Novel Ethics

Reflexive Realism and Kinetic Ethics: The Case of Murakami Haruki’s 1Q84

by Christopher Weinberger

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The essay begins:

In Anglo-European scholarship, theories of ethics in the novel over the last hundred years have drawn predominantly on the work of realist writers who, like Henry James (1843–1916) and Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), envelop verisimilar worlds in a literary haze, the multivalent ethos of which promises to resolve into real-life ethics under the right conceptual pressure. In Japanese scholarship, ethical criticism has similarly favored realist texts, bringing cultural studies approaches to the work of writers … who experiment with the capacity of literary language to represent the ambivalence and complexity of contemporaneous social experience. Despite methodological differences, ethical criticism in both Anglo-European and Japanese traditions of the novel has traditionally emphasized the mimetic capacity of the genre. This proclivity, in combination with the relative stagnation of studies on metafiction, has prevented recognition of an ethically driven reflexivity in the work of Murakami Haruki (1949–) and others.

Murakami has won international audiences and prizes, including the Jerusalem Prize and the Franz Kafka Prize, for novels describing how immersion in fictional worlds transforms the lives of characters. The Japanese literary community (bundan), however, has severely critiqued the ethics of his writing. Continue reading …

The recent metafictional novel 1Q84, by Japanese writer Murakami Haruki, has come under fire from literary critics for its apparent solipsism and misogyny. This essay argues that the novel makes a counterintuitive case for the continued relevance of novel ethics by pointing to the very real pressures that manifestly fictional beings—never mistaken for autonomous others and therefore never fully apprehensible as objects of empathetic identification—can place on characters and readers.

CHRISTOPHER WEINBERGER is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative and World Literature at San Francisco State University. He is currently finishing a book manuscript, Triangulating an Ethos: Ethics of Self-Consciousness in Modern Japanese Prose Fiction. The manuscript examines formal experimentation, especially reflexive practices of self-critique, in Japanese prose fiction from the turn of the twentieth century in order to address critical issues in contemporary theories of novel ethics.

Representations essay awarded Donald Gray Prize

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Congratulations to Cannon Schmitt, Professor of English at the University of Toronto, who has received the Donald Gray Prize for best essay published in the field of Victorian Studies. The essay, “Technical Maturity in Robert Louis Stevenson,” appeared in “Denotatively, Technically, Literally,” a special issue of Representations 125 (Winter 2014).

Technical language in novels, rare in itself, is still more rarely interpreted. Focusing on Robert Louis Stevenson’s bildungsromans, in this essay Cannon Schmitt argues that a technical maritime lexicon marks their protagonists’ accession to maturity. But that lexicon and the love for the world it attests to and demands also forces a redefinition of what it means to be mature, offering an open, adventurous, never-to-be completed Bildung that refuses the stasis of marriage or a settled profession.

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“Progress of the Bell Rock Works,” engraving by William Miller, Figure ix, An Account of the Bell Rock Lighthouse by Robert Stevenson (Edinburgh and London, 1824)

The Donald Gray Prize is awarded annually by the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA). The prize has previously been awarded to other Representations articles, including Sue Zemka’s “The Death of Nancy ‘Sikes’” (2010), Sarah Winter’s “Darwin’s Saussure: Biosemiotics and Race in Expression” (2009), Andrew Miller’s “Lives Unled in Victorian Fiction” (2007), and Herbert Tucker’s “Rossetti’s Goblin Marketing: Sweet to Tongue and Sound to Eye” (2003).

History’s Skin: Bazin and Archival Film

Film as the “Skin of History”: André Bazin and the Specter of the Archive and Death in Nicole Védrès’s Paris 1900 (1947)

by Paula Amad

The essay begins:

About two thirds of the way through Nicole Védrès’s Paris 1900 (1947), a feature-length documentary that combines fragments of nonfiction and fiction footage with a view to delivering a new, cinematic type of history, an old newsreel sequence violently interrupts the otherwise sedate, audiovisual chronicle of the Belle Epoque. The six-shot sequence begins with a full shot of a man, whom the voice-over commentator labels a “modern Icarus,” outfitted in a winged parachute-type suit, making a slow full circle for the cameraman, followed by a distant tilt shot that moves up the length of the Eiffel Tower. In the third and longer shot, the birdman, in the company of two other men, spreads the now unfurled, winglike sections of his outfit (fig. 1) and readies himself for what feels like an interminable fifteen seconds on the balcony edge of the tower’s first tier before finally, after a moment’s hesitation, jumping. We then cut to a distant shot aimed at the first level of the tower and tilt down as the second camera follows the birdman’s descent, his flying suit trailing ineffectually before a small puff of dust is released from the Champ de Mars as his body hits the ground. The sequence ends with a close shot of hands measuring the “six-inch” deep impact of the fallen Icarus, followed by a brief final shot of his corpse being carried away.

The birdman footage appears after a long audiovisual roll call of now celebrated turn-of-the-century figures from the fields of politics (Léon Blum, Charles Maurras), theater (Sarah Bernhardt), opera (Nellie Melba, Victor Caruso), art (Auguste Rodin, Pierre Renoir, Claude Monet), and literature (Willy, Colette, André Gide, Paul Valéry, Jean Cocteau). Yet like so much of Paris 1900’s footage, the birdman’s image appears to carry minimal historical import except as macabre evidence of the era’s aviation mania, elsewhere more playfully or soberly documented with footage of a couple performing an aerial dance and Charles Blériot’s record-breaking 1909 Channel crossing. Conscious of the seemingly trivial remains of history then preserved in film archives, Védrès admitted that “scarcely one percent [of the footage she found] referred to important events.” In light of the minor status of the birdman event historically, we might read the fragment as simply more of the dead skin of film sloughed off by the incessantly updated screens of twentieth-century news media, a phenomenon described by André Bazin, arguably the preeminent film critic and theorist of the past century. Or the fragment might be read as the “accidental accumulation” of tabloid-like evidence that Sir Arthur Elton, a key producer-director in the British documentary film movement, feared the newsreels of the early twentieth century bequeathed to later historians. Or, to take an earlier example, it might be read as the “anecdotal” history of the everyday that Bolesław Matuszewski, a Polish newsreel cameraman, claimed the cinema was destined to archive. To be sure, the birdman sequence shifts the tone of the film from a lighthearted nostalgic skip through the Belle Epoque to a bleak forewarning of the abyss of the Great War into which Europe would soon plunge (the commentator clearly provides the 1912 date of the footage). Yet the fragment still retains an uneasy relation to any straightforward attempt to mobilize archival film as historical evidence. Although it feels significant, it’s hard to say what the image of the birdman’s fall at last means. What might this disturbing early example of a subject dying (to be) on film have to do with film’s, and more specifically the archival compilation film’s, peculiar temporal and ethical registers? Continue reading …

In this essay, Paula Amad asks why the notoriously antimontage film theorist André Bazin championed Nicole Védrès’s Paris 1900 (1947), a kaleidoscopic film de montage compiled from scraps of archival film, including footage of a death recorded live. How did archival films and death on film together mediate for Bazin the fatal coupling of “total war” and “total History,” and why were archival films seen by others to raise urgent questions of historical philosophy? She explores here the intensified historical consciousness that developed around archival films and the representability of death after the Second World War. Reinserting documentary as the missing key to Bazin’s so-called realist film theory, she argues that Bazin found in Paris 1900 a new archive-inflected and essayistic model of film’s historicity whose full potential continues to be realized in the explosion of archival filmmaking today.

PAULA AMAD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cinematic Arts at the University of Iowa. She is currently at work on a book dealing with the history of aerial vision from the perspective of motion pictures shot from above.

The Matter of Character

Plasticity, Form, and the Matter of Character in Middlemarch

by S. Pearl Brilmyer

The essay begins:

George Eliot’s 1874 novel Middlemarch is said to both thematize and foster intersubjectivity through its psychologically rich and detailed portrait of human life. To elide the distinction between the human psychology and what I will refer to as its material substrate—character—however, risks overlooking the extent to which Eliot approaches subjectivity as an impersonal structure formed not just through intentional acts such as thought or speech but through physical actions and reactions as well. Deidre Lynch has shown how the protocols of interiority attributed to the novelistic modes of characterization were not endemic to the novel genre, but emerged, rather, in attempts to “validate and naturalize a concept of character as representational.” Extending and elaborating upon Lynch’s thesis, I show how, in conversation with nineteenth-century materialist science, Eliot pushed back against the interiorized novelistic subject so often attributed to her by producing not only sympathetic and real-seeming minds but also lively and responsive characterological bodies….

The characterological bodies that form the focus of this essay are … not verisimilitudinous human anatomies with faces and limbs. Consider, as an initial example, Eliot’s description of Rosamond’s persistence as that which “enables a white soft living substance to make its way in spite of opposing rock.” Importantly, this description of Rosamond’s tenacity relies not only on the reader’s experience of human intentionality but also on her sensual awareness of the basic properties of matter—in this case, the properties of fluids, which have the capacity to envelop solid bodies due to the sensitivity of their structure to encounter. The descriptive force of the figure inheres in the lively materiality of this “white soft living substance”—its soft texture, malleable form, unexplained animacy. The capacity of Rosamond’s intent to overpower, indeed, literally to engulf that of her father is aligned with the potential of a fluid to envelop a rock, no matter how rigid or firm. Much later in the novel, the narrator explains Rosamond’s behavior with a maxim that harkens back to her plastic quality:

We cannot be sure that any natures, however inflexible or peculiar, will resist this effect from a more massive being than their own. They may be taken by storm and for the moment converted, becoming part of the soul which enwraps them in the ardor of its movement. (714)

As we shall see, few natures in Middlemarch are so inflexible; most are like Rosamond in their affinity with a soft, amorphous matter. Arthur Brooke, for example, is described as “glutinously indefinite” (8). He is “a very good fellow, but pulpy; he will run into any mould, but he won’t keep shape” (65). Sir James Chettam, likewise, is made of a kind of “human dough”; he has but the “limpest personality,” furnished “with a little gum or starch in the form of tradition” (20). Taken separately, such descriptors might read as metaphors for particular personality traits (Brooke is fickle; Chettam, lacking in substance). Taken together, however, they develop a vocabulary for the plasticity of character that—while certainly figural in nature—exceeds the metaphorical in its consistent explanation of characterological traits and behaviors with reference to physical laws. Continue reading …

Brilmyer’s essay tracks George Eliot’s construction of a layer of descriptions of characters as soft matter—as liquids, polymers, and other types of condensed matter in a malleable state—in her 1874 novel Middlemarch, elucidating what she calls a physics of character from within its pages. In so doing, the essay suggests that even the most notoriously “brainy” of novels—on the level of its descriptions—resists a too-easy alignment of its characters with individual human psychologies.

s200_s._pearl.brilmyer S. PEARL BRILMYER is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Oregon and postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin, Germany. She is currently at work on two projects, The Prism I Hold in My Hand, an experimental, excerpted edition of a 1926 novel by the South African writer Olive Schreiner, and a book project about problems of description and characterization in late Victorian fiction and philosophy. A companion article on Eliot and characterization has recently appeared in PMLA 129, no. 1.

Temptations of the Viewer: Looking at St. Anthony

Presence Through Absence: Thresholds and Mimesis in Painting

by Beate Fricke

The essay begins:

An aged and venerable man in a black habit is sitting in the country with a book in his hands. Slightly confused about whom this might be, but intrigued by the idyll, the viewer leans in to take a closer look at the label on the wall of the museum in Brussels where the painting hangs.  FrickeFig2Next to this exquisite painting he reads its attribution to the southern Flemish school of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, and its subject: “La tentation de saint Antoine” and on the line below that, “De bekoring van de heilige Antonius.” Still unsure whether the French “temptation” is in fact the same as the Flemish “enchantment,” the modern view returns his gaze to the painting. Analogies to other paintings that clearly depict Saint Anthony sweep away his initial doubt about whom the painting shows—it is Saint Anthony (and not another prophet or saint, for example, Job).

In the foreground, Anthony sits atop a small hill in a kind of garden with a variety of plants. Placed next to him are a shiny jar and a plate, probably both made of brass. Behind him a bright hillside undulates with lighter colored grass; at the bottom of the hill lies a body of water, possibly a pond or small creek. The bridge on the right side of the panel leads through a roofed gate; a herald is stepping through it. Through the opening of the gate and above the flowering hedge on either side of it we see an enclosed strip of lawn. Two trees, browsing animals, and the front side of a house at the edge of the forest all enclose the area against the darker background. An old picket fence leads the beholder to assume that a kitchen garden is located to the right side of the house. In the shadowed semidarkness to the left of the house a path leads into the forest.

What we see at first glance—this peaceful landscape and the silence of the reading or meditating hermit—appears on further inspection rather uncanny. Continue reading …

In this essay, through a close reading of a little-known painting of the Temptation of Saint Anthony, Beate Fricke proposes that every convening of images inspired by the viewing of a picture is a unique “event,” a transformation that occurs during the act of perception, in which various images can be seen as an assemblage generated by one picture. The analysis of such assemblages provides insight into the making and reception of the image, as well as the potential variance between the artist’s making and viewer’s reception. Further, such analysis reveals a structure of “thresholds” within the picture, a structure that refers to inherent principles of representation and mimesis.

BEATE FRICKE is Associate Professor of Medieval Art at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Fallen Idols, Risen Saints and co-editor of Bilder und Gemeinschaften, Studien zur Konvergenz von Politik und Ästhetik in Kunst, Literatur und Theorie, a volume on the contribution of images to the formation of communities from late antiquity to the twenty-first century, and The Public in the Picture, essays on the beholder in antique, Islamic, Byzantine, and Western medieval and Renaissance art. Currently she is preparing a monograph called Beautiful Genesis: Creation and Procreation in Medieval Art.

Monumental Legacy: Robert and Michael Heizer

Monumentality as Method: Archaeology and Land Art in the Cold War

by Robert J. Kett

The work of a father and son—archaeologist Robert Heizer and land artist Michael Heizer—is the subject of Robert Kett’s analysis of cross-generational practices of knowing and making. While the elder Heizer is known as a methodological and technological innovator in Cold War archaeological practice, his son is a prominent figure in an art movement highly critical of modern forms of knowledge and experience. Looking past this apparent disjuncture, this article examines the unexpected continuities in both men’s methods, as evidenced in Robert Heizer’s study of the Olmec site of La Venta in the 1960s and Michael Heizer’s massive late twentieth-century earthworks inspired by ancient societies. Olmec-head-6-88x88

The essay begins:

In February 2012, a 340-ton boulder made an eleven-day journey from its source in a Riverside quarry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The huge stone had been hand selected by land artist Michael Heizer for use in his work Levitated Mass. A massive rerealization of a piece first conceived in the late 1960s and completed on a smaller scale in 1982, the work would suspend the boulder atop a concrete trench in LACMA’s “backyard,” inviting reflections on not only the work’s monumentality but also its relation to the Los Angeles urban context against which it was placed. Power lines and traffic signals had to be temporarily disassembled to make room for the almost 300-foot rig as it delivered its massive cargo. Streets were lined with spectators, news crews, and public utility employees all along its more than 100-mile route. The sheer size of Heizer’s intervention and the infrastructural interruptions it required led to a degree of public attention rare for other works of art. Levitated Mass, now completed and in place, has become famous and can be found in newspaper articles and blog entries, YouTube videos, and endless photos where subjects hold the massive rock in the palms of their hands through tricks of perspective.

Two years earlier, Heizer’s work was also evident in another monumental event at LACMA. The exhibition Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico brought ceramics, carved jades, and monumental statuary from archaeological sites in southern Mexico to Los Angeles. Two colossal basalt heads included in the exhibition had been set on angular, patinaed steel supports designed by Heizer. The supports continued a dialogue between the ancient works of the Olmec and the contemporary art world that began as soon as the Olmec were rediscovered in the early twentieth century. Heizer had been asked to build these supports as part of a larger effort to promote synergies across the museum’s modern and ancient offerings, but more importantly as a means of acknowledging a peculiar coincidence of lineage. His father, Robert Heizer, was an archaeologist who investigated the Olmec site of La Venta for two decades. Read more

Michael Heizer’s show “Altars” is on view at Gagosian Gallery, New York, through July 2.

ROBERT J. KETT is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Irvine, and currently works in the Getty Research Institute’s Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art. Beginning in the fall of 2015, he will be a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

The Beast in the Blood

The Beast Within: Animals in the First Xenotransfusion Experiments in France, ca. 1667-68
by Peter Sahlins

The essay begins:

The first practical experiments in transfusing animal blood into humans for therapeutic purposes—to cure sickness, especially madness, and to prolong life—took place in Paris in 1667 and 1668, and they worked. Or not. From the beginning, the experiments were shrouded in the competing claims of a highly public controversy in which consensus and truth, alongside the experimental dogs, lambs, and calves, were the first victims. “There was never anything that divided opinion as much as we presently witness with the transfusions,” wrote the Parisian lawyer at Parlement Louis de Basril, late in what became known as the “Transfusion Affair,” in February 1668. “It is a topic of the salons, an amusement at the court, the subject of philosophical dissertations; and doctors talk incessantly about it in all their consultations.” At the center of the controversy was the Montpellier physician and “most able Cartesian philosopher,” Jean Denis (1635–1704), recently established in Paris. With the experienced surgeon Paul Emmerez (?–1690), Denis performed transfusions, using primitive instrumentation, of small amounts of blood from the carotid arteries of calves, lambs, and kid goats into the veins of five ailing human patients between June 1667 and January 1668. Two died, but three were purportedly cured and rejuvenated. The experiments divided the medical establishment and engaged a Parisian public avid for scientific discoveries, especially medical therapies to cure disease and to provide eternal youth. For a moment at least, the Transfusion Affair fashionably eclipsed comets within an emerging “science for a polite society” in the late 1660s, and the attention of Paris turned to the therapeutic uses of animal blood, and of animals more generally. Continue reading …

PG204-540x362 copyThis article examines the attitudes toward animals and animal blood on both sides of the transfusionist debate and the resulting insistence on the “beast within” human nature that found a renewed expression at the beginning of the Classical Age.

 

PETER SAHLINS is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, where has taught courses on early modern France and Europe since 1989. His past work focused on boundaries and identities, nationality and citizenship, and environmental history. His forthcoming book, The Year of the Animal: 1668 and the Origins of French Modernity (Zone Books) considers the unexpected appearance of animals on the French historical stage in and around 1668—in philosophy, medical practices, natural history, literary conversations, and visual culture—as a critical moment in the history of mechanism and absolutism in France.

 

Lenin’s Bodies & Buildings

A pair of essays on Soviet sovereignty and the afterlife of Lenin

File photo of the body of Vladimir Lenin in Moscow

Bodies of Lenin: The Hidden Science of Communist Sovereignty
by Alexei Yurchak

During discussions a few years ago in the Duma about the fate of Lenin’s body, which is displayed in the Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square, Vladimir Medinsky, then a Duma deputy (and now Russia’s minister of culture), suggested that it was time to take this body out of the mausoleum and bury it in the ground. “Do not fool yourselves,” he explained, “with the illusion that what is lying in the mausoleum is Lenin. What’s left there is only 10 percent of his body.” The respected political weekly Vlast’ decided to check this figure. During the autopsy in January 1924, wrote the weekly, Lenin’s brain and organs had been removed. When Lenin was embalmed, his internal liquids were replaced with embalming fluids. Since organs constitute about 17 percent of human body mass, and liquids about 60 percent, Lenin’s body had lost 77 percent of its original matter. Therefore, concluded the weekly, the Duma deputy had gotten it wrong: what is lying in the mausoleum is 23 percent of Lenin’s body, not 10 percent as Medinsky had suggested. Continue reading

YurchakFIG9In this essay, Alexei Yurchak analyzes the project of maintaining the body of V. I. Lenin in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow for the past ninety years. It focuses on the materiality of this particular body, the unique biological science that developed around the project, and the peculiar political role this body has performed.

ALEXEI YURCHAK is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton, 2006) and is working on the political history of Lenin’s and other communist bodies and the science that developed around the projects of their preservation.

Snow White and  the Enchanted Palace: A Reading of Lenin’s Architectural Cult
by Jonathan Brooks Platt

PlattPrintFig9In 1965 the architect Konstantin Mel′nikov wrote a short memoir of his work on the Lenin Mausoleum, revealing a folkloric source for his 1924 design of the original sarcophagus. Mel′nikov describes his pyramidal glass construction as “a crystal with a radiant play of interior ambient light, suggesting the fairy tale of the sleeping princess.” The reference conflates two literary folk tales: Vasily Zhukovsky’s “Tale of the Sleeping Princess,” a reworking of Charles Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and Alexander Pushkin’s “Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Heroes,” based on the Grimm brothers’ “Snow White.” Mel′nikov likens the embalmed V. I. Lenin to Zhukovsky’s sleeping princess, but his crystal coffin more directly refers to Pushkin’s dead one. Pushkin also likens death to sleep in his tale. Before being placed in the coffin, the princess “lay so fresh, so quiet, / As if under the wing of sleep, / That she seemed only just not to breathe,” and in the end she rises from the coffin with the cry: “Oh, how long I slept!” Applied to Lenin, this image is remarkably potent. Not only does Mel′nikov suggest the dead leader might be resurrected; he feminizes him as the bride of some future hero. Who will come to smash the coffin, awaken the princess, and live happily ever after? Continue reading

Jonathan Platt’s essay offers a chronotopic reading of V. I. Lenin’s architectural cult and its relation to Soviet sovereignty in the postrevolutionary period, as reflected in the discourse and plans surrounding the Lenin Mausoleum and the Palace of Soviets in Moscow. Central contexts include Andrei Platonov’s novella The Foundation Pit and Russian versions of the “Snow White” tale.

JONATHAN BROOKS PLATT is Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. He works on Russian and Soviet literature and culture with special interests in the late romantic, Stalinist, and contemporary periods.

Intellectual History and the Anthropocene

Deep Time at the Dawn of the Anthropocene

by Noah Heringman

The essay begins:

Man can have an influence on the climate he inhabits, and, in a manner, fix its temperature at any point that may be agreeable to him; and, what is singular, it is more difficult for him to cool than to heat the earth.

—Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Epochs of Nature (1778)HeringmanOnlineFig4

The Anthropocene poses a radical new answer to an old question: where do humans fit in the story of deep time? As a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene comes freighted with the Enlightenment origins of the geological time scale, an escalation so profound that it dislocated time itself into a spatial register: deep time. The urgency of this intellectual history in the Anthropocene may seem less clear than the urgency of remembering and disentangling the contingencies of a global political economy built on fossil fuels. Still, as Dipesh Chakrabarty observed in 2009, “In the era of the Anthropocene, we need the Enlightenment (that is, reason) even more than in the past.” One Enlightenment text, Buffon’s Epochs of Nature, provides grounds for questioning Chakrabarty’s insistence on the novelty of the Anthropocene, defined memorably by him as a time in which “humans wield geological force” by virtue of anthropogenic climate change. “In no discussion of freedom in the period since the Enlightenment,” Chakrabarty contends, “was there ever any awareness of the geological agency that human beings were acquiring at the same time as and through processes closely linked to their acquisition of freedom.” As my epigraph shows, however, Buffon does construe freedom as geological agency (“heat[ing] the earth”), signaling the critical potential of a history of deep time in the Anthropocene. All too often civilization has presented itself as the culmination or completion of geological and anthropological time. This Enlightenment legacy is encoded in the very name of the Anthropocene. Recalling it might help to make the Anthropocene less anthropocentric. The cognate stories of deep time and the Anthropocene converge in the present on what I will argue is a primary symptom of the new epoch, and a part of its forgetting: evolutionary nostalgia. Continue reading

In this essay Heringman argues that the concept of deep time is essential to the intellectual history of the Anthropocene—the name widely (though not yet formally) used for our current geological epoch. Buffon’s Epochs of Nature, one of the earliest secular models of geological time in Enlightenment natural history, uses inscription as a metaphor to mark the advent of biological species, including humans, in the course of earth history. The Anthropocene extends this project of writing ourselves into the rock record. Buffon makes a productive interlocutor for the Anthropocene because he is one of the first to examine climate change and related constraints on human agency in the context of deep time. The essay examines Buffon’s natural history and associated Enlightenment discourses of primitive art and culture to gain a purchase on the challenges of scale posed by the Anthropocene.

NOAH HERINGMAN teaches English at the University of Missouri. His latest book is Sciences of Antiquity: Romantic Antiquarianism, Natural History, and Knowledge Work (2013).