My work on the Humanist Anthropocene began in September 2014, with a desire to put the "humanus" of early modern humanism into dialogue with the "anthropos" of the Anthropocene, two related but untranslatable (in the Barbara Cassin/Emily Apter sense) versions of the human. The project was born from a constellation of overlapping readings and questions. From the start, the aim of the project has been to put into dialogue the theoretical "hindsights" of the Anthropocene with the pre-geological imaginaries and fantasies of early modern humanists, with the wider goal of thinking about the relationship between science and the humanities in the 21st century. Today, after months of reading, writing drafts, and private reflection, was the project's first public outing via a pre-circulated paper at the NYU Renaissance Salon run by the splendid and splendidly welcoming Susanne Wofford (NYU English). The paper, titled simply Extraction Landscapes, plotted theoretical and esthetic connections between the all important question of extraction/extractivism, the artwork of Edward Burtynsky (especially his Quarries series) and various early-modern texts and images about mining. The evening confirmed that this had to be my main project for the foreseeable future! Useful comments and critiques were plentiful: (expected) hesitations about the "vibrancy" of matter, (justified) demands for firmer definitions of distributed agency, suggestions for other texts to consider (see these lines from Hamlet: "To draw apart the body he hath kill'd: / O'er whom his very madness, like some ore / Among a mineral of metals base, / Shows itself pure: 'a weeps for what is done."), reflections on telescopes vs. microscopes, a reminder (thanks to Tim Duffy) to look into the idea of the liber naturae (cf. also Conrad of Megenberg's Buch der Natur), a suggestion to look into "fishing landscapes" (à Louie Psihoyo's The Cove), a suggestion to look into accounts of the uses of horses in mines, i.e. pit ponies (very useful-I don't recall who said it), and many more.
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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