“Toward a Theory of the Megatext” in Scale in Literature and Culture

The first essay from my new project on unreadably large texts, “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper,'” has been published in Scale in Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), edited by Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg. The book includes essays by Bruno Latour and Mark McGurl. You can find the entire collection here through Springer Link if you have institutional access, or individual essays via the links below. The book is also available on Amazon. I’m happy to send along a copy of my essay to anyone who is interested (festb[at]hartwick[dot]edu).

Table of Contents for Scale in Literature and Culture

Michael Tavel Clarke and David Wittenberg, Introduction.

Scale: History and Conception

Zach Horton“Composing a Cosmic View: Three Alternatives for Thinking Scale in the Anthropocene.”

Derek Woods, “Epistemic Things in Charles and Ray Eames’s Powers of Ten.

Bruno Latour, “Anti-Zoom.”

Scale in Culture

Mark McGurl, “Making It Big: Picturing the Radio Age in King Kong.

Joan Lubin, “The Stature of Man: Population Bomb on Spaceship Earth.”

Aikaterini Antonopoulou, “Large-Scale Fakes: Living in Architectural Reproductions.”

Scale in Literature

Melody Jue, “From the Goddess Ganga to a Teacup: On Amitav Ghosh’s Novel The Hungry Tide.

Oded Nir, “World Literature as a Problem of Scale.”

Bradley J. Fest, “Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.'”

Jeffrey Severs, “Cutting Consciousness Down to Size: David Foster Wallace, Exformation, and the Scale of Encyclopedic Fiction.”

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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Summer 2017 Links

Nuclear and Environmental

Nearing midnight: “Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

Mehdi Hasan, “The Madman with Nuclear Weapons Is Donald Trump, Not Kim Jong-un.”

David Wallace-Wells, “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein, and “Global Hiroshima: Notes from a Bullet Train.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, “Au Revoir: Trump Exits the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Fiona Harvey, “World Has Three Years Left to Stop Dangerous Climate Change, Warn Experts.”

Damian Carrington, “Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Floods after Permafrost Melts.”

Benjamin Powers, “An Abandoned US Nuclear Base in Greenland Could Start Leaking Toxic Waste Because of Global Warming.”

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End of the Semester Links, Spring 2017

It’s been a long year, long for many reasons, but here’s a backlog of some links. (Some very good news is imminent. . . .)

 

Nuclear and Environmental

New York Times Editorial Board, “The Finger on the Nuclear Button.”

Rebecca Savranksy, “US May Launch Strike if North Korea Moves to Test Nuclear Weapon.”

Kaveh Waddell, “What Happens if a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off in Manhattan.”

Radiolab, “Nukes.”

Laurel Wamsley, “Digitization Unearths New Data From Cold War-Era Nuclear Test Films.”

Michael Biesecker and John Flesher, “President Trump Institutes Media Blackout at EPA.”

Brian Kahn, “The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-Era Information.”

Zoë Schlanger, “Hackers Downloaded US Government Climate Data and Stored It on European Servers as Trump Was Being Inaugurated.”

Cass R. Sunstein, “Making Sense of Trump’s Order on Climate Change.”

Laurie Penny, “The Slow Confiscation of Everything.”

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Panel Abstract: Utopian Geologies

I just got word that a panel I organized was accepted for the 2015 Society for Utopian Studies Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, taking place November 5-8. I have included the general abstract for the panel, and the abstracts for each individual paper.

The panel will take place on Saturday, 7 November 2015, 8:30 -10:45 am.

 

Utopian Geologies

Panelists: Racheal Forlow, Dan Malinowski, and Bradley J. Fest

In the twenty-first century, the Anthropocene has emerged as an important concept for understanding the impact of human life on the planet. As activists, journalists, and scholars attempt to respond to the challenges this new epoch presents, many invoke deep time as a significant mode of thinking. This panel will take up the question of how the utopian imagination, long a site for speculating about the future, might contend with such geologic timescales. Responding to the conference topic of “global flows” by discussing things that flow at very, very slow paces, each paper will consider an important literary encounter with utopian geology. From Walt Whitman’s emergent poesis, to Kim Stanley Robinson’s posthuman environmental ethics, to the emphasis on human finitude in recent speculative thinking, these papers all signal a desperate need to reinvest in the imagination in the face of observable climate change.

 

Walt Whitman’s Geologic Imagination and the Future

Racheal Forlow, University of Pittsburgh

Western utopian traditions imagine how human activities might create better futures. Today, those who pursue projects of this kind confront a singular set of challenges. Scientists argue climate change and a range of other environmental emergencies threaten the future of the species. Because most agree the activities a tradition of Enlightenment thinking privileges produced these threats, the present seems to demand we conceive anew the ways we hope to project and build better worlds. Some artists, intellectuals, and activists committed to this work therefore suggest we abandon anthropocentric views of the universe and autonomous views of human individuals for more broadly materialist accounts. In this paper, I argue a tradition of American poetry Walt Whitman originates offers projects of this kind historical and conceptual resources. Whitman treats the human faculties contemporary projects require—among these imagination, reason, and feeling—in thoroughly material terms. In “Song of Myself” (1855), he imagines human creative power is an evolutionary force that emerges out of deep, geologic history. So conceived, the human is not a powerful, autonomous agent that dominates what is not identical to it. Instead, the species participates in a broader set of transformative processes. I believe recognizing US traditions offer this alternative vision of the human might serve attempts to project and build futures in the novel ways contemporary crises compel.

 

Should We Eat the Dirt? Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, Geology, and New Materialism

Dan Malinowski, Rutgers University

No matter where humanity goes, it will shape and be shaped by its environment. In this talk, I will explore the ways in which Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (1994-96), through the long time-spans in which it occurs, allows us to follow the flow of human society on literally untouched land, providing a useful thought experiment for exploring the ethics of the relationship of humanity to geological features. I will examine the debates surrounding terraforming enacted within these novels, highlighting their central aporia: namely, how a utopian society can (or cannot) coexist with a posthuman ethics towards the natural landscape. I will show how the recent work in the New Materialism can articulate this problem more productively than the Heideggerian model of geological ethics proposed by Fredric Jameson in his essay on the trilogy. In doing so, this paper will articulate a view of the world in which the interactions of the “dead” world and its new inhabitants flow back and forth in an ongoing and multi-directional process, a consideration inseparable from any utopian possibility whether here on Earth or there on Mars.

 

Speculative Criticism, Black Metal Theory, and Utopia: Richard Grossman’s “Torah Ball”

Bradley J. Fest, University of Pittsburgh

In recent years, invoking Fredric Jameson’s famous quip about it being easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism has become something of a cliché. Given the realities of observable climate change and the seeming inability for human institutions to make the broad, sweeping changes necessary for responding to life in the Anthropocene, one might find it difficult to disagree with claims about the foreclosure of the utopian imagination. So it is perhaps surprising that a variety of thinkers, emerging from the school of Speculative Realism (or New Materialism), have been emphasizing species finitude, particularly with regard to deep, geologic timescales. Rather than explore possible utopian futures, writers like Ray Brassier, Nicola Masciandaro, Reza Negarestani, Eugene Thacker, McKenzie Wark, Evan Calder Williams, and others, often writing under the heading of “Black Metal Theory,” frequently invoke the utter inevitability of human extinction. As part of a larger project of articulating what I am calling “speculative criticism,” this paper will explore what such dark geologies might offer for both the study of literary works massively extended in space and time and the pressing need to reconceive and reinvest in the utopian imagination in the twenty-first century.

End of the Semester Links, Fall 2014

I have been understandably busy with the end of a fun and challenging semester. So there are quite a few links that have built up.

 

Nuclear and Environment

William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “US Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms.”

Robert Burns, “Air Force: Hagel Departure Won’t Slow Nuke Reforms.”

Mark Memmot, “Nun Who Broke Into Nuclear Complex Gets 35-Month Jail Term.”

Barbara Starr, “Navy Investigation Under Way after Female Officers Filmed.”

Eric Holthaus, “Seventy–Seven Zero–Inches of Snow for Buffalo as Winter Overpowers America.”

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