“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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

History of Criticism Class 7: Maimonides (MP3)

A class on Maimonides and De Vinsauf. Allegory and filigree silver apples.

Evental Aesthetics Essay Online Now

It's about Hegel and ecology, and art. Happily my Ph.D student Angie is also in it.

How to Read Any Poem Anywhere, Class 7: Rhyme (MP3)

I reckon this was the best class on rhyme I ever taught.

Slow Reading Slow Gaming

Ian Bogost just sent me this. On the phone to my editor Lindsay Waters in early 2006 I said we really need to make a push for “slow reading”—a phrase that he really liked and developed into a number of essays and conference panels.

Apropos of the post itself, and its proposal that we read the first word of A Tale of Two Cities: I always teach the first word of The Picture of Dorian Gray, “the.”

Humans, Sincerity, Nonhumans

What Graham Harman says about sincerity applies beautifully to Kristen Bell's reaction to this lemur. Watch—it's better than reading most philosophy! HT Ian Bogost.

Graham:  “By coming to terms with an increasing range of objects, human beings do not become nihilistic princes of darkness, but actually the most sincere creatures the earth has ever seen.”

Nietzsche Versus Nurture

Which is worse?

Being fed by your fascist little sister while you sit incapacitated and dying?

Or having food placed regularly on your head and uploaded to Tumblr? HT Ian Bogost.

Sarah Ray Talk at UC Davis

Environments & Societies: History, Literature, and Justice
UC Davis Mellon Research Initiative
2012 Colloquium Series

The Ecological Other: Bodies, Nature, and Exclusion
Sarah Jaquette Ray, University of Alaska, Southeast

Wednesday, February 8
4pm - 6pm
126 Voorhies Hall

Sarah Jaquette Ray is Assistant Professor of English and Coordinator of the Geography and Environmental Studies BA Program at University of Alaska Southeast. Her work combines environmental justice literature and theory, human geography, and cultural studies, and she is currently working on a book manuscript, under contract with University of Arizona Press, titled The Ecological Other: Bodies, Nature, and Exclusion. She received a doctorate in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy from the University of Oregon in 2009, a MA in American Studies from University of Texas at Austin, and a BA in Religious Studies and Women’s Studies from Swarthmore College. She teaches courses in environmental literature, ecocriticism, environmental justice, cultural studies, composition, and human geography.

For more information about the colloquium series, please visit: http://environmentsandsocieties.ucdavis.edu/.

The Ecological Thought on Kindle

There is a cheap ten buck version for Kindle--I had no idea until this morning.

Another Chance to Hear Me on KPFA

Just got this:

Wanted to let you know that, as I was going through the interviews I
conducted last year on KPFA's Against the Grain, the one I did with
you stood out as among the best and most memorable.

We'll highlight portions of that conversation on today's (Tuesday's)
Against the Grain program, which begins at noon.

Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio airs on KPFA 94.1 FM in the San
Francisco Bay Area and beyond, and on KFCF 88.1 FM in California's
Central Valley. It also broadcasts worldwide, via kpfa.org.

The audio will be archived afterward, in on-demand and downloadable
forms, at againstthegrain.org.

The Lord of the Rings versus the Ball Popper Test

Wow. Just wow.

Jan Svankmajer, Speculative Realist Animator

Watch it and learn my friends. “Dimensions of Dialogue” parts 1 and 2. Check how the assemblages mess each other up until they become coherent bodies, who tear each other apart over a sinthome...

Then there's “Meat Love.”

Monday, January 30, 2012


Finally--after ten years--the auxiliary battery in the Prius died. This enabled me to get some jumper cables and do to my car what I hadn't done since 1992 in the UK with my beat up old Renault 5, which looked and felt like the brown log off of The Flintstones. It was enjoyable.

Austerity Disastrous

I thought this was elegantly reasoned enough to post here. And it's from US News and World Report—how much more mainstream do you want? Hopefully many people can lobby their congresspeople about it:

The reason the economy is not creating jobs is simply that there is no source of demand to replace the demand created by the housing bubble. With nothing to replace this lost demand, companies see little reason to expand production and hiring.

Government spending is an obvious source of demand. However this spigot has been closed due to concerns over deficits. We have thousands of people in Washington who seem convinced that if the government would just stop spending money and lay off more employees then the private sector would respond with increased output and hiring.

While this might seem implausible on its face (what business hires people because the government has laid off school teachers or firefighters?), we no longer have to speculate about the impact of budget cuts and government layoffs, the United Kingdom is showing us.

The government elected last spring in the United Kingdom committed itself to rapidly reducing the size of its deficit. This government austerity was supposed to give a big boost to the private sector. It actually did the opposite. Growth has fallen to a near standstill. The I.M.F. projects that the U.K. economy will grow by just 0.6 percent this year and an only slighter better 1.6 percent in 2013. This pace is not even fast enough to keep up with the growth of the U.K.'s labor market.
It would be good if the politicians in Washington could learn these basic facts about the British economy. They might then realize that deficit reduction destroys jobs, it doesn't create them. There are times when we should be worried about the size of the deficit, but this is not one of them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Queer Ecology Revisited

An undergrad just wrote with a query about queer ecology. Always happy to help, I decided to post my response here.

One could think of queer theory as the exploration of how identity is not given, but rather performed.

Queer ecology simply sees this performance happening "below" the human level of meaning, at the level of the genome and other physical beings.

This is because, from an OOO standpoint, there is a rift between essence and appearance. This gives rise to identity as an illusion-like display that can't be pinned down to some sort of givenness.

What is called Nature just is the reduction of things to their givenness for humans. This reduction must be policed, since it is inherently spurious and unstable.

Jazz Musicians Should be Worshipped as Gods and Given Everything in the World


Flowing Colors of Jazz

This sound desk recording of Allan Holdsworth, my favorite guitarist, playing with Vinnie Colaiuta, one of my favorite drummers, is very very special. They bring out the best in one another. The keyboards and bass are very very fine as well. By the sound of it I'm guessing it's David Hines and Steve Hunt (correct me if I'm wrong).

A magnificent ocean of sound, with that curious, dancing, Debussy-like quality of Holdsworth that is just soaring with pleasure in vibrant space. I fancy that if Zarathustra liked music this would be one of his favorites.

My taste seems to be inclining towards the colorful and the crystalline, at present. Sharp edges, refreshing cuts, cymbalism.

Love Thyself

I'm delighted that Nietzsche and I are in perfect accord that one should love should love oneself before any talk of love thy neighbor. After all, the Man said “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

My teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche is about to publish something on that, on what he calls essence love. It has no object, as it were—it's just this sort of inner glow, of health or what in medieval Europe was called virtu(e). Like in, “What are the healing properties of this plant, its healing juice?” Nietzsche uses the term virtue in a similar way. Nietzsche is probably the only Western philosopher who really gets that Buddhism is profoundly physical.

It's a big, big problem of modernity. We fuck up education of the first vital stage of being human. Take it away Friedrich:

Almost in the cradle are we presented with heavy words and values: this dowry calls itself “Good” and “Evil.” For its sake we are forgiven for being alive.

And we suffer little children to come to us, to prevent them in good time from loving themselves...

Death Box

Eduardo, who painted my house purple, thinks “death box” is the default color scheme of suburbia. These guys concur:
Dudjom Rinpoche was driving through France with his wife, admiring the countryside as they went along. They passed along cemetery that had been freshly painted and decorated with flowers. Dudjom Rinpoche’s wife said: “Rinpoche, look how everything in the West is so neat and clean. Even the places where they keep corpses are spotless. In the East not even the houses that people live in are anything like as clean as this.” “Ah, yes,” he replied, “that’s true; this is such a civilized country. They have such marvelous houses for dead corpses. But haven’t you noticed? They have such wonderful houses for the living corpses too.”

130 Million Year Old Rain Forest

In Malaysia. The Taman Negara is more ancient than the dry surface of Colorado, which used to be under the ocean at that time.

Aurora Video

When the solar wind interacts with the magnetosphere, it happens. This is from Tromso in Norway and it's because of the rather intense recent solar activity.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is Springsteen the Reincarnation of Shelley?

Percy Shelley

Bruce Springsteen

YOU decide! (After all, HT Cliff Gerrish, his grandfather was born in NJ.)

CFP: Deconstruction in the Anthropocene

Oxford Literary Review, vol. 34.2 (December 2012), call for papers. Note the citation of Harman.

Deconstruction in the Anthropocene 

The Anthropocene is a term first coined by the atmospheric scientist Paul J. Crutzen as the suggested name for that geological epoch in which humanity has come to play a crucial if often incalculable role in the planet's ecology and geology: “The term Anthropocene ... suggests that the Earth has now left its natural geological epoch, the present interglacial state called the Holocene. Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature and are pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita.” (Will Steffen, Paul J. Crutzen and John R. McNeill, “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?” Ambio 38 (2007), 614-21, 614).

As with the planet's ecology and geology, the kinds of cultural shift associated with the Anthropocene are only slowly being realized in their depth and pervasiveness. What is described in terms of the new power of the human species is, ironically, often experienced as an incalculable and even worldwide revolt of the things, as nonhuman events provoke an obscurely tendentious readability—drought, flooding, disease, accompanied by changed or damaged plant and animal ecologies. This issue of OLR concerns what may be called the deconstructive force of the environmental crisis, especially those elements which have, necessarily non-localizable effects, such as climate change and over-population.

Modes of thinking and practice that may once have seemed justified, internally coherent, self-evident or progressive now need to be reassessed in terms of hidden exclusions, disguised costs, or as offering a merely imaginary closure. OLR is particularly interested in papers that take up the challenge of the Anthropocene in relation to the following questions. In what ways does thinking currently associated with deconstruction and the work of Jacques Derrida now take on new force, re-interpret itself or become anachronistic?

Does thinking through the challenges of the Anthropocene tally with a turn to a more thing- or object-oriented ontology, the need to acknowledge the separate incalculable agency of the nonhuman, that “All reality is politics, but not all politics is human” (Graham Harman)?

OLR 34.2 will be open to papers on these questions, maximum length c. 6,000 words.

For more on the OLR see http://www.eupjournals.com/journal/olr Deadline for initial expressions of interest: end July 2011. Date for final submissions. June 2012. End of editing process September, 2012.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Me on iTunes U

Some of you have been wondering whether you can find my classes on iTunes U. I haven't done it in a while so I just checked. If you go to the store, then just put my name into the search bar (see above: click for a full size image), then Romanticism, Spring 2009 will pop up.

Some of these classes have been quite popular. The Jane Austen ones have had over a million downloads as of about a year and a half ago.

Maybe I Should Write about Blake Some More

I think how I've taught him has been better than what I've written so far. There's a Romantic lit class this spring, which I'll post here. You can listen to some Blake classes on iTunes U if you put my name in the search bar in the store.

Masciandaro Response Paper

To my essay "Waking Up Inside an Object: The Subject of Ecology."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rendezvous 6:02

Come on Eddie Jobson, show us how to do a very sinister building synth line in a very uncanny song. It's a ghost story really—possibly that one where the protagonist figures out he is also a ghost. Also, respect to Terry Bozzio, he's not Bill Bruford—he's a lot harder...

History of Criticism 6: Longinus, Plotinus (MP3)

This was not so bad either, IMHO.

Disaster Ecology Essay Published

Online in Romantic Praxis, just now.

Some Thoughts on Rhythm

I hope you get a chance to listen to the podcast below, class 6. Even I thought it was good, and I've been teaching poetry analysis for 25 years.

In particular I now know how to convey the fact that atmosphere is a function of rhythm. It's not a vague term at all.

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere, Class 6: Rhythm (MP3)

Featuring Christian Hawkey!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Harvard Talk 2.6 Info

Here is the web page with details. My talk is called “Ecology without the Present.”

Cultural Politics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Date: February 6, 2012
Time: 6:00 pm
CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge St., Bowie-Vernon Room (K262)
This is open to the public.

"Ecology Without the Present"

Roilos, Panagiotis

Faculty Associate (on leave fall 2011). George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature, Department of the Classics; Director, Modern Greek Studies Program, Harvard University.
Yatromanolakis, Dimitrios
Faculty Associate, Department of the Classics, Harvard University; Associate Professor of the Classics, Department of the Classics, The Humanities Center, and Department of Anthropology, The Johns Hopkins University.
Morton, Timothy
Professor of English (Literature and the Environment), University of California at Davis.

The Ontological Turn

An interesting seminar this summer in Bonn featuring Harman, Zizek, Grant, Hagglund, Brassier.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

OOO Star Wars

To study something, you (have to) change it. Graham Harman's theory of reading (to be published in New Literary History) fits this like a glove. BTW, if you're listening to “How to Read Any Poem...” you'll know that it's also my theory of reading...

Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

History of Criticism 5: Rhetoric (MP3)

Featuring discussions of Aristotle and Quintilian.

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere 5: Rhythm (MP3)

Not enough time to cover all the poems today, so I'll make up for it (sorry Christian Hawkey!) on Thursday. Rhythm is tricky for people.

Deleuzian Architecture

...has to do with channelizing flows. Interesting piece in the Huffington Post today:

Instead of designing at the order of scale of rooms and middle scale structure, it is now descending into cellular grain of matter, flow of light, heat, vapor, friction, simulation of massive scale erosion and sedimentation or ice melting...

Actually, this has been going on for over a century. The really interesting new stuff is object-oriented, as I'm arguing in Hyperobjects, via some interesting conversations with David Gissen. Why is it ecological to push flows around? Once you realize you are living on a unit, a planet, there is no “away” and flow loses its appeal. Flow architecture is based on pre-ecological thinking, despite the spin put on it in that piece. 

Check out this building instead: an electrostatic structure by R&Sie for Bangkok, designed not to push dust somewhere else, but to attract it. I'm talking about it in Hyperobjects.  HT David Gissen.

“Descending into the cellular grain of matter” is called air conditioning. Ignoring medium sized objects other than humans, that is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rubber Duck Installation

On my office's third floor. Never seen it before. There must be hundreds of them. I guess it references the thousands of rubber ducks that allegedly made it across the Pacific.

Tones, Any Type of Tones

"I'm sorry you are so sensitive to the tone of my post. I wasn't meaning to hurt your feelings."

"I'm sorry you are so sensitive to the momentum of my car. I wasn't meaning to run you over."

Evental Editing

A very pleasant experience, since the editors know what they are doing. Very nice comments. Interestingly we are both big Mahler fans...

Objects in the Lankāvatāra Sutra

In your face, nihilists. This is quoted in the first book in English by an actual Zen Buddhist, D.T. Suzuki:

The saline crystal and its red-bluishness,
The milky sap and its sweetness,
Various flowers and their fruits,
The sun and the moon and their luminosity:
These are neither separable nor inseparable.

In other words, essence and appearance, or real and sensual objects.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Zen Anarchy

A nice piece by my friend John Clark. HT Duane Rousselle.

There IS a Spoon

“There is no spoon” is a mashup of Christianity and Neoplatonism. Unless you think “There is a spoon” you are not a Buddhist. This is the meaning of “Emptiness also is form.”

Ego and the Abyss

Imagine a person who suddenly wakes up in the hospital after an automobile accident to find that she is suffering from total amnesia. Outwardly, everything is intact: She has the same face and form, her senses and her mind are there, but she doesn’t have any idea or any trace of a memory of who she really is.

In exactly the same way, we cannot remember our true identity, our original nature. Frantically, and in real dread, we cast around and improvise another identity, one we clutch with all the desperation of someone falling continuously into an abyss. This false and ignorantly assumed identity is “ego.”

Sogyal Rinpoche

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Congratulations are due to Rachel Swinkin, who has just finished an excellent dissertation called The Limits of Sympathy, on animals and poetics in the long eighteenth century. I'm her first reader. Finishing can be a weirdly anticlimactic or depressing affair—you get familiar with it if you go on to do other projects, but when you first experience it, you think there must be something wrong. There isn't.

Aikido Dogs!

My daughter had a very involved dream about being an Aikido Dog, whose

behavior strongly resembled the Norse Berserkers...

Friday, January 20, 2012

This Quarter's Course Syllabi

Right here. No textbooks—just click the links.

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere

History of Criticism

Withdrawal, What the Heck Is It?

I just wrote this to an inquirer:

“Object” is a tough word and it does bring up this ideologeme of nasty grey porridge, but we OOO-ers are struggling against that. I like to think that withdrawal means total uniqueness. Things withdraw from access, remember, which doesn't mean that they become vague haphazard blobs of whateverness. Withdrawal means “unspeakable,” because unique. Withdraw doesn't mean lose definition, but be so definite that all modes of access fail in some sense.

I should note that this inquirer had some experience of Zen—this does seem to help to understand the physicality of OOO, rather than abstract training in “Buddhist philosophy” (sic).

Genesis Dzogchen

Oh bloody hell. This is really serious. I've posted about this before but here are the full lyrics to “Paperlate.” I find them uncannily evocative of Dzogchen instructions for recognizing the nature of mind:

Paperlate paperlate
Paperlate paperlate

Paperlate, ooh I'm sorry but there's no one on the line
Paperlate, ooh I'm sorry but rest easy no news is good news

Ooh it's too easy to live like clockwork
Tick tock watching the world go by
Any change would take too long
So dry your eyes
Ooh it's too easy to live in a cold sweat
Just sitting dripping in pools below
You can wipe your face
Kill the pain
But the fever won't go, no no

Pull it together now
Put your feet back on the ground
Ooh don't worry now
You're not alone
Look around you
Ooh I'm sorry but there's no one on the line
Ooh I'm sorry but rest easy no news is good news

Ooh it's too easy to compute your future
Taking no risks and playing too safe
Any change would take too long
So dry your eyes
Ooh it's too easy to talk about rocking the boat
Making changes and changing track
But you'd better not lock that door
Cos you'll be coming back

Ah you're breathing faster
Silence the only sound
There's no need to be nice on the way up
Cos you're not coming down

Paperlate paperlate
Paperlate paperlate
Paperlate paperlate
Paperlate paperlate

Ooh I'm sorry but there's no one on the line
Oh I'm sorry but rest easy no news is good news...


Sometimes it's good to find instructions in corny unexpected places.

On the Shoreline

Every few months my mind decides to love Genesis. This is one of those months. Right now I am finding something very heavy and good about this, but perhaps it is just a totally lame illusion!

But sometimes it's good to go with lame illusions.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Žižek Defends Obamacare

Watch and learn. He does so about 60% of the way through. Rock and roll Slavoj: he got it! It was easier to denounce Communism during totalitarianism, he argues, than to push for a specific person to resign. Nice one mate. Also quite good on Occupy.

Precisely: what is required is a bit more hypocrisy and bit less cynicism.

History of Criticism, Class 4: Aristotle (MP3)

This was a very joyful class, and I was able to tease out some of the OOO implications of an Aristotelian view quite well I think, with some discussion of Arabic philosophy.

Aristotle Class

Now that was a great class. Perky, refreshing, funny. I can't help thinking it's because of Aristotle, the topic. We OOOers really like him.

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere, Part 4: Syntax (MP3)

With some great examples of different kinds of lineation by the students.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keystone Cop

From Bill McKibben:

Dear Friends

We wanted to share with you the news: this afternoon the Obama Administration announced that they are denying the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. You did good work, against some of the longest possible odds.

For years, the knock on the President Obama was that he backed down too easily in the face of opposition. Not here. When Republicans in Congress forced the issue again by passing a 60-day time limit on the President's final decision, he stood strong and denied the permit. And that was despite the most explicit threats from Big Oil: that they would exact ‘huge political consequences’ if he did the right thing on Keystone. Make no mistake—this is a brave decision.

And make no mistake about this either—Big Oil will do everything it can to overturn that decision, because they are not used to losing. They have one weapon—money. They’ve used it to buy the allegiance of many Representatives and Senators and now they’ll use Congress to try and get their dirty work done. That’s what happened when the President delayed the permit last November, and we should expect them to try again now.

That’s why we’re going to Congress and Big Oil, beginning next Tuesday the 24th. If you can join us, we’re meeting at noon on the West Lawn, and you should wear a referee’s shirt. We’re going to ‘blow the whistle’ on the corruption that passes for business as usual on Capitol Hill, where people take money from companies whose interests they vote on. If this happened at the Super Bowl it would be a national scandal; we’ve got to make sure it’s seen that way in our political life too. We know it’s short notice, but we hope we can get at least 500 people there. Not to get arrested, at least not this time, but to make quite a noise.

If you can make it, click here to join the action in DC.

If you can't make it (or even if you will be there) can you help us spread the word about the good news, and the action next week?

Click here to share on Facebook

Click here to Tweet

Ibn Sina's Floating Man as Astronaut

From Galen Strawson:

empirical support from an experienced flying man—an astronaut—for Ibn Sina’s ‘Flying Man’ hypothesis! Question: “What’s the strangest thing you ever did in zero gravity?” Answer: “I’m the only one I know that sleeps floating. It’s delicious. You don’t know where you are, and after a while, because your limbs aren’t touching anything, you lose sense that you even have them...

Go Friedrich

Looking again through The Anti-Christ for Buddhaphobia, I'm struck with how my thoughts about how Christianity went wrong, and its consequent (I think) hostility to Buddhism, mirror Nietzsche's. He is appalled in exactly the same measure as myself at Paul, darling of the left “atheist Christians” (or whatever), for precisely the same reasons. Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God on Earth, and got kicked upstairs by the church, as they say in England, when a politically powerful person is made a Lord to defang him. I'm cheering Nietzsche on.

Physical Buddhism

More evidence that Buddhism isn't what the not well mylenated smash crew who use Nagarjuna as a blunt instrument say it is:

You can almost convince yourself that you’ve accomplished things just by thinking about them. The alternative is to be more realistic. You don’t necessarily regard the dreaming process as bad or an obstacle, but it’s not realistic enough. Action speaks louder than words. You should regard the daydreams as pure thought patterns. In the situation of fantasizing, you need to relate with earth, the physical situations of life.

Trungpa Rinpoche

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

History of Criticism 3: The Republic and Phaedrus (MP3)


A powdery lemon slice and a cup of coffee resulted in renewed demonic energy. 1500 words in an hour, not too bad...

Received Today

Design Ecologies 1.2, which has my essay "Freak Show Ecology" in it. Can't wait to sink my fangs into it.


I sat in the student lounge and we to sleep in front of the fire. My copy of Nietzsche's The Anti-Christ slipped out of my hands. Before this, I managed three sentences of my next essay. That right folks, I'm really tired!

Randall Honold on Hyperobjects

A very nice post, this. I'm just starting to read it.

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere Class 3: Lineation (MP3)

Featuring discussions of Brenda Iijima, George Herbert and Walt Whitman. And Airbuses.

Schaberg Airport Posts

One from Continuum, the other from Roy Christopher.

Brenda Iijima Success

Well, that was a very good experience. Two weeks in, the students responded just excellently to Brenda Iijima's poem (see the link below). They had all kinds of thoughts about it. A very good sign.

Brenda Iijima Today

For the first time I'll be teaching Brenda Iijima. This poem to be precise. We are going to talk about lineation.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trigger Happy

Who is Dylan Trigg? 

—A most interesting young phenomenologist man.

What has he done?

—He has published The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny, which I now hold in my hand, perhaps before he is doing so, which is in itself uncanny.

An insight on every page?

—Why yes, it looks that way. For instance, I just opened the book at random to see an excellent argument about the arbitrary divisions between history and memory.

What is most excellent about it, as far as you are concerned? 

—Well I've only glanced through it. But what it does is to make the one thing that seems so obvious (the sense of place) become very weird. For instance, Harman on Lovecraft makes a special guest appearance. This weirdness is badly needed in ecological philosophical necks of the wood. I've been trying to make this sort of argument in my way for a little bit.

Is it the sort of book that makes you want to read it all the time, a not unpleasant, slightly evil compulsion? 

—Without doubt.

On a scale of 1 to Fucking Good, where would you put this book? 

—Oh, Fucking Good, definitely.

OM Intensity Svaha

I just increased the gain on my practice. I have to do 100 000 mantras of Vajrasattva, a 100 syllable mantra.

Now I remember why I was blowing it off. The purification process (Vajrasattva is a shower that wipes your karma) can make me feel like shit!

It's quite the opposite of what you think, you know. You think meditation makes you into a floaty pod person. That's only if you're not doing it right!

Fingers of a Dream

Mr. Fingers, “Can You Feel It” (1986, 1988). It is traditional at this time of year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

OOO and Barad

An interesting post on the thingly, by @MalteBlom. This is a nice Latour litany: “crystals, ants, computers, gay bath houses or supernovas.”

Douglas Kahn on Natural Radio

Sound + Science - Douglas Kahn - Aesthetics of Natural Radio from Art|Sci Center on Vimeo.

My bud Doug talking about the Aelectrosonic, as he calls it. Watch and learn friends.

New Antennae

The latest issue of the journal is available online:

Antennae's new issue on Animal Advocacy and the Arts is now online!! Download free at www.antennae.org.uk

In this issue: exclusive interviews with Peter Singer, Roger Scruton, John Simons and Tom and Nancy Regan

+ an amazing portfolio of work by Sue Coe and much, much more... How far have we gone since the publishing

of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation from 1973, where are we finding ourselves and where are we going? But most importantly, who are we going there with?

This issue attempts to answer these key questions and it does so by looking at a range of different media,

geographical locations and contexts in the attempt of finding more questions

Nietzsche and Hypocrisy

In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche laments the decline in hypocrisy. Quite right! I think this is one thing that the emerging ecological era will force back upon us, though perhaps not for reasons Nietzsche would like. We are entering a phase in which every decision we make regarding our coexistents is inevitably wrong in some sense. (You've probably heard some of my talks about this.) Future virtue in this sense will consist in being as consciously hypocritical as possible, rather than cynical. Maybe this is one place where my ecological philosophy has a quilting point with Nietzsche.

Oh Patrick

Pritchett's poem Lyrics for the Lost Book of Ariel is “for Tim Morton.” It's been a while since I've read this—Patrick showed me the draft many years ago. Now I'm reading it in his book Gnostic Frequencies. Check out this bit:

Lyric, says Ariel, is the barcode of the dead.
It mourns us into dreaming.

But to be given over to the other
is as smoke from an arrow.

or music out of a goblet of apples
when all the guests have gone home.

"Peak Nature" Reading (MP3)

Extraordinary, I didn't realize Adbusters had included a reading of my essay “Peak Nature.”

I Think I'm in Love

...with Wenzel Hablik. He likes crystals. He is an Expressionist.

"Peak Nature" Now Online

In Adbusters.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Swedish OOO in English

Thanks to Michael O'Rourke and his girlfriend Karin, who translated this.

Études (By Fredrik Österblom)
Translation by Karin Sellberg

Object Oriented ontology

There is a new turn appearing in continental philosophy. Linguistically oriented philosophy is abandoned in favour of realism and materialism. Individual things have turned attention away from processes and relations. Despite the connotations of the word “realism” this does not infer a return to order and common sense. Reversely, the new realism shows us a world that is stranger than our boldest fantasies and momentarily as eerie as the novels of H.P. Lovecraft. Through speculation and correlations the contours of a poetic and independent reality appears, for which man and language no longer is the absolute origin.

Speculative Realism and Correlationism

Object oriented ontology and speculative realism are two key concepts within this theoretical turn and they are often mixed up. Speculative realism is not truly a movement, but rather an umbrella concept which includes many different and often oppositional positions, among which object oriented ontology is one. The phrase “speculative realism” was coined in 2007 when a title was needed for a symposium held at Goldsmith’s College in London, where Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ray Brassier and Ian Hamilton Grant took part.

Already in 1999 Graham Harman used the concept object oriented philosophy about his own work. His metaphysics are influenced by Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, Heidegger’s theories of the tool-complex and Bruno Latour’s particular form of realism where electrons, apples, people, nation-states, Hamlet and round squares enjoy the same right to existence since they are all actors. All things have a practical influence on the world, although to a varying extent.

The common denominator for speculative realists is their opposition to correlationism. In the book Après la finitude (2006) Quentin Meillassoux describes correlationism as the conception that we can merely gain access to the correlation between thinking and being, never to either of them individually. Correlationism has been the common framework that has surrounded philosophy since Kant until today.

Ontological questions of what the world is like are transformed by correlationism to questions of what the world is like for us. This "us" varies significantly between different positions and can be as widely separate phenomena as reason, the logical form of language, discursive formations, regimes of signs, power structures and corporeal experiences. However, the origin in each of these cases is the interaction between man and the world. Humanism and anti-humanism are equally ensnared. Even if the autonomous subject is considered a chimera and attention is directed towards historical and linguistic circumstances the man/world correlation is privileged. Philosophy becomes a question of which correlation is the pivotal one. Meillassoux positions speculative philosophy in opposition to this: an attempt to think the absolute.

Object Oriented Ontology

The basis of Graham Harman’s realism can be condensed to two main arguments. The first point is that the world is comprised of individual entities of an infinite amount of sizes. Bacteria, art installations and political activist groups are all real objects. They can neither be reduced to small physical particles or linguistic and sensual phenomena. The second point is that these entities are more than the sum of their relations. Objects withdraw from direct relations. In the same way that the world exists regardless of our consciousness of it, every thing possesses an existence regardless of other things. The split between reality and sensual representation ceases to exclusively be a condition for the human subject and is expanded to be valid for all entities. Instead of only splitting consciousness and world an infinite amount of splits between each object and its object comprised surroundings.

The objects are as hopelessly withdrawn from each other as they are from our consciousness. The glass only experiences a caricature of the table it stands on, just like we only experience a caricature of the glass. The world is not merely a large lump of matter or phenomena; it is comprised of an infinite amount of objects that act as protagonists of their own existence. How the relationship between two non-human objects functions is ontologically as important a question as how the relationship between man and world is made up.

The writer and blogger Rasmus Fleischer has suggested that the object oriented thought processes in Swedish should be called “nysaklig” [new-thingly] philosophy or “saklig” [thingly] ontology [Translator’s note: See http://copyriot.se/. The suggestion is part of R.F.’s post “Verkets Verkande”, “The Work of the Work”, which primarily discusses Marxism and copyright law. The term is particularly appropriate since the word “saklig” in Swedish also means “realistic” or “to the point”], with allusions to the 1920’s German movement “Neue Sachlichkeit” [New Objectivity]. This suggestion is made in order to avoid associations with the subject/object dualism that the original title infers. Thingly philosophy attempts to move beyond the compulsion to let one concept follow another, in order to introduce one single ontological category. Whether the category is called object or subject becomes irrelevant since the entities in this category constantly shift between what is experienced and what experiences, what moves and what is moved.

The OOO Movement

Recently an object oriented movement has taken shape, and it stretches far beyond the philosophical discipline. Levi Bryant is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in Texas, with a past as a Lacanian psychoanalyst. His major area of interest was Gilles Deleuze’s philosoph(ies) before he formed a close collaboration with Harman and Bryant developed his own version of object oriented ontology by the name of onticology. A large part of Bryant’s serious work is carried out directly on the blog Larval Subjects. He recently came out with the book Democracy of Objects.

Ian Bogost is a games developer and critic with a philosophy and literature background. He uses object oriented ontology both for the theoretical aspects of his work and for the production of computer games. The games he has taken part in developing deal with generically unusual concepts like security check points in airports, bad working conditions and the global oil market. Bogost focuses on application and specific individual objects rather than universal principles and his version of the discipline is entitled "alien phenomenology".

Another writer who recently has been tied to the movement is the professor of ecology and literature, Timothy Morton. He has authored books like Ecology without Nature (2009) and The Ecological Thought (2010) and maintains a blog with the same title as his 2009 book. Since the political theorist Jane Bennett published her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things last year, the affinities between her thinking and the object oriented movement have been unearthed and acknowledged by both parties. And finally there are the literature and medieval scholars Eileen Joy and Jeffrey Cohen, who write on the blog In The Middle. This is the core of a movement, the peripheries of which are fast becoming wider and wider.

Consequences and Applications

For the reader who approaches object oriented philosophy in search of emancipatory means two advantages immediately emerge. 1. If objects, man included, are not constituted by their relations they will never fully be trapped in their circumstances. Considering their withdrawn existence, they can never be reduced to their exposed properties, their creative history or their function in a larger structure either. People are, like all objects, always more than their collective contexts. There is always something lurking behind all relations and properties – something with the capacity to break free, surprise and entice us.

2. The thesis of the withdrawnness of objects places the indirect relations that are actually maintained in focus. Relations are taken seriously as philosophical problems. They are not ready-made explanations, but something that needs to be explained. A compulsion to carefully examine how social entities are constituted and maintained emerges. All components concerned must be observed and no object can be reduced to an expression of deeper or more “real” levels of reality.

Anthropocentrism has concealed several important aspects of the world, and even some components of our social reality. In an interview for fracturedpolitics.com Levi Bryant argues that the fact that critical theory has had a great influence on sociology and political theory has meant that some pivotal social factors have been excluded from the theoretical models. The social sphere is explained through phenomena like consciousness, power, language and ideology while other types of objects merely serve as the recipients of the meaning we project on them. In reality, there is no social sphere that precedes the objects – they build up and constitute the social. Even the non-human objects act of their own accord; they announce their existence by producing considerable differentiation. This is why we need theories that are capable of acknowledging the objects’ truly real existence and of considering their relations with each other as well as with people.

Practical Specificities

Until recently, Anglo-American philosophers within continental philosophy have mainly commented on and interpreted the great French and German thinkers’ work. Levi Bryant argues that instead of forming independent theories, we have developed an exegetic or even hagiographic theoretical industry. Object oriented ontology forms the first movement within continental philosophy that is dominated by Anglo-American thinkers. They develop their own theories and dare to open up debates with the great canonical thinkers, rather than just being their humble interpreters. The first encounter with the new realist texts invokes an impression of refreshing directness.

Another thing that differentiates the object oriented movement from earlier philosophical directions is its presence online. [Translator’s note: the Swedish word used here is “nätvaro”. It combines the words for presence (“närvaro”) and the net (“nätet”)] As previously indicated, most of the key thinkers are active bloggers and the theories have to a considerable extent emerged on the internet. Harman speaks about a "blogopolis" and argues that the blogosphere is not a concept that exists in opposition to books and articles, but rather has its own position in the scholarly “city”. Blogs occupy the position that cafés alone have previously taken up. The blogopolis is a room that enables exchange of news and ideas without delay and gives rise to new acquaintances and collaborations. Through the course of history certain cities, like Athens, Jena and Paris have become the generators of new philosophical developments. At this point in time the blogopolis appears to be our most vital collective space, and in connection to this our most interesting philosophy develops (Ray Brassier would most decisively disagree, but that is his prerogative).

Posted by Fredrik

Apropos of Doing and Making Things

For the first blessed time ever, I'm getting my students to make things with words and paper in my poetry analysis class. A (little) bit of what Ian Bogost calls carpentry. It's been on my mind for a while to get them to do this but now I have the grading apparatus in place to make it work.

So for this week's first homework, you have to put two words on a single sheet of paper in three different ways, and discuss the effects of doing so.

Eileen Joyful

A refreshingly amusingly titled post with a good argument.

In Tibet this is the constant dialogue between monasteries and yogis. Yogis need monasteries to connect to a tradition, but in the end, they go to caves. They attain some realization. People come to make offerings. Soon there is a small monastery there after the yogi dies. And so on. 

There is a still deeper philosophical conversation at work here. It has to do with how some of us are still gleefully or forlornly lamenting the demise of (Western) (human) civilization as it sinks beneath the rising Pacific waves. Time to stop that, please.

The Physical

The physical level, earth if you like, is without doubt the garden of paradise in which spiritual (so-called) practice truly lives. Everything good in my life has come from descending from the lofty heights of crazy heaven to the delightful physicality of earth. Perhaps in other cultures they need some more heaven, but in my family, with its florid mental illnesses, earth is where it's at.

Tidying laundry, washing dishes, cleaning the toilet, cooking, ferrying children. This is definitely where it's at, no doubt. Even thinking and writing are physical processes. As an OOO-er you start to see this quite clearly.

Inspiration Struck

And I've started to write my piece for the Journal of Narrative Theory Dialogue I'm doing with Jeffrey Cohen and Eileen Joy:

Whales within Whales: Ecological Emergency as the End of Human Narrative

Also Sprach Zarathustra

I'm listening to Strauss's tone poem and realizing that it would work very well in my study of hyperobjects and what they do to art.

The soaring, descending chromatic lines that could end anywhere: they are extreme examples of traveling limitlessly within a pre-established story world. A Nietzschean dance-on-a-volcano “revaluation of all values.” Within the human world.

Adorno on Blue's Clues

I had a fabulous dream last night in which Theodor Adorno weighed in on the children's program Blue's Clues, which you can stream on Netflix.

The charm of Blue's Clues is the whimsical, faint exasperation of the first host, Steve, who seems so perfect in the role that it is as if he had a hand in inventing the show. Eventually he is replaced by Joe, a flat footed, controlling repetition of himself.

I imagined that Adorno was arguing that if you wanted to see the true spirit of art, you need to look at negation, and Steve embodies it. Whereas Joe embodies all that is horrifying about the culture of affirmation.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Water on the Brain Pt. 2

 By Allan Holdsworth. With, without question, the best electric bass solo of all time, by Jeff Berlin. Chad Wackerman is my favorite drummer, no doubt. They were so good in SF in 2010.


At BLDGBLOG. HT Chris Schaberg.

Nagarjuna Has No Quarrel with This

Reggie was preceptor when I took refuge. He is a good guy:

"The body gives us a way to experience the fundamental, primordial realities of the cosmos. It's an ancient Buddhist teaching that the body is the microcosm of the totality, as we’ve been talking about. So [in this meditation] we’re going into the body; and we touch the utter emptiness of the origins.

In the cosmos, the next moment was this initial coalescence or birth of an infinitely dense and infinitely small mass of energy, which is sometimes called the initial flaring forth, or the big bang. And we can actually experience that in our body, moment by moment."
I'm a little bit tired of explaining to young men that Buddhism is not about rejecting the physical, and that in fact, OOO is very congruent with Buddhism in this respect. Nihilism is attractive to them because they like to smash things. You can't blame them, their brains aren't fully mylenated yet...

Stepping out onto Planet Earth

"In your cocoon, occasionally you shout complaints, such as: “Leave me alone!” “Bug off.” “I want to be who I am.” Your cocoon is fabricated out of tremendous aggression, which comes from fighting against your environment, your parental or educational upbringing, your upbringing of all kinds. You don’t really have to fight with your cocoon. You can raise your head and just take a little peek out of the cocoon.

When you first peek out, you may find the air a bit too fresh and cold. But it is the best fresh air of spring or autumn or, for that matter, the fresh air of winter or summer. It’s delightful. Then, having peeked, you become brave enough to climb out of the cocoon. You sit on your cocoon and look around. You stretch your arms and begin to develop dignity in your posture. The environment is friendly. It is called “Planet Earth.” Or it is called “Boston,” or “New York City.” It is your world."

Trungpa Rinpoche

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Schopenhauer's Buddha Statue

From the Schopenhauer Archive in Frankfurt. It's rather lovely isn't it?

Thought and Literary Form

In LA in March. This will be a blast:

The Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers Conference
Claremont McKenna College, March 9-11, 2012

Thought and literary form
“There is a well-established variance between philosophy and creative practice” (Plato, Republic, 607b). To translate Socrates’ words this way is not to claim that Plato does not mean to posit an “ancient quarrel” between poetry and philosophy, but rather to indicate that this disagreement is identified, in the first instance, at the level of practice. We therefore invite papers that investigate the variance at the level of procedure: how should we think about literature and philosophy when they seem to do the same things (invent persons and worlds; stage imaginary conversations; metaphorize; hymn and disenchant)?

Mark Payne
Department of Classics, the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought
The University of Chicago

“Experiments in Living”
In “Experiments in Living,” I consider the possible kinship between the scenarios and personae conceived by poems (possible candidates: T.S. Eliot, Joan Retallack and Jacques Roubaud) and the hypothetical scenarios presented in philosophical thought experiments—Chinese rooms, possible worlds, zombies and color scientists.  Recent debates about the relation between conceivability (that which we can imagine and represent to ourselves) and (metaphysical) possibility provide a new way of thinking about how the “golden world” given by a poet’s imaginings—her invented scenarios, his baroque personae—establishes a probative relation to the “brazen world” of actions and persons.

Oren Izenberg
Department of English
University of Illinois at Chicago

“Fear of Nothing: Heidegger’s Buddhism”
Jacques Lacan asserts that communication is based on a successful misunderstanding. This seems to be the case with the Western philosophical conversation with Buddhism. It seems very difficult to shake the idea that what is called emptiness (sh?nyat?) is absolutely nothing: an idea that made its way into Hegel's thinking at numerous key points and has stuck around ever since.

This concept of nothingness affects Joan Stambaugh, who puts an imaginary Heidegger in dialogue with an imaginary Buddhist. Stambaugh’s Buddhist slightly misunderstands Buddhism, and Stambaugh’s Heidegger also slightly misunderstands Buddhism. By contrast, Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist who emigrated to the UK in 1959, seems to understand Heidegger quite well. Indeed, from a Buddhist point of view, Heidegger himself lets himself say things that sound remarkably Buddhist.

This is not to say that Heidegger or Trungpa are masters of truth. It is, rather, to argue that there are different ways of thinking the form of philosophical dialogue. This form has of course been part of the Western canon since Plato, whose dialogues do often depend upon a strange double movement that consists both of a mutual misunderstanding, and a letting truth be “born” (maieutics) yet never grasped—and sometimes never even seen. Platonic dialogue has a necessarily contemplative element, I argue, that makes it similar to Heidegger’s and Trungpa’s strangely productive (non)dialogue, in which the one is “channeling” a kind of Buddhism (before he read or translated Buddhist and Taoist texts), and the other is “channeling” a phenomenological approach to Buddhist meditation.

My paper tries to follow the interlocutors—Hegel, Heidegger, Trungpa, Stambaugh—around the strange loops of their successful misunderstanding. I this way I hope to open up ways to think about the syndrome of which nothingness, and misunderstandings about it, are a symptom. My term for this syndrome is Buddhaphobia. The strange non-meeting of Heidegger and Trungpa allows for the possibility of transcending Buddhaphobia, not by rising above it, but paradoxically by taking it seriously.

Timothy Morton
Department of English
University of California, Davis

“Narrative Method and the Tentative Universals of Conrad’s Poetics”
Joseph Conrad’s fiction is striking in its seeming antipathy to philosophy.  Those characters drawn most to ideas and meditation constitute a menagerie of human failure—from Kurtz to Decoud, Razumov, various anarchists, and father and son Heyst. The very adjective “philosophic” consistently appears pejoratively, laden with irony, expressive of cynicism or falsehood. Yet early in his literary life, Conrad set forth a philosophical articulation of art which he repeatedly affirmed, insisting that art aims at “bringing to light the truth, manifold and one.”  But he qualified this aim in its method, which he juxtaposed against that of “the thinker” plunging into ideas, or “the scientist” plunging into facts.  Conrad’s artist descends instead within himself to find the terms of his appeal, engaging the “secret spring of emotion” for the sake of a momentary insight, a fleeting glimpse of tentative truth.

Conrad, then, is at once philosophic and anti-philosophic.  This paper will address that tension by considering his narrative method in light of a playful reference to Socrates in his novel Chance, a reference focusing less upon idea than upon manner. There Marlow, an internal narrator, characterizes Socrates as “a true friend of the youth [who] lectured them in a peculiarly exasperating manner”(15), even as Marlow offers a ‘peculiarly exasperating’ narration of his own arguably indebted to the Platonic dialogue, offering multiple voices that destabilize readers’ boastful certainties.  While many critics have noticed the deconstructive effect of Conrad’s fiction, recourse to a Socratic model brings out the intelligible precision with which Conradian narrative method also constructs an aporia that is not the ‘undecidability’ of post-structural theory, but a deliberate means of guided contemplation.  The tentative universals that emerge from Conrad’s modern poetics—unlike Platonic ideas—depend less upon logical assent than upon affective and sympathetic recognition of shared human experience.  Conrad’s complex treatment of universality and concurrent search for human solidarity remain most needful in our increasingly polarized political and moral environment.

Debra Romanick Baldwin,
Department of English,
University of Dallas

“True Mistakes: Aristotle and Anne Carson on Metaphor”
Anne Carson writes in her poem, “Essay on What I Think About Most” (whose first line is simply the word “Error.”), “Lots of people including Aristotle think error / an interesting and valuable mental event.” Referencing Aristotle’s praise of the initial feeling of mistake or disjunction necessary to a good metaphor (Rhetoric III. XI. 6), she expands this virtue of error to be essential not only to metaphor but also to poetic epistemology. Indeed, Men in the Off Hours, the collection in which this poem is a touchstone, could be described as practicing a poetics of error. Yet philosophy, particularly Aristotle’s brand, does not practice error but instead consistently aims for truth and accuracy. Although philosophers and poets might agree that metaphor involves a counterintuitive logic—two unlike things are actually alike, or the identity of a thing is clarified by what it categorically is not—they employ metaphor differently, according to their genre. Philosophers tend to use metaphors to zoom in on their argument and make a point, while poets tend to use metaphor to zoom of out the poem, enlarging its scope of images and ideas.

Is philosophy generically inimical to the necessarily erroneous process of metaphor, and poetry generically disposed to it? If so, then how do metaphors characteristically function in philosophical and poetic works? How does Carson manipulate Aristotle’s praise of error to create new formal definitions for her poetry? Do Aristotle’s metaphors in his philosophical work involve his audience with mistakes, or even irrationality, to a logically risky extent? I propose that a close reading of metaphors in both the Nicomachean Ethics and Men in the Off Hours will demonstrate the different expectations and limits philosophers and poets place on metaphor, and mistakes.

Katie Hartsock
Program in Comparative Literary Studies
Northwestern University

History of Criticism 2 (MP3)

On Plato's Ion.

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere: Class 2 (MP3)

Second in a series of twenty. Now with extra death!

Buddhism and Aristotle

Of course you can be an Aristotelian Buddhist. Just subtract final and material causes and add withdrawal (emptiness).

It makes much more sense, from a luminosity point of view, than thinking that reality is an illusion subtended by a transcendental beyond. Reality is like an illusion. The like is the key word.

Claiming that Buddhists don't think or appreciate substances is just nihilism or atomism disguised as Buddhism. Buddhists chop wood and carry water. They brush their teeth.

Occupy as Form


Please circulate to ARC affiliates, interested UC faculty, interested CCA faculty, and selected graduate students and Bay Area colleagues working on the arts and civic space.

OCCUPY AS FORM: A WORKING SESSION, 9:30am to 4:30pm, Friday, February 10, 370 Dwinelle, University of California, Berkeley

The word 'occupy' now has new resonance in our current moment as do several other terms with which it has been allied: occupation, assembly, event, site-specificity, neighborhood, DIY, sit-in, encampment, settlement, network, labor, profession, public health, public safety. On the one hand, the Occupy movement is so wide, varied, complex, and protean, it can be hard to create a space of reflection that won't be dated the next day. On the other hand, as cities throughout the U.S. and the world take down Occupy encampments, it is all the more important to activate reflection about the movement's significance, its techniques, and its future.

As a modest contribution to such reflection, the Arts Research Center invites interlocutors to take up what might be called the "formal" questions of the concepts related to Occupation, a charge that we hope will focus thinking and begin to plot an expanded set of associations, histories, and analytic frames. Rather than a series of official public lectures, we are inviting faculty, graduate students, and Bay Area colleagues in relevant fields to participate in a more inductive process of reflection, discussion, presentation, and more reflection.

Registration and Attendance: Individuals who want to take part will first submit one paragraph (no more than 500 words) on a keyword associated with the Occupy movement. This can be any term that moves you, and it may have a range of references. This is not an abstract per se, but a discursive offering to the group to galvanize our collective thinking. You are welcome to include links to posters, pamphlets, and short videos as well. Paragraphs will be posted on the ARC blog by February 1, and participants will all read each others' nascent reflections by February 10. This paragraph is your "registration" into the gathering; lunch and snacks will be provided for you throughout the day. Send blog post to Sarah Gibbons at sgibbons@berkeley.edu by January 31, ccing Michele Rabkin, micheler@berkeley.edu.

Format and Participants: The final roster and format will be composed on February 1st after all blog posts have been received. While we know that sub-topics will change, we currently imagine sessions on over-arching concepts such as Labor, Site, and Sociality. Sessions will be formatted and guided by fellow coordinators-- Julia Bryan-Wilson (UCB), Shannon Jackson (UCB), Seth Holmes (UCB), Ted Purves (CCA), and Blake Stimson (UCD)--and include contributions from Greg Levine (UCB), Saba Mahmood (UCB), Michele Rabkin (UCB), and……you! We strongly encourage participants to gather for the entire day in order to cross-reference and build the conversation.

Location and Time: The event will be held in 370 Dwinelle on the 7th floor of Dwinelle Hall on the Berkeley campus, beginning with a continental breakfast. Lunch will also be provided to all "registered" participants. Dwinelle Hall is relatively near the Berkeley Downtown BART station, and garage parking is available off of Durant Street as well as in the downtown district of Berkeley.

Shannon Jackson
Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor
Director, Arts Research Center
Professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies
Member, Budget Committee
University of California
215 Dwinelle Annex
Berkeley, Ca 94720

An Interesting Report

For the Austrian Science Fund. I'm keen to see how they want me to proceed.

"Buddhism" and Overmining

Another interesting feature of western Buddhism: the tendency to think Buddhism as a kind of overmining. In other words, there is nothing but appearances generated by subjectivity. The combination--it's all atoms in the void or a total mind projection--is the classic one-two materialist punch. Not Buddhism.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Buddhist Schmuddist

If you are that into atomism, and beyond that nihilism, just suck it up and admit you're just another modern western human, not a Buddhist. Buddhists, contrary to popular opinion, do believe—it's just that they have a different belief about belief. For a Buddhist, belief is not holding on tightly to an opinion. That is just the belief equivalent of atomism or nihilism. That makes you Pat Robertson or Richard Dawkins.

Police Officer Is Cockney Rhyming Slang for Philosopher

Anything you can do, I can do meta...watch to the end...“This isn't an argument, this is just contradiction.”

My Bad at Sports Interview

Here. Methane and moocows mentioned.

New Talks

In the Future Talks section (click tab).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Žižek on OWS

The byline says “Slavoj Žižek is regarded as one of the ideological pioneers of the Occupy movement.” If you really wanted an “ideological pioneer” of OWS you might choose to interview David Graeber, and not Žižek, but never mind.

History of Criticism 1 (MP3)

First class of the quarter. With extra OOO!

How to Read Any Poem, Anywhere: Part 1

The first of a series of twenty.

Dutch OOO

"The Sympathy of Things is a stirring call to action; an amazing reconstruction of the ideas of the Victorian sage John Ruskin; and, above all, a visionary look at the inner life of things. Lars Spuybroek makes the case that aesthetics is first philosophy, and proposes a radical new aesthetics for the digital age." Steven Shaviro on The Sympathy of Things

Monday, January 9, 2012

Auspicious Beginning

My new TA seems fab. We had a great rapport after just ten minutes. The class is rather cheekily called How to Read any Poem, Anywhere.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

MLA Wrapup

That was a splendid one. Over 20 years my experience of the conference has transformed from sickening hell to sweetness. People were very nice to me after my talk and it looks like I shall be talking at SUNY Buffalo this fall as well as in Ontario.

Velocities of Ecocriticism (MP3s)

Here they are: Ursula Heise, Tim Morton, Rob Nixon, Wai Chee Dimock, Q&A.

Velocities of Ecocriticism 3

Wai Chee Dimock, response. Questions of time frame and the speed of occurrence. The faster something happens the more likely is it to be in the news.

Also a mediating term: the ease with which an event can be transposed into an image, predicated on speed.

Many screens: TV, laptop, cellphone, movie theater. Could be made by many different makers. These different kinds of screen suggest a fairly wide range of possibilities. Different modes and levels of access.

Ursula: animation can do a lot to get us to visualize nonhuman agency and rethink boundaries. How does animation speak to that issue?

Are some of animation's properties capable of being replicated in less technically demanding genres?

Tim: hyperobjects stretch human imagining. The spatial dimensions can be quite small? Plastic bags? Styrofoam. Can we telescope large scale events and turn them into scaled down versions that we can see? (This speaks to my sense of constructivist or object-oriented ecological approaches.)

Maldives underwater cabinet meeting. How does this intervention conjure enough agency to render visible the slow violence? In a non-visual way?

Velocities of Ecocriticism Liveblog 2

Rob Nixon, “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.”

The politics of disparity has bubbled to the surface: Athens, Middle East, America. An unacceptable chasm between the uber-rich and the ultra-poor. These movements have had a profound generational dimension. Young people in particular, in particular the young and poor, have felt robbed of a dignified future.

Questions of failures on the part of the powers that be to address the emergencies of the long term. To address the long term impacts of climate change; food security; job prospects; debt burden. Acknowledgment from outside the system that the powers that be have failed. Election and dictatorial nepotism fail to address the long term violence that is felt in the bodies of the poor in the global South.

We are used to thinking of violence as immediate, explosive, spectacular. Concentrated visibility. We need to think through the challenges of slow violence. Neither spontaneous nor instantaneous. Incremental and attritional. Played out across a range of timescales. How we respond to a variety of social traumas is affected by our aesthetics of violence.

How to create stories, images, symbols that can capture the slow motion catastrophes of delayed effects. Climate change. Thawing cryosphere. Toxic drift of nitrates towards the Gulf of Mexico.

They confront us with representational challenges. Operates as a major threat multiplier. Exponential dimension can fuel human crises as the conditions for sustaining life are degraded over time.

Explosions have a visceral page turning power that slow violence can't match. Scientifically convoluted cataclysms. Public policy is shaped around immediacy, as is the media.

Disasters that are anonymous and star nobody. How can we make them dramatic enough to rouse public sentiment?

The present feels more abbreviated than it used to. Political classes surrounded by tech time savers that make us feel time poor. Rapidly eroding attention span needs to confront slow erosion of environmental justice. Speed has become a self-justifying propulsive ethic, that renders uneventful violence a weak claimant on our attention.

The electronic screen has become an ecosystem of interruptive technologies. Attempts at redefining speed. Images of unacceptably fast lost of species etc.

2012 is the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring, which grapples with some of these issues. Doesn't talk about colonialism, empire, class, race. But Carson was grappling with the power of the military industrial complex to postpone effects, damage, and to blur the narrative of heightened risk.

Carson: “death by indirection.” A sense of ricochet, oblique casualties. But also a sense of death by direction, yet unintended, structural.

What she is so attuned to are some of the challenges of narrating formlessness. Attenuated, seem to be undramatic.

Appearance of Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Is Declining. Very popular. Arithmetic trends in violence over past 5000 years. Clarifies differences with Nixon. Part of its appeal is its unexpected optimism on the question of violence. Despite popular belief, the 20th century was not very violent per capita.

The character of the species narrative. Nixon's instinct is to disaggregate communities in the neoliberal era and with this indecent widening of a chasm between the ultra-rich and the ultra-poor. What Pinker screens is the outsourcing of violence. Technological changes, widening of globalization, the great powers have far greater ability to outsource violence.

Cold War renamed Long Peace. No major conflicts between the major powers. But if you are Nicaraguan or El Salvadoran etc. etc. the Long Peace was an outsourced war. People are still living with the long-term fallout from that. Biomagnification sees the transmission of Agent Orange's violence to people not born at that time.

Pinker gets into the grand guignol spectacle of gruesome medieval violence. Sunny side up sociobiology. Who is counting the victims of genetic deterioration? Slow invisible deaths that don't fit the news cycle. They are war casualties nonetheless. Depleted uranium, unexpected cluster bombs, nuclear testing. A different kind of narrative, a disaggregated one.

Nicholas Kristof, “Are We Getting Nicer?” essay on this.

“We're getting better all the time” (me: Lennon—“Couldn't get much worse”).

“The normalized quiet of unseen power” (Said). Invisibility of poverty and of deferred effects. Ecological and human disposability.

Velocities of Ecocriticism Liveblog

Ursula Heise, “Ecocriticism and Animation.”

Animated film has been one of the most important aesthetic genres in ecological aesthetics: Disney, Miyazake. Very little critical attention, in film studies or ecocriticism.

Common critiques are of sentimentalism or sanitization, and the underwriting of conservative social ideologies.

No attention to the specificity of the medium.

Animated film erases the distinction between human beings, nonhumans and inanimate objects. Flexibility of material bodies. Antirealist devices. At odds with environmentalist thought therefore? But Ursula will show how they are resonant with ecocritical thought!

Industrial societies reflect on the agency of objects throughout the twentieth century. Speaking and acting animals. Early twentieth century push to industrialization made machines look more lively.

Apostrophe, pathetic fallacy, personification. Ruskin condemned it. Ecocriticism has defined itself obliquely in relation to that. Aldo Leopold: thinking like a mountain. Christopher Mains: western art and philosophy assumes the only speaking subjects are humans. Neil Evernden: the pathetic fallacy is not a fallacy at all. If you put humans back into the landscape, it's simply animate.

Thing power and new materialists. Bruno Latour: heterogeneous networks. Bill Brown, Barad, Bennett.

Animation as a visual translation of these nonhuman agents. Question of anthropomorphism. Brown and Bennett have sought to discourage the idea that humanlike intentionality should always provide the template. In a lot of animations human agency does provide the template. In other cases it emphasizes different kinds of agency.

Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki). Speaking wolves, animals possessed by demons. Kami, tree spirits. Forest spirit. Does not bring them to a harmonious conclusion but to a sort of coexistence.

Aubier and Patar, Panique au village (2009), stop motion. A plastic horse. Confuses category of human and animal.

Animated film mobilizes traditions that give objects agency. Hardwired into the technique of animation.

Plasmaticness of animation: Eisenstein. Utopian form that offers an alternative to the oppressions of mechanization and rigid social order. Leyda, Eisenstein on Disney.

The predator–prey relationship is what is so often at stake in plasmaticness. Food retains its agency. What is being explored here is an ecological relationship. A good way to think about species, which does regenerate itself through the demise of individuals.

Isao Takahata, Pom Poko: plastmaticness across species. Tanuki, shapeshifters that disturb the workers. Forced to integrate into urban lifestyle. Tired at work because they're animals trying to retain their shape. Nature as a dynamism that becomes socialized. Reinforced through different styles: realist, cartoon-like Disneyesque, traditional Japanese. Culturally filtered plastmaticity.

Received Just Now

Robert Mittenthal, Wax World. It's a great benefit of these occasions that gifted people give you things spontaneously.

Today's Panel

With Ursula Heise and Rob Nixon, whom I haven't seen since Rutgers last February. And Wai Chee Dimock, from Yale, whom I've never met. I'm looking forward to it. Happily my paper is shorter than the one I gave on Thursday, so I have less anxiety about time issues. It's the last day of the conference, so who knows who will show up? But I think it's going to be very interesting.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


It's a nice round number of tentative illustrations for Hyperobjects. Now all I have to do is look through some web links. Then it's PDF time.

OOO News

Graham Harman has some news about PhilPapers, the premier philosophy aggregator, and about an SR class. And Levi has some news about coming OOO and SR publications.

I'll be teaching my SR and OOO graduate class in the Spring here at UC Davis.

Hyperobjects Illustrations

I'm putting in some dummy illustrations for the benefit of the readers, to give a sense of what I'm aiming at. I think it would be great if the book did have some illustrations. Seeing sometimes is believing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Heideggerian Pleasure

I had the great pleasure of a two hour conversation with Gerhard Richter, Heidegger scholar and Benjamin scholar and all round good chap. That was a very nice way to connect with reality at MLA. MLA is not a place where that often happens, but in this case, somehow it worked.

It's very meaningful to share the pleasure of thinking with someone.

Close Encounters

Having just had a nice lunch with Ian Bogost, I decided to watch some Close Encounters, a film we both seem to like quite a lot. In particular this was in honor of his Alien Phenomenology, which I held in my hands just now (the mock up). I'm struck by the excellent combination of Bartok, Ligeti, John Adams, Stravinsky and Debussy that John Williams achieved. I think my dad played on that.

The Sad Case of the Lost Object

I love pens, in fact I am a bit obsessed by them. Not fancy pens, just biros. There are certain biros that glide across the paper very smoothly and don't leave blots. Those are the objects of my desire.

At South Florida University (the religion conference), I was given a biro with a paper wrapping around the barrel. It felt so good. And I'm in constant fear of losing it. And last night I must have left it at the panel, or maybe I didn't even take it out of the plane—for when I looked, lo, it was gone.

And I call myself a Buddhist! I can't even let go of a little biro for Christ's sake! Happily OOO came to the rescue. I reasoned that even if I had the biro in my possession for the rest of its life, I wouldn't be able to grasp its essence. And now the biro is enjoying fresh fields and pastures new. The lucky bastard.

Melancholy Objects (MP3)

It was very fun talk and there was an interesting Q&A, not usual for conferences of this size, thanks in large part to Steven Blevins.