrook, “Crossing Continents.”

Steven Yao, “How Many Ways of Thinking Literature across Continents?”

Pramod K. Nayar, “Literature/Ethics/Reading.”

Susana Onega, “Thinking English Literature and Criticism under the Transmodern Paradigm.”

Lene M. Johannessen, “Poetics of Peril.”

Adrian Grima and Ivan Callus, “Irreverent and Inventive Mamo.”

Juann Mamo, Nanna Venut’s Children in America: Two Chapters from the First English Translation,” trans. Albert Gatt.

Ivan Callus, “Literature, Journalism, and the Countertextual: Daphne Caruana Galizia, 1964–2017.”

Mario Aquilina, review of Essayism and the Return of the Essay, by Brian Dillon.

End of the Semester Links, Fall 2017

It’s been a fun, eventful, interesting, and, of course, busy first semester at Hartwick College. Everything else, however, is quite dark. Some links.

Nuclear and Environmental

US Global Change Research Program, “Climate Science Special Report.”

Tim Collins, “The Chance of ‘Catastrophic’ Climate Change Completely Wiping Out Humanity by 2100 Is Now 1-in-20.”

Damian Carrington, “Warning of ‘Ecological Armageddon’ after Dramatic Plunge in Insect Numbers.”

Ariel Norfman, “Nuclear Apocalypse Now?”

Elizabeth Kolbert, “Going Negative: Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?”

Mike Davis, “Nuclear Imperialism and Extended Deterrence.”

Neena Satija,  Kiah Collier, Al Shaw, and Jeff Larson, “Hell or High Water.”

Democracy Now, “As Catastrophic Flooding Hits Houston, Fears Grow of Pollution from Oil Refineries & Superfund Sites.”

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Pre-order Scale in Literature and Culture and Reading Inside Out: Interviews and Conversations, by J. Hillis Miller

Two new books are available for pre-order in which I have contributions.

Scale in Literature and Culture Cover

Scale in Literature and Culture, edited by Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg, and including essays by Bruno Latour and Mark McGurl, can now be ordered from Palgrave Macmillan. My contribution is the first part of my new project on megatexts: “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.'”

J Hillis Miller CoverJ. Hillis Miller’s Reading Inside Out: Interviews and Conversations, edited by David Jonathan Y. Bayot, is forthcoming from Sussex Academic Press and reprints my interview with Professor Miller from 2014, “Isn’t It a Beautiful Day?,” originally published in boundary 2.

Both books are also available on Amazon (here and here). (As both are also potentially prohibitively expensive, please do not hesitate to contact me requesting the essay or interview.)