“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, August 31, 2013

Future and Past Talks

...now updated. Links to follow. Some future talks quite soon are now visible.

Insane Puppets

When you enforce the law, you look like an insane puppet. But in the end, others are relieved that you did so, which required that you are not afraid to be a fool.

Because you have been a vacillating hypocrite in the past, that is no reason to continue to be a vacillating hypocrite in the future. To say "Well, I've let the pain infliction continue for years--why do something to stop it now?" does not follow. "Well, I've caused my own share of pain, so I shan't stop this."

Many alien races may not have contacted us. The airwaves are weirdly silent. Why? Perhaps, quite plausibly, because they got to a certain point of development and blew themselves to kingdom come. How did they do that? Through weapons of mass destruction. How did they get used? By flouting whatever flimsy international laws--laws that begin to acknowledge that the alien race in question consists of members of a species--they had put in place. Such as, for instance, the condition of possibility for international law on Earth, which is the law against the use of chemical weapons.

The law that begins the saying that humans are humans--in however distorted and ineffective a form--says, pretty much in the first few breaths, that chemical weapons not be used on other humans.

This is a terribly interesting law from an ecological point of view, because one ecological task is to realize that I am not strictly myself, but an unconscious actor in a gigantic, emergent being--a hyperobject--called the human "species."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney RIP

What a nice chap. He was Oxford Professor of Poetry while I was there for the last couple of years, and hence at Magdalen, where I was. We had this poetry society that I used to run, to which he showed up when he was there. It was heavy duty. Anonymously submitted poems, read by volunteers, mercilessly critiqued. It had the predictable effect of putting a lot of people off writing poems, which was sad!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Theories of Consumerism

What an interesting experience. I'm revisiting material I taught an awful lot when I started out, about twenty plus years ago. It's on consumption and consumerism, for this class I'm giving to the effervescent Rice undergrads.

But now I have understanding about ecology, and I have greater understanding of philosophy. And some degree of comfort and certainty regarding that understanding.

So I'm in a position to evaluate and explore theories of consumerism a little better than I was a while back. Philosophy helps history!

For a kickoff, let's just say that I'm opposed to the narrative about the origins of consumerism that present it as a fall from a graceful state of nature. This fall is usually associated with the reflexivity of consumerism, because as we know (haha) loops and recursion are evil and bad and the whole purpose of human society is to get rid of these evil hydra-headed loops.

If like me you believe that consumerism's form is loop-like because people are loop-like (because things are loop-like, in general!) then you won't be able to cleave to this origin myth.

Also out of the window goes Veblen's emulative theory of consumption. Emulation may or may not happen but consumption is more deeply performative than emulative, because it is loop-like.

(For now, figure out why. I don't have time to explain!)

It also means that Bourdieu's theory of Kantian versus non-Kantian consumption is incorrect. All consumption is Kantian (reflexive, looped).

It also means that Appadurai's theory of commodity phases is incorrect. Commodities do not pass decisively through phases of use, obsolete use and ironic non-use, or to use the demotic, from schlock to kitsch to camp. All use has an ironic, "camp" flavor to it. This is because of the irreducible yet undecidable gap between being and appearing. Said the OOO philosopher.

Gee I should write a book about consumerism.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Get Your Print Copy of Realist Magic


Hyperobject: Homeland

Look at these beautiful holograms by Paula Dawson: She named them "Hyperobject: Homeland." They are extraordinary sponges/baskets made of thousands of people's lifelines.

If you are in NYC you should see this (click to download). Paula's Hyperobject will be there!

Interference:Coexistence will be an installation of holograms by outstanding artists from around the world. The holograms exhibited include classic pieces from the late 70s and early 80s that defined the art form as well as fresh visions by established and emerging artists.

Encountering holographic art makes us question perception. What we see occupies a space in an entirely different way from a physical object – the hologram is a sculpture of light. Using a range of holographic techniques these artists have created scenes of multiple and extended views, scenes we could not see directly but require the intervention of the holography.

Please join us for the opening on Friday, September 6th, 6-9pm at our exciting new location: The Clock Tower of Long Island City, 29-27 41st Avenue, Queens NY.

Interference:Coexistence • September 6 – 28, 2013
Open to the public Wednesday thru Saturday, 2-6pm (FREE)
Media Preview – Wednesday September 4, 6pm and by appointment
Opening with roving Jazz Robert Aaron and SPI Music Artists – Friday September 6, 6-9pm
Symposium on art holography – Saturday September 7, 2-6pm
Tour by Flux Factory artists – Thursday September 12, 7pm
HoloKids activities – Saturday September 14, 2-6pm
3-D slide performance with Gerald Marks • Thursday, September 19, 7-9pm
HoloJams: Experimental Music Night with Mouthmatics – Saturday September 21, 6-11pm
Closing with sound composition by Adam Ludwig – Saturday September 28, 6-11pm
and more, including tours, film screenings and workshops


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Romantic Ecology Revisited (MP3)

...from the Wordsworth Conference. Nick Roe, awesome biography of Keats, MCs.

My Bloody Valentine in Denver

I talk about MBV, my favorite band, in Hyperobjects. Our trip to Denver was a chance to see them, having last seen them in 1992, good heavens. They played at the Ogden Theater.

They were, of course, incredible. Bilinda Butcher stood there, perfectly poised, with a smile, throughout the show, singing extraordinarily and playing guitar, rocking a pair of good high heels. She exuded the somewhat pro-feminist power that I associate, happily, with My Bloody Valentine and with other bands of that era such as Lush and Curve.

In the words of my friend Jeff (Suthers, big figure in the CO shoegazing scene), Kevin Shields gave the appearance of Einstein, surrounded by monitors with huge scraggly hair. In many ways this look was latent in his younger look, which made me smile.

He said all of two words (Belinda said none): "Hi" and, when an audience member yelled "Thank you!", "You too."

Debbie played extraordinary bass, rocking with Colm Ó Cíosóig, whose drum sequencing on the spectacular "Wonder 2" (from the new album, which just appeared one day recently, like a mushroom) was devastatingly good. He played guitar for that one. Pounding intensity, far more so than the album version. Drums should sometimes be a little bit demonic.

Like frogs in boiling water, we were slowly immersed in a bath of increasing volume levels.

And thus, inevitably, there was the rainbow hued void of "You Made Me Realise" with which the band closed out the night. It lasted, I believe, about ten minutes. If you have never heard it I advise you to listen to the EP, then imagine it live. I've seen people, and saw people that night, covering their ears with fright, running out, and in other states of disgust or panic. But like a Siren, the sound is very very beautiful as well as horrifying--an interesting edge for me as those of you who've been following this blog know well. You can't not hear it.

But if you want to retain your hearing, ear plugs are de rigeur. Shannon and Jeff (my friends) had them, we had them, and the band had them! Heaven help you if you had just taken them off and mislaid them before "You Made Me Realise."

And that mid section is by no means a sludgy symbol of hell in the manner of black metal or its Laruellian apologetics, though it is (at least) equally loud and intense as anything you might hear in Sunn O))). Something else is happening there, which I'm now writing about for a volume of essays on beauty. It is called "Beauty Is Death."

I shall inevitably write some more on MBV fairly soon.

Gym Teaching

Just like Plato haha I am about to teach my first class in a gymnasium. It's a good thing I regard poems as physical beings.



-Literature Masterclass is a community where all Literature majors (English and foreign languages) can discuss an issue, a short text, and/or questions with a visiting scholar as well as with one another.

-Masterclass is an opportunity for Literature majors to interact with scholars and critics from around the country.

-Masterclass enables literature majors to use the skills and knowledge they have gained to consider contemporary critical questions about texts from different historical periods, literary traditions, and critical approaches.

-Masterclass also offers insight into the requirements, processes and expectations of graduate and professional studies.

-Masterclass offers the advantage of working one-on-one with graduate student mentors.

-Masterclass meets three times per term for 1 hour of credit. All Literature majors are welcome!!!!


September 6 @ 4: Introduction to Masterclass in the English Dept. Lounge, Herring 255

September 20 @ noon & 4: Julian Yates, University of Delaware, Location TBA

November 1: Percival Everett, Distinguished Professor, University of Southern California, Location TBA

November 14: Karen Jacobs, University of Colorado, Boulder, Location TBA

Open to Everyone*

September 13 @ 3: "How To Apply to Graduate School in English: Overview"

September 27 @ 3: "Preparing CVs, Personal Statements, and Writing Samples"

*This program is open to all literature majors and minors in the School of Humanities, including English, French, Hispanic Studies, Classics, and other languages. Participants must enroll in HURC 401 and will earn 1 credit hour when they complete the course.

For further information email Judith Roof at roof@rice.edu or Tim Morton at tbm2@rice.edu.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Britain, Britain, Britain

We've had hot running water for over ten years, a tunnel that connects us to Peru--and we invented the cat.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Like An Illusion

No Terry, my old tutor, we Buddhists don't think that reality is an illusion. We think it is *like an illusion. Can you spot the difference?

Elsewhere your new book is an awesome piece of diplomacy.

Wordsworthian Matters

Cumbria is as extraordinary as when I leapt up and down the hills as a child for the first fifteen years of my life. My grandparents lived there, in remoter, wilder northern Cumbria off of Bassenthwaite Lake, dark and immense.

Immediately I saw the warmth and small r republican vibe that the Romantics extolled. Haven't been there for a conference since 1990 when Jonathan Bate gave his famous "Romantic Ecology" talk. Mine was called "Romantic Ecology Revisited."

Next year I'll be back to talk to non-scholars about all this for a special event at the Dove Cottage museum, which is brilliantly organized and heartbreakingly beautiful.


I was just interviewed for the excellent Rice Magazine by the excellent Lynn Gosnell. As I'm the first in this endowed chair--thank you Mr. Guffey and sorry I didn't see you in Kensington!--they wanted to talk to me of my doings, including this mega arts and ecology grant I'm managing here with the also excellent Joseph Campana.

Elemental My Dear Watson

My trip to Scotland just now has inspired my essay for Jeffrey Cohen's new book, another in his growing stable of thoroughbred eco books. And I just wrote 2000 words of it on this plane from Edinburgh.

In other news--look I am back in a world with Internet.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


It has been the most extraordinary Wordsworth Conference. Still here. Ten days. Cottage by a waterfall. Many many things to relate. Family staying within twenty feet of the conference barn, sixteenth century buildings...

This couldn't wait. It's a stone circle and I love them. Nicholas Roe (the organizer) and I thought that the stones were placed like metaphors near the mountains that ring them 360 degrees: it is a living poem of mountain talking to stone, the shapes clearly analogous. Maybe there is nothing under this appearance. Maybe the truth is at the level of appearance: this is contemplative space, for practice.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Do Be Polite

@Twitter needs to shape up. Wherever you go, there you are. Netiquette was in the past. Speech as the Buddhist call it, or style as the phenomenologists call it, just manifests, no matter whether you're using your lips or a keyboard.

"Moron" and "sycophantic turd" aren't quite the same as rape threats, he understated. But they did hurt  and I'm sure they wouldn't have been said behind the road rage glass envelope that encourages the latent psychopathy or narcissistic aggression, or switches off the mirror neurons, or whatever. So hopefully thanks to the UK Twitter gets a more direct "report abuse" button.

An Essay on Energy

I just finished an essay for Imre Szeman and Patricia Yaeger for a book of keywords on ecology and energy. My essay is called “Ecology.” It's about 1500 words long.

It's amazing what you can pack into that space if you just get the timing right.