by Alice Goff
“In the last decades of the eighteenth century, Carl Schildbach, an unremarkable man living in Kassel, created a remarkable object: a library consisting of 546 intricate wooden boxes of various sizes styled as books and approximating folio, octavo, and duodecimo formats. Nearly every volume was made of a different species of tree, with 120 genera and 441 species represented. The trees were gathered from the forests and estates of the landgrave, where the uneducated Schildbach lived and was employed as the caretaker of the menagerie. In 1788 Schildbach printed a pamphlet announcing his ‘Holz-Bibliothek nach selbst gewähltem Plan’ or ‘Wood Library According to Self-Determined Plan,’ which had, ‘through inexhaustible skill, practical research, and repeated revision been bought to the state of completion in which it may be found presently.’” Continue reading …
Goff’s essay looks at how Schildbach’s wood library addressed the gap between the materials of nature and the materials of nature’s explanation, which troubled efforts to know and manage the forest in this period.
ALICE GOFF is a graduate student in the history department at the University of California, Berkeley, where her research focuses on the relationships between ideas and objects in the history of museums. She is working on a dissertation about the physical interactions between people and artworks in the first public art museums in German cities from 1779–1830.
by Paul Roquet
“Looking up at the stars,” begins Roquet, “does not demand much in the way of movement: the muscles in the back of the neck contract, the head lifts. But in this simple turn from the interpersonal realm of the Earth’s surface to the expansive spread of the night sky, subjectivity undergoes a quietly radical transformation. Social identity falls away as the human body gazes into the light and darkness of its own distant past. To turn to the stars is to locate the material substrate of the self within the vast expanse of the cosmos.
“In the 1985 adaptation of Miyazawa Kenji’s classic Japanese children’s tale Night on the Galactic Railroad by anime studio Group TAC, this turn to look up at the Milky Way comes to serve as an alternate horizon of self-discovery for a young boy who feels ostracized at school and has difficulty making friends. The film experiments with the emergent anime aesthetics of limited animation, sound, and character design, reworking these styles for a larger cultural turn away from social identities toward what I will call cosmic subjectivity, a form of self-understanding drawn not through social frames, but by reflecting the self against the backdrop of the larger galaxy.”
In the 1980s, Japanese animation shifted its focus away from the social self and toward cosmic subjectivity, the framing of intensely personal emotions within the larger impersonal expanse of the universe. Roquet’s essay examines Night on the Galactic Railroad as a signal moment in this shift, as it emphasizes the interpenetration of the microcosmic and macrocosmic through a range of experiments with “limited” animation, sound design, and character design that would in turn influence the imaginary worlds of later anime.
PAUL ROQUET is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University. He is currently finishing a book on ambient media, therapy culture, and the aesthetics of atmosphere in neoliberal Japan.
Sarah Winter, Professor of English and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut, will present an upcoming talk at UC Berkeley entitled “’Have-his-carcase’: Habeas Writs, (Human) Rights, and Pickwick.”
The event will take place on Monday, December 8 at 5pm in 306 Wheeler Hall. The talk will focus on a pre-circulated paper (to obtain a copy, contact Wendy Xin at firstname.lastname@example.org). The event is sponsored by the Nineteenth Century British Cultural Studies Townsend Center Working Group and the Florence Green Bixby Chair in English.
Sarah Winter’s essay, “Darwin’s Saussure: Biosemiotics and Race in Expressions,” winner of the North American Victorian Studies Association’s Donald Gray Prize for the best article in Victorian studies from 2009, is available in Representations 107 (Summer 2009).
DAVID NIRENBERG ”Judaism” as Political Concept: Toward a Critique of Political Theology
ALICE GOFF The Selbst Gewählter Plan: The Schildbach Wood Library in Eighteenth-Century Hessen-Kassel
AMANDA JO GOLDSTEIN Growing Old Together: Lucretian Materialism in Shelley’s “Poetry of Life”
CHRISTOPHER L. HILL Crossed Geographies: Endō and Fanon in Lyon
PAUL ROQUET A Blue Cat on the Galactic Railroad: Anime and Cosmic Subjectivity
Ted Underwood, contributor to Representations‘ recent special forum Search, continues his engagement with digital questions on his own blog, The Stone and the Shell, with
Distant Reading and the Blurry Edges of Genre.
Having just spent two years attempting to subdivide an entire digital library by genre, Underwood encountered some interesting problems. “In particular, the problem of ‘dividing a library by genre,’” he says, “has made me realize that literary studies is constituted by exclusions that are a bit larger and more arbitrary than I used to think.”
Underwood’s contribution to the Representations Search forum, Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago, asks what it means to say that search plays an “evidentiary role in scholarship”:
“Quantitative methods have been central to the humanities since scholars began relying on full-text search to map archives. But the intellectual implications of search technology are rendered opaque by humanists’ habit of considering algorithms as arbitrary tools. To reflect more philosophically, and creatively, on the hermeneutic options available to us, humanists may need to converse with disciplines that understand algorithms as principled epistemological theories. We need computer science, in other words, not as a source of tools but as a theoretical interlocutor.”
Full text of this article can be found at JSTOR.
“Building on actor-network theory and the history of photographic and cinematic technologies, Inge Hinterwaldner’s article is an elegant, smart, and meaningful contribution to scholarship in science and technology studies that examines the use of experimental visualization to model turbulence in air and water around 1900. The essay discusses how two physicists–Etienne-Jules Marey and Friedrich Ahlborn–contrived to make visible, to measure, and to record these phenomena.” –from the SLSA prize announcement
The Schachterle Prize is awarded annually by the SLSA in recognition of the best new essay on literature and science written in English by a nontenured scholar.
Inge Hinterwaldner’s research interests include computer-based art and architecture, image theory, model theory, and temporality in the visual arts. Her first book is entitled Das systemische Bild (The systemic image; Munich, 2010).
Quirk Historicism and the End(s) of Art History: A One-Day Symposium
Organized by Nicholas Mathew and Mary Ann Smart
Saturday, Nov. 1, UC Berkeley
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley
In many humanities disciplines, the past twenty years or so have witnessed a dramatic expansion in the types of objects and ideas that can be meaningfully invoked in the course of historical study. One consequence of this has been a new reveling in the allure of objets trouvés or historical micronarratives – the conversion of the obscurity, strangeness, and distance of historical debris into a form of rhetoric, which frequently acts as a substitute for more conventional forms of argument or exposition. The emergence of this tendency, which we’re calling Quirk Historicism, is thus partly a story about how historical study has been turned into a kind of aesthetic experience.
Participants include Nicholas Mathew, Mary Ann Smart, James Davies, Emily Dolan, Deirdre Loughridge, James Currie, Benjamin Piekut, Aoife Monks, Ellen Lockhart, Benjamin Walton, Thomas Laqueur, and Alan Tansman.
To find out more, visit the conference website at http://quirkhistoricism.wordpress.com.
On Friday, October 17, the UC Berkeley English department colloquia on 20th/21st-Century Literature and Poetry and Poetics present a conversation with Christopher Nealon, professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. The conversation will be based around a pre-circulated paper, “Poetry and the Price of Value.” The event will take place at UC Berkeley in Wheeler Hall 300, at 2pm.
Christopher Nealon’s essay, “Reading on the Left,” is available in Representations 108 (Fall 2009).
Representations board member Stephen Best hosts event with Vincent Brown
On Friday, October 17, The Black Room and the Institute of International Studies will co-sponsor a talk by Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Professor of History and Professor of African & African-American Studies and the Director of the History Design Studio at Harvard University.
This presentation considers three graphic histories of slavery—a web-based animation of Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, a cartographic narrative of the Jamaican slave revolt of 1760–61, and a web-based archive of enslaved family lineages in Jamaica and Virginia—that illustrate how the archive of slavery is more than the records bequeathed to us by the past; the archive also includes the tools we use to explore it, the vision that allows us to see its traces, and the design decisions that communicate our sense of history’s possibilities.
The event will take place at UC Berkeley in the Maude Fife Room (Wheeler Hall 315) at noon.
CURRENT ISSUE OFFERS SPECIAL FEATURE ON THE SEARCH
According to the forum’s introduction:
“This forum began with a conversation among editorial board members about what Representations might have to say in response to recent discussions about the nature and future of digital work in the humanities and social sciences. We wanted to think both about recent developments in the use of databases, search tools, and digital means of presenting and disseminating research as well as about the larger social and historical contexts behind these new applications of technology. We also considered some of the claims made about these technologies as well as the structure of the debate that has begun to rise up around them. As different search engines and online resources (Google, the Internet Archive, Google Books, Project Gutenberg, EEBO [Early English Books Online], and so on) have become more and more prominent, assessments of their value often seem to take opposed forms, with advocates for the transformative power of big data lining up on one side and those who think technology is mostly a distraction on the other. Rather than taking either side, we invited several writers to consider the historical and cultural conditions that have made this impasse possible….”
“The forum’s contributors look at several different aspects of what stands as the center of these debates for both dedicated specialists and scholars with only the most general of relations to technology: the homely search. How, in the face of new and more powerful tools, has searching for data changed? Is there a culture or cultures of search that differ from or repeat the terms of earlier moments in scholarly culture? To what degree do specific economies of searching reproduce other economic realities or fantasies? What stands logistically, aesthetically, ethically behind the act of searching for data?…”
“We hope these short essays will contribute to ongoing debates in and around digital technology in the humanities and social sciences and show how understanding the politics, the economics, and the mechanics of searching can help us better understand hidden aspects of the work we have been doing all along.” –Kent Puckett
FREDERIC KAPLAN Linguistic Capitalism and Algorithmic Mediation
TED UNDERWOOD Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago
LISA GITELMAN Searching and Thinking About Searching JSTOR
DANIEL ROSENBERG Stop, Words
LEAH PRICE Response