Finally in "summer mode," I'm in the process of planning the class that I will give at NYU in Spring 2016, to be titled "Early Modern Literature and the Ecumenopolis." As I try to bring the course into focus, in terms of problématique and which books to read, I return to some key statements about the interconnectedness of ecologies across the expanse of the planet. There is Lawrence Buell's point that: "What counts as a place can be as small as a corner of your kitchen or as big at the planet" (Future of Environmental Criticism, p. 62), the idea at the heart of my recent "Espèces d'espaces" senior seminar moreover. And there is Mitchell Thomashow's point, in Bringing the Biosphere Home, worth quoting in full: "Global environmental change may be the invisible consequences of innumerable, seemingly unconnected local actions, spinning a synergy of effects and processes way beyond the original intention. Or it might be the extraordinary impact of one crucial choice or event. The more closely you look at any ecological or political controversy, no matter how tightly it seems to be bounded, the more you realize the extent to which the issue is informed and influenced by global patterns and processes. There is no such thing as local environmental problem" (p. 7). As I prepare the class, the conclusion that I still have to write for an almost finished book, L'aède et le géographe, about early modern French epic and geographical discourses, also comes into focus. It's been a day of visiting the websites of various key thinkers, too: the likes of Mitchell Thomashow, Ursula Heise (which includes details of an upcoming book on "Imagining Extinction: Stories, Laws, Databases" that looks absolutely fabulous).
Hell's Miner of Potosi (2011) documents the world of the miners of Potosi. The film does a good job at showing the inter-connectedness of labor, disease, finance, affect. The dangers are known and discussed (notably lung disease, calcifications, fear of imminent death), but also the hopes and myths that go along with that. There is brief mention of El Tio (left), the Lord of the underworld, a spirit who lives in the mines of Cerro Rico, to whom miners make offerings (cigarettes, coco leaves, etc.). Renaissance miners had similar beliefs and ways of coping with the mountain’s agency. It's a heart-wrenching movie, especially the moments when the camera focuses on a young miner's smile--and the viewer knows that lung disease is not far off.
Image from Wikipedia.
Article in the Guardian about how “John McCain mocks Obama for calling climate change a threat as Isis advances.”
I recently discovered this "Earth" series at Reaktion Books (more details here), with volumes on: Air, Cave, Desert, Earthquake, Fire, Flood, Moon, Tsunami, Volcano, Water, Waterfall. Worth checking out. Andrew Robinson's Earthquake: Nature and Culture is announced as describing "two millennia of major earthquakes and their effects on societies around the world; the ways in which cultures have mythologized earthquakes through religion, the arts and popular culture; and the science of measuring, understanding and trying to predict earthquakes." To be read alongside my former colleague, Deborah R. Coen's The Earthquake Observers (2013).
A two-day conference at Dartmouth College, organized by David P. Laguardia, provided a fantastic venue for discussion of the various meanings of space in early modern France. Tom Conley opened Day 1 (May 22) with a fabulous discussion of Le théâtre d’agriculture (1600) by the “father of French agronomy” Olivier de Serres, about whom Architectura offers this useful introduction. Tom paused notably on the book’s index, especially its entry on “Terre” (Earth), which begins “La Terre est le fondement de l’Agriculture” (The Ear is the fundament/foundation of Agriculture), revealing to what extent such a reflection on agricultural use of land counters and shapes discourses about early modern mining/extraction. (See Tom’s upcoming article in a volume from the Ecole des Chartes). Other fabulous talks on Day 1 included Andrea Frisch on the “spaces of forgetting” in the Wars of Religion, Jeremie Korta on Pierre Belon, ending with Katie Chenoweth on Montaigne-as-mountain. I began Day 2 (May 23) with a talk about “manufactured landscapes” in various early modern treaties on mining, which was followed by numerous splendid papers, ending with David Laguardia on the spatial writing of Pierre de l’Estoile. An intense and intensely rewarding two-day gathering in the fine state of New Hampshire.
Report in New York Times on the impact that global warming will likely have on sea plankton, those “microbes are in a constant [that] dance with one another, collaborating and battling just below the water’s surface.” One scholar, Dr. Palumbi is quoted as saying that: “All these tiny little critters add up to something that is really a part of the way our planet operates.”
New York Times article, which begins: " A new report from the International Monetary Fund makes a compelling case for why countries should end subsidies for fossil fuels: It would save millions of lives."
350.org details the plans of a group of coal companies that "want to unlock nine new mega coals mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin in Australia, exporting this coal through the Great Barrier Reef." The article details the various problems that make this "insane," all summarized in this New Wave-style inscribed extraction landscape.
Mic.com announces that "ahead of a series of major events later this year, The Foundation for Deep Ecology and the Population Media Center released a collection that illustrates the devastating effects of out-of-control growth and waste, and it's breathtaking." The collection includes many breathtakingly frightening extraction landscapes, such as this one (Mining Diamonds).
Interesting piece in the Guardian by the economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute. He writes: “Sometime in the 19th century, economics largely dropped its traditional attention to land, water and food, as industry replaced agriculture as the leading economic sector. Economists decided, by and large, that they could ignore nature – take it ‘as given’ – and instead focus on market-based finance, saving, and business investment. Mainstream economists derided the claims of ‘limits to growth.’” He makes what sounds like a (welcome) call to arms: “Economics also needs to team up again with the engineering world, to realise that the economy is a designed system, and one in which smart thinking is required to get the right design.”
Project THE HUMANIST anthropocene
is a thought archive and workspace of Phillip John Usher (NYU) at the crossroads of early modern humanism and the problems and insights of the Anthropocene. Main Research Page.
ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment)
Environmental Humanities (journal)
Resilience (A Journal of the Environmental Humanities)
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