The Archive of Nuclear Texts & Contexts

A good find today: The (relatively) short-lived newsletter devoted to all things nuclear and nuclear criticism, Nuclear Texts & Contexts (1988-1995), published by the International Society for the Study of Nuclear Texts & Contexts (ISSNTC) has its first 8 issues (1988-1992) here. This is how scholars archived the bomb and bombed the archive before the internet. The newsletter contains some essential nuke crit., excellent bibliographies, and is simply of great historical interest. I’d known about this newsletter for a while, but didn’t realize that a vast chunk of it was available (without a univ. library). Thanks to Paul Brians for making this available.

NeMLA 2012: Nuclear Criticism and the “Exploding Word”

I am very excited for this roundtable discussion on nuclear criticism that I will be taking part in at this year’s Northeast Modern Languages Association Conference in Rochester, New York. I posted my abstract for this previously:

March 15th, 2:15-4:15 2.11 Aqueduct Room AB

Nuclear Criticism and the ‘Exploding Word’ (Seminar)

Chair: Michael Blouin, Michigan State University

“Hippie Mysticism, Zen Visions, and the Poetical Diffusion of the Nuclear Crisis,” Morgan Shipley, Michigan State University

“‘Literature has always belonged to the nuclear epoch’? Nuclear Criticism’s Fabulous Textuality,” Bradley Fest, University of Pittsburgh

“Time Bombs: Theories of History in the Nuclear Age,” Rebecca Evans, Duke University

“Repress, Reuse, Recycle: Fallout in the Age of Terror,” Aaron DeRosa, Purdue University

From a Nuclear Critical Perspective, Firestorm is Bonkers

I’ve been testing out DC’s New 52, now and then wandering down to the comic shop, and today I wondered why the hell I hadn’t picked up the first three issues of The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men. The book is written by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone, drawn by Yildiray Cinar, in what sometimes looks to be watercolor, and it is crazily nuclear.

Um. Here is the premise: Some corporation, who supposedly runs the world, is after the missing “Firestorm Protocol.” Unbeknownst to the kinda deepish highschool quarterback in who knows USA, the kid who just so happens to have written a fairly scathing article about the jock in the highschool newspaper, who also happens to be a genius level nerd, has been given the missing protocol by its creator as the result of a private msg board. So when the jock confronts the nerd in the library, and they go out in the hallway to settle it, and the evil corporation (who probably isn’t all that evil, I mean, they are chasing the power to become a nuclear man perhaps so it doesn’t fall into the “wrong hands”) attacks to retrieve it, and to save their lives own lives, the nerd and the jock become Firestorm!? And are able, with their powers combined, to create Fury, a big Power Ranger unleashed by their anger at one another!? And their primary conflict has already been drawn along racial lines. And the nerd is black. It is very promising right now in terms of narrative trajectory. Oh yeah. Firestorms’ powers? So far they seem to be able to turn guns into flowers. And shoot nuclear fire from their hands.

At a certain level it almost doesn’t matter, because this is all really an excuse to post these gorgeous covers. It makes me wanna start a band called The Fury of Firestorm. Oh yeah, and there’s a bunch about the SuperCollider.

Abstract: “‘Literature has always belonged to the nuclear epoch’?: Interrogating Nuclear Criticism’s Fabulous Textuality”

Below is an abstract for a paper I will be presenting / discussing at a seminar / roundtable at the 2012 Northeastern Modern Languages Association Conference (NeMLA), taking place March 15-18 in Rochester, NY. The panel/seminar will address nuclear criticism, and is titled “Nuclear Criticism and the ‘Exploding Word.'” Michael Blouin at Michigan State is organizing the seminar.

“Literature has Always Belonged to the Nuclear Epoch”?: Interrogating Nuclear Criticism’s Fabulous Textuality

During the brief heyday when nuclear criticism was a visible and viable critical practice—from around 1984 to 1993—one of its principle debates raged around a provocative statement made by Jacques Derrida in the founding document of nuclear criticism, “No Apocalypse, Not Now.” Derrida famously remarked that global nuclear war is “a phenomenon whose essential feature is that it is fabulously textual, through and through.” Critics such as Peter Schwenger, Avital Ronnell, and, to a lesser extent, Richard Klein embraced this statement in quite productive and interesting ways. J. Fisher Solomon, William J. Scheick, and others, though clearly indebted to Derrida, took issue with nuclear criticism’s emphasis on the textuality of the nuclear referent, wanting instead to practice a more ethical nuclear criticism, one that constantly stressed the reality (rather than poststructural textuality) of nuclear weaponry. This debate culminated in Christopher Norris’s Uncritical Theory (1992), a considered response to Jean Baudrillard’s infamous article, “The Gulf War Has Not Taken Place.” Right around the time Roger Luckhurst, Klein, and Ken Ruthven were considering the “future of nuclear criticism,” however, not only did the debate end, but the explicit practice of nuclear criticism disappeared with the end of the Cold War. (Ruthven also suffered the curious fate of publishing the first and ostensibly last study of nuclear criticism in 1993).

As one of the goals of this panel is to seriously take up the question regarding the function of nuclear criticism at the present time, an endeavor I consider to be of paramount importance for a number of reasons, this paper will return to this historical debate in light of our contemporary moment. Rather than situating this debate between the “archive” or “text” and the “real,” however, my aim is to interrogate an equally provocative statement of Derrida’s that, to my knowledge, has not been seriously discussed anywhere: that literature “has always belonged to the nuclear epoch, even if it does not talk ‘seriously’ about it. . . . I believe that the nuclear epoch is dealt with more ‘seriously’ in the writings of Mallarmé, of Kafka, or Joyce, for example, than in present-day novels that would describe a ‘true’ nuclear catastrophe directly and in a ‘realistic’ fashion.” What does Derrida mean by this offhand remark? What could Kafka or Joyce have to do with the “nuclear epoch”? I will argue that for the practice of nuclear criticism to go forward, we must take Derrida’s statement quite seriously, for it points to a more fluid, rigorous, and historically adaptable form of nuclear criticism than what has previously gone under that name. Specifically, I will consider the final scene from the “Cyclops” chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), and the “Nausicaa” chapter more generally, as definitively nuclear moments. To do so not only returns us to the past of nuclear criticism’s internal debates, but forces us to ask the serious questions: what is nuclear criticism, what are its current or possible roles, and what is its appropriate critical object? If something as canonically inscribed into the archive and as exhaustively studied as Ulysses can still benefit from the practice nuclear criticism (especially considering it cannot really be called explicitly nuclear at all), then we must take very seriously nuclear criticism’s current possibilities, not only in a world circumscribed by disasters of all kinds, but to imagine a world free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Abstract: “The Apocalypse Archive: Reconsidering Nuclear Criticism”

Here is an abstract for a paper I will be delivering at the 2011 Society for Utopian Studies Conference, “Archiving Utopia–Utopia as Archive,” in State College, Pennsylvania. The conference goes from October 20-23.

The Apocalypse Archive: Reconsidering Nuclear Criticism

There has been a curious trend toward a reconsideration of the apocalyptic as a valid category for utopian possibility in some recent Marxist thought, perhaps best exemplified in the recent work of Slavoj Žižek. Responding to the economic crisis in First as Tragedy, Then as Farce,Žižek tells us that, “paradoxically, the only way to prevent the disaster is to accept it as inevitable.” It is precisely against such retrograde apocalypticism that this paper would like to propose the necessity for reconsidering nuclear criticism. Quite provocatively, in the founding document of this critical practice, Jacques Derrida informs us that nuclear war—and consequently any contemporary apocalyptic formulation—“is fabulously textual.” What this claim allows Derrida to explore is the literary archive’s relationship to disaster, that the archive is simultaneously the object of destruction as well as its agent. Though with the end of the Cold War nuclear criticism all but disappeared after 1993, I claim that, to think through the utopian possibilities contained within and around the archive, especially in light of the burgeoning new technologies of archivization attending the information age, we must take very seriously a return to a critical practice capable of not only watching over the archive of disaster—whether in terms of destruction or accumulation—but imagining the archive of possibility. It is precisely through a reconsideration of nuclear criticism as anti-eschatological, as against apocalypse in all its forms, rhetorical, messianic, or otherwise, that a path through and toward the utopian archive may be found.