“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Disaster Ecology

Goya, “Disaster of War”

Angie Lewandowski is one of those Ph.D. students who basically just get on with it, with very minimal pushing from me...watch out world! Here is her very kind response to something that is in the pipeline. 

Happily it will be online in Romantic Praxis, in a special issue edited by Jacques Khalip on disaster. My entry is called “Romantic Disaster Ecology: Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth.” I hear it's thought of as a very good collection of essays already, so I can't wait to see what's in it. 

Here are Angie's thoughts, slightly edited for paragraphing: 

You argue that we must "recalibrate what we mean by disaster, such that ecological thinking and practice must entail dropping the imminence of disaster, with its resulting states of exception. This thinking would be non-disastrous both in content and in form."

I absolutely agree, and am trying, I think, to argue something along these lines in my own piece. (In my piece, I work with Benjamin's notion of the "real state of emergency" to imagine what an alternative to "disaster" and "disaster speak" might be...I'm interested in hearing from you on what you make of this move...)

In your piece, you write that Wordsworth is the "only one...still capable of performing something like thinking while caught in disaster's headlights." You argue that Wordsworth's work "[enables] thinking to carry on around and through disaster." It's such an interesting and essential question to ask: What must thinking look and feel like so that it might "carry on," despite the reality of environmental disaster?

I wonder what it means to "perform" thinking amidst disaster (to grapple with your terms a bit)? To carry on "around and through disaster"? Your reading of Wordsworth's reflections on "apocalyptic ambiance," awakening, anti-climax, and failure is provocative. You suggest that these concerns in the poem--and the ways the poem effects these concerns--are precisely what enable it to *think* in the face of disaster. 

I wonder: In the end, can we "recalibrate disaster" while also continuing to understand our world as in a state of crisis? What I mean is: How to reimagine disaster while also maintaining that it *is*?  


Michael- said...
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Michael- said...

i'm uncomfortable "recalibrating" disaster. there needs to be some sense of difference between stable, semi-stable and disordered states. Why? disqualify or erase or reconfigure actual distinctions for the sake of theoretical ingenuity?

The desire to philosophize all conventions away can sometimes come off as superfluous and hyper-active in how it can clog critical thinking.

Are all thoughts and labels subject to the productive whims of novelty for the sake of reconsumption in late capitalism?

"Disaster" seems to be one of those qualitative distinctions that connect factual human perceptions (of suffer, etc) to actual material organizational orders - and desensitizing and de-coding our interpretive enagements with disastrous events only serves to suggest a willing submission to the bland quietism of noise.