November 9-12, 2006
EVOLUTION: BIOLOGICAL, CULTURAL, AND COSMIC
New York Art Science Festival
20th Annual Conference for the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts
Plenary Speaker: Lynn Margulis
Keynote Panel: Dorion Sagan and Eric Schneider
Special Presentation: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Site Chair: Victoria N. Alexander, Dactyl Foundation for the Arts & Humanities
Program Chair: Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University
The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts fosters the multi-disciplinary study of the relations among literature and language, the arts, science, medicine, and technology. This year’s conference will be held in conjuction with the first annual New York Science+Art Festival. The hub of the conference will be the Dactyl Foundation for the Arts & Humanities on Grand St. in SoHo, which will host registration, the opening reception and one panel stream. Other regular panels and lectures will take place in nearby university, and studio spaces, with forays to midtown for evening event.
RED Literature and Narrative
ORANGE Media and E-Literature
YELLOW Biology and Medicine
BLUE Environment and Ecology
VIOLET Culture, Theory, and History
RED Literature and Narrative
R3. From Stick Figures to Memnon: Genus and Gesture in Early Modern Drama–(ch. Slater)
This panel concerns both apocope-literally “cutting off”–and amplification–both rhetorical and aural–within the discourses of natural philosophy and natural history in the early modern drama of England and Spain.
John Slater, University of Colorado, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, “The Phytological Aesthetic in Early Modern Spanish Drama” The scientific development that most clearly marks early modern Spanish drama is the importation of plants from the Hapsburg’s American colonies. While the new floral abundance overwhelmed taxonomic systems, it also had a transformative effect not only on the way plants were represented on the Spanish stage, but also in the way that the literary “anthologia” itself was understood by the playwrights of Spain’s Golden Age. This paper examines the birth of a “phytological aesthetic” in the works of Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderon de la Barca, and others. The fascination with plants among seventeenth-century dramatists does not denote a radical break with the Renaissance study and depiction of plants, but rather subtle changes in the way plants were perceived that lead to the popularity of extensive catalogs of plant names within plays, the dramatic protagonism of plants, and the use of plants in political allegory.
Vin Nardizzi, Department of English, University of British Columbia, “Stick Figures: Wooden Bodies and Walking Trees on the Renaissance Stage” This paper focuses on the work of wood in articulating the “human” and its locomotive capacities in Renaissance drama. From Falstaff’s “wood” finger / penis in The Merry Wives of Windsor (5.5.86), to the army of “leavy screens” that marches up to Dunsinane in Macbeth (5.6.1), to Lavinia’s “lopped and hewed” (2.4.17-18) “stumps” or hands in Titus Andronicus (2.4.4; 3.2.42; 5.2.182), to the host of disabled war veterans dubbed Stumps populating the early English stage, wood constitutes the dismembered parts of the human body. I term this body a “stick figure,” and am interested to explore how the performance of this body engages classical and Renaissance elaborations of human-ness which classify humans as walking animals and trees as fundamentally incapable of locomotion.
Shannon Ciapciak, Department of English, Duke University,”Pneumatic Voices: Renaissance Motion and Sound” Why was there no aural equivalent for the camera obscura? Michel Serres asks, and then leaves unanswered, this provocative question in his 1979 monograph Genesis. To be sure, a family of machines did circulate in Renaissance literature that corresponded roughly to the vaulted optics chamber, a family of camera obscurdesco. Broadly described, these machines or instruments channeled sound, typically the human voice, rather than light. Drawing on the work of Athanasius Kircher and Robert Greene, this project analyzes one such sound-filtering machine from the theaters and museums of the Renaissance. Specifically, by comparing two uses of voice amplification devices in two different settings–Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and Kircher’s universalis musurgia–I hope to explore the relationship between speech acts, pneumatic motion and sound on the Renaissance stage. Both uses of the machine revisit the fourteenth century trope of mediated communication in the speaking statue, but each suggests dramatically different configurations of privacy, representation, and information. Rather than reading Renaissance acoustic machines as a “striking anticipation of telecommunications” as one scholar described the projects of Thomas Wilkins, I believe contextualizing them will further the goals of historicizing the pre-disciplinary, including its radical potential to engage in dialogue with contemporary, post-disciplinary science studies.
R4A. SLSA Creative Writers Read 1 – (ch. Otis, Dept of English, Emory University)
Since its founding almost 20 years ago, SLS has been a home to creative people. Writers have walked among us and probably always will. In two affiliated sessions, some of the novelists, playwrights, poets, short story writers, cybernetic artists and coders of SLSA would like to read from their works. By reading, we hope to initiate a discussion about how the creation of new literature can help people to appreciate the complex relationship between literature and science. The first session will feature creative works exploring neuroscience and the mind; the second, works engaging science, society, and social issues. We would like to link these two sessions to “Creative Integration” and “Teaching Science with Theater” to form a creative writing stream at this year’s conference.
Lauren Gunderson, Playwright and Creative Writing Teacher, “MASS” A one-woman play exploring Lieserl, the true lost daughter of Einstein. Using relativity, the play presents a young woman searching for her father through space, time, and the history of science. Character: Lieserl-age 18, dark, serious girl. Dressed for today’s weather, but her clothes are dark and reminiscent of late 19th century style. Setting: Today, somewhere nearby. A simple over-head projector nearby. Lauren Gunderson is an Atlanta-based playwright, screenwriter, short story author, and actor. Her work has received national praise and awards including the Berrilla Kerr Award for American Theatre, Young Playwright’s Award, Essential Theatre Prize, Virtual Theatre Prizes and many others. She has been produced off-Broadway, off-off Broadway, regionally, and locally in Atlanta. Her play Leap has just been published with Theatre Emory’s Playwriting Center, and her first collection of plays Deepen The Mystery: Science and the South Onstage was published with IUniverse this January. She is interested in science, history, world intellect, social politics, feminism, and global humanism.
Stephanie Strickland and Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo, “Slipping Glimpse” In “Slipping Glimpse,” Strickland and Jaramillo use code to enhance the fluctuational quality of text and to make it responsive to “silent reading” by moving water; or, more exactly, by videos of moving water shot expressly by Paul Ryan, an ecological activist, to capture chreods, those structually stable islands into which every natural process decomposes. They aim to speak as part of the flow of living in a living flow, to speak “creek” language, a language that relates to the patterns and pathways by which living is organized as these were theorized by Waddington, Thom, and Bateson.” Stephanie Strickland is both a print and a new media poet with several prizewinning works in both media. She has taught at many universities, including Parsons and The New School for Design, and serves on the board of the Electronic Literature Organization. Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo is a new media artist, educator, and technologist. She is currently Director of the Integrated Design Curriculum and Assistant Professor at Parsons The New School for Design.
Sue Hagedorn and Cheryl Ruggiero, “The Catalyst Trilogy” The year is 2207. Fearing predatory images she picks up from the Ghessi, an alien mammalian species at whose Earth embassy she serves, empathic protocol aide Sophia Bellis agreed to be trained as an undercover agent and to be treated with what she believes are human DNA fragments that will enhance her empathic sensitivity. She hadn’t planned on loving Mike Deem, the rash exomicrobiologist who both discovered and injected the fragments, nor on becoming pregnant, nor on having the fragments form a collective sentience in her brain that is learning to talk. These catalysts also trigger reactions in her unborn son and his father that would have killed them if they were not, at the opening of the story, being kept alive in a semistasis tank, provided Sophia goes ahead with a mission to the new Ghessian embassy. Leaving, she wonders if she is still human, with the secret alien sentience in her brain, and whether she will truly be able to return–the catalysts seem to threaten all male mammals, including human males.
R4B. Evolution, Cognition, and the Fine Art of Reading–(ch. Abbott )
It is probably the case that the capabilities we employ for reading complex fictional narratives evolved to meet the demands of decipherment and communication among hunter-gatherers. Yet these same capabilities serve us well enough to sustain an enormous market for difficult texts that appear on the face of it inessential to species survival. This panel is devoted to the continuing exploration of the ways in which our ancient cognitive equipment serves and is served by these extraordinarily refined cultural instruments.
Lisa Zunshine, University of Kentucky, “The Novel as a Cognitive Experiment” My talk draws on my new book, Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel, which explores the implications of one of the most exciting areas of research in contemporary cognitive psychology, Theory of Mind (ToM) for the field of literary studies. ToM, also called mind-reading ability, is a term describing our capacity for attributing states of mind (whether correctly or not) to others and to ourselves. Drawing on the novels of Jane Austen, I suggest that although the investigation of ToM is very much a project-in-progress, enough carefully documented research is already available to literary scholars to begin asking such questions as, is it possible that literary narrative builds on our adaptations for mind-reading but also tests their limits? How do different cultural milieus encourage different literary explorations of these adaptations? How do different genres? Speculative and tentative as the answers to these questions could only be at this point, they mark the possibility of a genuine dialogue between cognitive psychology and literary studies, with both fields having much to offer to each other.
Elizabeth Drew, Trinity College Dublin, “Between the Lines: Cognitive Contexts and Literary Reading” The experience of art takes place within a context of expectation that is updated dynamically through interaction with the artwork itself. In the case of temporally serial art forms such as linear narrative, each new element in the flow of a piece is experienced according to cognitive expectations set by previous elements that are no longer actively represented in conscious. Artists use the relationship between the context of expectation and each new element in the flow of a piece to prompt continued engagement with the work. This process relates the cognitive experience of significance to a balance of redundancy and surprise. Redundancy sets expectations, and unmet expectations cause surprise. Texts that deviate strongly from contextual expectations force readers to become aware of their expectations, and in extreme cases, the experience of a work is dominated by the process of making sense. This paper will explore the means by which unconscious contexts of expectation influence engagement, communication, and sense-making in the creation and interpretation of literature. The analysis will draw upon information theory, cognitive science, and consciousness studies. Textual readings from works that deviate from expectations will explore decontextualization and its phenomenological usefulness in studying cognitive processes.
H. Porter Abbott, University of California, Santa Barbara, “Evolving oeuvres: The Role of Failure in Literary Invention” An important strain of cognitivist literary and cultural studies has focused on not just the inevitability but the actual value of certain kinds of failure in cognition. This work connects with the key importance of imperfection, mistakes, errors in evolution itself. Ellen Spolsky, and more recently F. Elizabeth Hart, have developed a powerful argument for the congruence of post-structuralism and cognitive theory in this regard among others and have developed it as part of what Hart calls a “cognitive post-structuralism” in which the radical instability of post-structuralist epistemology is both supported and “constrained” by cognitivist ontology. In this paper, I propose to expand on their work through the examination of the work of several late modernist authors–Samuel Beckett, Georges Perec, J. G. Ballard–who incorporated into their writing practice ways in which authorial control is strategically undermined. If these lapses do not in themselves deliver effects (as does chance in works by John Cage and Andy Warhol), they play a vital role in the heightened invention of unexpected departures that parallels both the evolution of species and the operation of conscious understanding.
R5. Literature and Evolution–(ch. Gregory Bringman, Independent Scholar)
Shilarna Stokes, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, “The Stranger’s Eyes: Telegony in Ibsen’s ‘The Lady from the Sea'”
That the concept of telegonic tranference held an ambiguous place in 19th century evolutionary discourse is evident from this 1896 definition: “those doubtful instances in which the offspring is said to resemble, not the father but an earlier mate of the mother.” Nevertheless, in a pre-Mendelian era telegony held the imagination of many Naturalist dramatists of the day, most notably Henrik Ibsen. This paper investigates Ibsen’s 1888 play, “The Lady from the Sea,” proposing that the remarkable instance of telegony that occurs in the play serves to interrupt and reimagine biological and narrative linearity. In doing so, it opens a space for a critique of patriarchal order, marriage, and patterns of heterosexual domesticity. Furthermore, because in this case the “mother” and the “earlier mate” also figure as mermaid and merman, the revelation of telegonic transference in the play allows for the reexamination of a disavowed evolutionary past: the life of the sea. Through this reexamination, Ibsen offers an unusual alternative to the received evolutionary narrative in which adaptation to life on land is regarded as a mark of the species” progress.
Paul Youngman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “An Evolutionary Necessity? Machine and Human (Co)evolution in Heinrich Hauser’s “The Giant Brain” Heinrich Hauser’s 1948 novel Gigant Hirn (The Giant Brain) contains a remarkably prescient analysis of human and computer co-evolution which, in the 1940s and 50s, read like the most hair-brained of science fictions. From the year 2005, however, that which Hauser foresaw regarding the capabilities of computers does not seem so far fetched. On the contrary, the discussions of technological evolution found in Gigant Hirn are cutting edge today. In 1990, for example, Norbert Bolz famously declares there to be little difference between the mechanical and the organic world. In 1999, Ray Kurzweil proclaims technological evolution “a human-sponsored variant of evolution.” And in 2004, Steven Shaviro cites mere “leaky distinctions” between the evolution of humans and machine evolution. He does not go so far as to claim that the distinctions have been eliminated, but he does believe the “boundaries that used to define them have become ‘permeable.'” Using Hauser’s work as a springboard, this paper will analyze human and machine co-evolution with a particular focus on the following questions: Are we comfortable with technologically removing the limits to the organ we use to think, and what are the evolutionary implications of removing the limits to the brain using computing technologies?
Marcus Boon, Dept of English, York University, Canada “Philip K. Dick, Gnosis, and Evolution” The concept of evolution is hard to extricate from that of progress, even when scientific or post-Nietzschean discourses imply that it is morally neutral, non-humanist, adirectional and so on. The notion of survival itself, one of the defining characteristics of that which evolves, is itself impossible to extricate from moral categories and valuations. In his notebooks, the German poet Novalis argues that all stages of evolution take the form of sins or transgressions: plants are the sins of stones, animals are the sins of plants and so on. In this paper, I explore the possibility of gnostic evolution. The novels of Philip K. Dick are rich with ideas that support this notion. One thinks of Dr. Willy Denkmal’s Evolution Therapy clinic in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, the drug users of A Scanner Darkly, or the Vast Active Living Information System of VALIS. If gnosis is itself a kind of evolution, in Dick’s work it is an apocalyptic evolution that involves the destruction of that which evolves, the non-survival of that which becomes, and an accompanying sense of sin or criminality that appears to celebrate the failure to evolve. In this paper I will explore the paradoxes of gnostic evolution in Dick’s work, and make the argument that there is a submerged but highly active gnostic impulse in many versions of contemporary evolutionary theory.
Irving Massey, English and Comparative Literature, SUNY/Buffalo, “Against the Grain: Some Questions about Physiological Psychology” It is probably misleading to use the term “evolution” with respect to the history of ideas. Because of its biological associations, it suggests an advantageous development, or, at least, a movement towards greater complexity. Complexity in aesthetics can, indeed, be increased by the inclusion of techniques from the sciences; whether the results (which usually presuppose the acquisition of a technical vocabulary) represent an advantageous adaptation is for the individual critic to decide. I myself would like to take the devil’s advocate’s, or anti-evolutionary, position. I have long harbored doubts about the philosophical underpinnings of cognitive science. More to the point, I would like to question some premises of a body of thought that I take very seriously: namely, what is now called Neuroaesthetics. This is a movement that might in fact be called “evolutionary,” in the sense that it could not have reached its present stage without recent studies of the brain, though in earlier forms physiological aesthetics goes back a long way.
R6. The Struggle for Survival in Literature, Comics, and Science Fiction–(ch. Yaszek)
This panel explores how authors writing in the wake of Darwin adapted narratives of evolution to their own critical and creative ends. Our first two panelists demonstrate how turn of the century fiction writers used mainstream literary forms to test the principles of social and biological evolution and, in doing so, to question commonsense assumptions about the inevitable distinction between rich and poor and human and animal. Our second two panelists explore how early- and mid-twentieth century comic strip artists and science fiction authors used their own aesthetic genres to engage the commonly-accepted idea of biology as destiny, especially as this idea was used to make sense of the distinctions between women and men. Taken together, these panelists show how narrative forms derived from Darwin provide authors with spaces in which to work out their hopes and fears about the impact of science on society.
Mark Schiebe, CUNY Graduate Center, “Social Darwinism and the Limits of the Literary Imagination: The Case of Stephen Crane” This paper proposes to revisit Stephen Crane’s first novel, Maggie, Girl of the Streets, focusing on the author’s unique incorporation of the philosophy of Social Darwinism, prevalent in American intellectual discourse during the last quarter of the 19th Century. Crane’s engagement with Naturalism (the literary movement influenced by Emile Zola, and bringing to bear the principles of Social Darwinism as expounded by Herbert Spencer) raises the question of the efficacy of literature, in general, to realistically imagine and objectively depict the social and biological determinism of Spencer and his apologists. Following in the wake of Michael Davitt Bell’s revisionist reading of Crane in The Problem of American Realism, I will attempt to show that this novel, considered by most commentators to be Crane’s most naturalistic, in fact makes use of formal naturalistic strategies in order to hollow them out from the inside. That is, in this seemingly objective depiction of Maggie’s fatalistic progression from the tenement slums of New York’s Lower East Side into a life of prostitution, Crane, by deliberately cultivating a style that calls attention to itself, subverts the key assumptions which would lend credence to a naturalistic rendering of the life of the abject poor.
Doug Davis, Division of Humanities, Gordon College, “Devolution and Animality in Jack London’s Dog Stories” Nineteenth century French naturalist Emile Zola claimed that authors interested in “the inevitable laws of heredity and environment” should create literary works that read like “case studies.” This paper shows how such authors put Darwin’s theories evolution to the literary test, focusing specifically on American naturalist Jack London and the rapid evolutionary experiments he conducts in his stories about dogs. In the extreme environments of the tropics and the arctic London dramatizes the interaction of heredity and environment in a two-fold way. Over the brief course of a London story dogs become developed characters possessed of understandable motives while humans become dogs left to rely on instinct and bodily ability. Significantly, these forced evolutions and devolutions are set within environments that connect earth to outer space and thus dog and human alike to the grand workings of the cosmos. In his own protean way, London takes liberties with science to dramatize different kinds of becomings, blurring the boundary between animal and human to imagine a kind of co-evolution that anticipates 20th century critical theories of the animal condition (particularly those proposed by Heidegger, Deleuze and Guattari, Haraway, and Derrida).
Patrick Sharp, Department of Liberal Studies, California State University, Los Angeles, “Helpless Heroines: SF Representations of Military Women in the 1920s and 1930s” Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1871) depicted the history of human evolution as driven by men who were naturally selected for their ability to invent and use tools. This was centrally important for sexual selection, according to Darwin, because those men who could out-fight and out-think their male rivals would be able to reproduce with the best females. Women, on the other hand, were seen as passive and beautiful creatures who watched battles from the sidelines. Early twentieth century science fiction authors drew on Darwin’s ideas about technology as the center of human progress to spin tales of the future. However, science fiction authors increasingly imagined future worlds where women fought alongside men in war. Unfortunately, science fiction heroines created by authors such as Philip Nowlan were still limited by the stigma of physical inferiority and technological ineptitude. They remained damsels in distress who merely provided an opportunity for the male action hero to show his superiority.
Lisa Yaszek, School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Why Not a Woman? Science as Women’s Work in Postwar Science Fiction” I demonstrate how women science fiction authors used evolutionary narratives to make sense of the changing relations of science, society, and gender after World War II. While the postwar period marked the golden age of American science, prevailing convictions about the feminine mystique-which claimed that women were perfectly evolved for nurturing and homemaking-justified the marginalization of women in science. At the same time, the advent of the space race led government agencies such as NASA to warn that the United States would fall dangerously behind the Soviet Union if it did not fully utilize women’s intellectual and physical abilities. Science fiction writers Kay Rogers, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Judith Merril responded to these contradictory ideas with stories that celebrated women’s domestic lives as inspiration for technoscientific discovery. Like other midcentury Americans, these authors did not directly challenge the notion that marriage and motherhood would still be central to women’s lives in the future. But they insisted human biology was beside the point and that human society must evolve past patriarchy so women could combine work and family as their individual natures dictated and, in doing so, lead all of humankind to the stars.
R7. Creative Integration: Science, Creative-Writing, Collaboration, and Original Voice–(ch. Gunderson)
Featured artists in four different genres of literature will discuss science as element, structure, and inspiration. Questions we will pose and address will include: What is the evolution of form in terms of science-creative-writing? What common artistic vernacular does science provide? What makes art and science true and applicable? When is science science-fiction? The four panelists will jointly create and support a blog in order to explore collaboration among different artists with a scientific theme. The results of this blog-collaboration will be included in our presentation.
SCREENWRITING: Ray Brown has written numerous short stories and poems and recently began screen writing: The Robbery, a surrealistic drama about the possibility of recovering from child abuse, and A Country Doctor, a drama about the plight of women to find their place as leaders of society. Dr. Brown has published numerous scientific papers, has been an invited speaker, a distinguished lecturer and is a referee for scientific journals.
CREATIVE NON-FICTION/ POETRY: Janine DeBaise, SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry, teaches writing and literature in Syracuse, New York. She is a poet and literature professor who works on a science campus, with a strong interest in environmental issues. For the past fifteen years, she’s published primarily poetry, although during the last two years, she has shifted to writing creative non-fiction. She has done some performance poetry and many presentations on the topic of ecofeminism. Much of her writing explores a connection to place, to landscape, and she is interested in the ways that scientific knowledge can enhance emotional, spiritual, intuitive responses to the land. She writes about both the landscape and the body as places where we see the environmental crisis played out.
PLAYWRITING / SHORT STORY: Lauren Gunderson, Playwright and Teacher. Graduating from Emory University, she was a finalist for the Chesterfield Screenwriting Award, The Princess Grace Award, and the Heidmann Award. Her short story “Cancer/Dish” was recently awarded the Noremberga Short Fiction Award, She has spoken nationally and internationally on the intersection of science and theatre at conference all over the world including University of Glamorgan, University of Santa Barbara, Wofford College, and Texas Lutheran University. She participated in the Creative Writing in Math and Science Residency in Banff, Canada this summer.
R8. Teaching Science with Theatre, and Theatre with Science–(ch. Gunderson)
Panelists who have explored the teaching of physics and math through the use of plays will present ideas and experience in teaching science by using theatre, plays, and dramatic retelling of science history, as well as teaching drama and playwriting using science and scientists. Having written and taught playwriting and creative writing using science and scientists as thematic and structural tools, we will provide curriculum ideas for teachers, explore using drama as scientific inspiration, and discuss the evolution of teaching higher education through multi-disciplinary approaches.
Sid Perkowitz, Dept of Physics, Emory University Sidney Perkowitz was born in Brooklyn, NY, and was educated at Polytechnic University, New York, and at the University of Pennsylvania. As Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University, his research on the properties of solids has produced over 100 scientific papers and books. In 1990, his interests turned to presenting science to non-scientists via books and articles, the media, lectures, museum exhibits, and stage works. His popular science books Empire of Light and Universal Foam have been translated into six languages. Media appearances and lectures include CNN, National Public Radio, European radio and TV, the Smithsonian Institution, and the NASA Space Flight Center. He has written the performance-dance piece Albert and Isadora , and the stage plays Friedmann’s Balloon and Glory Enough (in progress). His newest book is Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids. He is also a playwright whose writing has covered early big bang theory, relativity, DNA discovery and more.
Steven Zides, Physics, Wofford College Since joining the Wofford College Physics Department in 1999, Zides has taught a wide variety of classes from astronomy to electrodynamics, and for the last four years, in Wofford’s Freshmen Learning Communities. Through the intentional linking of science and humanities courses, these learning communities offer the students a chance to make interdisciplinary connections in a non-threatening environment. He has enjoyed successful collaborations with the English, Philosophy, and Theatre Departments.
Steve Abbott and Cheryl Faraone, Middlebury College Steve Abbott joined the Mathematics Department at Middlebury College in 1995 in the areas of function theory and real analysis, but he has also been a regular reviewer of theater and film in the monthly publications of the Mathematical Association of America. Cheryl Faraone has been teaching and directing in Middlebury’s Department of Theatre since 1986. Cheryl is also co-founder and Producing Director of the Potomac Theater Project the Washington, DC area. Recently, she has focused theatrically on the teaching and direction of plays exploring issues of science. Their early collaboration on a production of Arcadia led to a series of interdisciplinary team-taught courses exploring the growing list of critically acclaimed plays dealing with science, scientists, and scientific ideas. In 2005, Middlebury put forward their joint work-in-progress for a major project convened at Harvard sponsored by the Spencer Foundation called “The Forum for Excellence and Innovation in Higher Education.”
R9A. Cinema and Cyborgs–(ch. Gaffney)
Peter Gaffney, University of Pennsylvania, “Poised at the Edge of Chaos: Man Ray’s Emak Bakia and the Tremulous Self-Knowledge of the Bioid”
Manuel DeLanda opens his article on “Nonorganic Life” by citing Thomas Kuhn’s theory of a “paradigm induced gestalt switch.” According to this theory, scientific inquiry fails to notice whatever phenomena fall outside the integrated structure, or gestalt, that gives meaning and context to its discoveries; real breakthroughs come only at the price of the old paradigms. DeLanda suggests that chaos theory has allowed science to take account of ambient fluxes of energy and matter that previously passed unnoticed, and that help explain the possibility of a “machinic phylum,” including crystal formations, weather systems, and other self-organizing phenomena. In this paper, I consider how the switch from conservative to complex scientific systems corresponds to an earlier evolution in the arts, brought about by developments in the technology of the moving image. Analyzing Man Ray’s 1926 experimental film Emak Bakia, I ask whether we might not think of cinema as a new kind of consciousness, one that integrates representation with the unrepresentable, noumenal with the phenomenal, reason with affect. The moving picture, I argue, is not merely a kinetic representation or representation of kinesis. It is qualitatively different: a non-subjective intelligence, as it were, a self-consciousness of the bioid.
Shoshana Milgram, English, Virginia Tech, “J. Robert Oppenheimer in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Top Secret” In January, 1946, Ayn Rand interviewed J. Robert Oppenheimer as part of her research for a film, tentatively titled Top Secret, about the development of the atomic bomb. Although she ultimately decided not to complete her screenplay, she made use of her research when she created the fictional character of Dr. Robert Stadler for her novel Atlas Shrugged (1957). Stadler, who is sometimes called simply “the scientist,” is dedicated, brilliant, and tormented by moral conflict. In the screenplay Top Secret, “Oppenheimer” would have been a hero; in the novel Atlas Shrugged, “Dr. Robert Stadler” was a villain. This paper–which makes use of her interview notes, her projection of the “Oppenheimer” character in the unproduced screenplay, her notes for the character of the scientist in Atlas Shrugged, and the text of the novel’s depiction of Dr. Robert Stadler–shows how a novelist, in different texts and with different purposes, portrayed a scientist, in the context of the moral consequences of the ways he chose to use his mind.
Jaime Weida, Graduate Center, CUNY, Borough of Manhattan Community College and Hostos Community College, “Ghosts and Girls in the Machine: Technology and the Human in Japanese Visual Popular Culture” My paper will examine how cyborg technology appears in Japanese animated movies and television series. In Japanese anime, there is a recurring theme of the human either being supplanted or enhanced by mechanistic technology. Within this genre, how does the human redefine itself? My discussion will especially focus on the role of the female cyborg in anime, and the ways in which these characters are in dialog with traditional gender roles. I will examine the replication of the cyborg as compared to the actual generative capacity of the human female, and I will also discuss the issue of reproduction and replication of the cyborg in conjunction with the marketing and production techniques used to distribute and merchandize the actual DVD’s and associated commodities. Many of the cyborg characters appearing in anime are not only female, but highly sexualized, and I will discuss the implications of this trend. I will also discuss the evolution of the cyborg in anime, from the late 1980s and 1990s to the present day, and what connection this evolution has with the actual evolution of technology. Films and series I will consider include, but are not limited to, the movie “Ghost in the Shell,” the OVA “Armitage” series and the related movies, as well as the television series “Chobits.”
R9B. SLSA Creative Writers Read 2–(ch. Otis) Sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts
Bob Martinez, Dept of Biology, Quinnipiac University, “The Gold Shop”
Martinez’s short story “The Gold Shop” deals with the contrast between economic systems and real value, what is important in life and what is not important, and the idea that we should appreciate things for their own value, not for values that are imposed on them by others. It is set in the Principality of Asturias, in northern Spain, at some uncertain time in the past (maybe 200 to 300 years ago), and fuses the real, the mythical and the magical. Born in California and raised in Niagara Falls, New York, Martinez earned his BS in Biology at Niagara University and his PhD in Genetics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently Professor of Biology at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, where he has served as department chair for 18 years. His teaching interests are both scientific and interdisciplinary and include genetics, bioethics, and a course in science and literature which touches on biological evolution, cultural evolution, genetics, philosophy, religion, history, languages and linguistics, and issues of censorship.
Bruce Beasely, Dept of English, Western Washington University Beasely will read from his recent collection, Lord Brain, poems which are drawn from neuroscience and cosmology. The book is an extended meditation on the nature of mind and self, interweaving language and images from cosmology, neuroscience, and theology. Beasely is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Lord Brain (winner of the University of Georgia Press contemporary poetry series competition). He won the 1996 Colorado Prize (selected by Charles Wright) for his book Summer Mystagogia, and his book The Corpse Flower: New and Selected Poems will be published this fall. His sequence on DNA and the Human Genome Project, “Genomic Vanitas and Memento Vivi,” appeared recently in The Kenyon Review. He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Artist Trust, and two Pushcart Prizes in poetry.
Suzanne Paola, Poet and Non-Fiction Writer Paola (Susanne Antonetta) will read from her poems and non-fiction works on environment, radioactivity, and cloning. Paola is the author of the nonfiction works A Mind Apart (Tarcher/Penguin, 2005), a study of neurological diversity and its role in processes of evolution, winner of the NAMI/Ken Johnson award for promoting understanding of mental difference, and Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir, a life story told through the lens of environmental pollution. Body Toxic was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of an American Book Award. Her most recent book of poetry, The Lives of the Saints, weaves together theological immortality, the half-lives of radiation, the US Human Radiation Experiments of the Cold War, and such contemporary dilemmas as cloning.
Laura Otis, Dept of English, Emory University, “Lacking in Substance” ”Lacking in Substance” follows the cross-country trek of a scientist-turned-creative writing teacher who is struggling to write a novel and to rekindle a relationship that foundered 20 years ago. Her adventures on the road are told alternately with scenes from her emerging novel, in which an indigent young woman cares for a demented old woman who was herself a scientist in her youth. Otis began her career as a Biochemist and Neuroscientist and changed her focus to literature in the mid-1980s. She is the author of the academic books Organic Memory (1994), Membranes (1999), and Networking (2001) and the translator of Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s Vacation Stories (2001). Since 1997, she has been writing novels, of which Lacking in Substance is the fourth. She is currently a Professor of English and Liberal Arts at Emory University and a guest scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.
R10A. Poetics and Memetics–(ch. Rowe)
Matt Rowe, Comparative Literature and Cognitive Science, Indiana University, “Mapping the Evolution of the Sestina”
Literary history typically involves after-the-fact recognition of a cultural norm-applying a label to a coherent slice through temporal strata of economic, social, linguistic, and other factors. The strict forms of structured verse, though, leave immediate and clearly legible traces: the forms themselves, which act as memes guiding the development of individual poems. I examine the history of the sestina from this perspective. From its isolation as a species in Provence in the late 12th century, through the development of robust cultivars and hybrids in Italy and England, to modern experiments in France, the sestina demonstrates memetic evolution at work on literary form. A map of this history offers solid grounding for “distant reading” and gives botanical resonance to the notion of the flowering of a form.
Sharon Lattig, University of Connecticut at Stamford, “Lyric Mind, Lyric Nature: Gregory Bateson and Poetic Embeddedness” I begin with the homology Gregory Bateson draws between the mental process of learning and the physical process of species evolution to argue that the systemic nesting he presumes is both assumed and exploited by the formal structures of the lyric poem. I interpret the lyric’s constitutional principle of deixis to correspond to Bateson’s systemic criterion of “difference” and examine deixis in terms of Peircean secondness. The layered forms deixis takes within lyric poetry prompt an emergent process that gestures toward the ultimate deictic negotiation within the lyric poem: that transpiring between the “I” and the “you.” A quick gesture to neurodynamics uncovers an analogous material basis for deictic emergence within the brain. The next of Bateson’s criteria for mind, that it operate as a “hierarchy of orders of recursiveness” is shown to be enabled and occasioned by the traditional formal dynamics of the poem. Finally, the nesting of mind and nature within lyric poetry is argued to insure that the font of Peircean firstness, the precondition for secondness, the Darwinian variety Bateson conceives in stochastic terms, is replenished, permitting the continuing emergence, or survival, of the poem.
Bill Benzon, Independent Scholar, “One Candle, Ten Thousand Points of Light: The Xanadu Meme” I consider a single “meme,” the word /xanadu/, and how it has traveled from a 17th century book, to a 19th century poem (Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”), into the 20th century where it was picked up by a classic movie (“Citizen Kane”), an ongoing software development project (Ted Nelson’s Project Xanadu), and another movie and hit song, Olivia Newton-John’s “Xanadu.” The aggregate result can be seen when you google the word: you get 2 million hits. What is interesting about those hits is that, while some of them are directly related to Coleridge’s poem, more seem to be related to Nelson’s software project (no surprise there), Olivia Newton-John’s film and song, and (indirectly) to Welles’ movie. Thus one cluster of Xanadu sites is high tech while another is about luxury and excess (and then there’s the Manchester Swingers Club Xanadu).
R10B Film and Theater: Scripts and Spectacle–(ch. A. Klein)
Science deals with fact and performance with illusion. Nevertheless, the theatre, television and film have become important sites for the discussion of science issues, portrayals of the lives of scientists and exploration of science methodology. This panel will discuss scripts written for the stage and screen which address science topics.
Roald Hoffmann, Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Cornell University. Recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and author of poetry, essays, and the plays “Oxygen” (with Carl Djerassi) and “Should’ve.”
Brian Schwartz, Professor of Physics and Vice President for Research at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, teaches the course “Staging Science” with theatre historian Marvin Carlson.
Taniya Hossain was awarded the Sloan Foundation Grant for her screenplays The Speed of Light (2003) and Chemistry Set (2004). Her plays have been produced across the U.S.
S. Casper Wong is a New York based, Sloan-funded writer, director and producer. In a previous life, she served as Senior Counsel at IBM and led graduate research in biomedical engineering.
Moderator: Adrienne Klein, co-Director, Science & the Arts, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Since 1999 Klein has helped produce over 70 public events that bridge science and the arts.
R12. Teaching Literature and Science: Those Who Can, Do–(ch. Roberts)
Ian F. Roberts, Department of English, Missouri Western State University, “Of Actual Use or Too Abstruse?: Literature and Science in the Classroom”
While there have been no shortage of purely theoretical presentations at past Society meetings, the practical teaching of Literature and Science has been almost entirely ignored. Apart from one or two isolated papers through the years and one productive panel which I chaired in 2003, the place of Literature and Science in the classroom remains sadly unexamined. Unfortunately, the Society’s syllabi archive has also somewhat languished. I argue that this pedagogical neglect has profound and far reaching consequences for the field. For example, perceptions of Literature and Science as little more than a trendy and ephemeral area of research without relevance to general education or to broader social concerns are only reinforced by a failure to address teaching. Moreover, lack of pedagogical discussion also discourages the development of new courses in Literature and Science, even while it impoverishes those classes that are currently taught. This, in turn, limits interest in and growth of the area. My presentation will consider such aspects of Literature and Science as course design, choice of texts for study, assignments, and enrollment.
Todd Avery, Department of English and Nanomanufacturing Center of Excellence, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, “Nanotechnology in a ‘Two Cultures’ Classroom” The purpose of this paper is threefold, corresponding to the discourses in which it participates. As a work of literary criticism, its purpose is to explore literary representations of nanotechnology. As a contribution to intellectual and cultural history more broadly, it also considers these representations in the context of continuing tension between the “two cultures” of humanistic and scientific inquiry described by C. P. Snow in the late 1950s. Finally, as a contribution to institutional conversations on the purposes, benefits, and limits of interdisciplinary exchanges in the classroom, it discusses literary engagements with nanotechnology in relation to current efforts within higher education to bridge the two cultures through an array of inter-, multi-, trans-, and postdisciplinary undertakings. In other words, this paper traces the braiding of three strands of academic work in the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first: developments in two cultures relations since Snow’s 1959 lecture; the history of interdisciplinarity with respect to science and literature since the emergence of cultural studies in the early 1960s and science studies later; and developments in nanotechnology since 1959, when Richard P. Feynman delivered “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” the founding document of nanotechnology. This paper addresses these issues in the context of an NSF-funded undergraduate general education course module on nanotechnology and literature. Keywords: nanotechnology, interdisciplinary, “two cultures,” general education
Stephanie S. Turner, English, University of Houston-Downtown, “Can Bioethics Curricula Bring Literature and Science into Conversation?” Bioethics topics are often described as “hot button” issues because they tend to provoke wide public discussion. Elected officials debate whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research, legal experts examine the constitutionality of DNA dragnets, and talk show hosts and their guests dispute the relative merits of physician-assisted suicide. Inherent in these and other bioethics issues are the related forces of narration and discovery, the urge to tell stories and find answers that brings expressive forms and scientific investigation into conversation. Drawing from the scholarship of medical humanities and a review of the uses of literary texts in biomedical curricula, this presentation identifies some recent trends in the potential of bioethics to leverage the literature/science connection.
ORANGE Media and E-Literature
O3. Techne, Affect: Film, Television, and Other Placebos–(ch. Wilson)
This panel explores the ongoing renaissance of theories of affect in particular relation to a variety of twentieth-century psychoanalytic writing and contemporary models for empirical studies of mind, attachment, sociality, and the technologies by which these are distributed and known. How can we reassess the influence of classical psychoanalysis for critical discourse? What cultural theory and criticism is enabled by the very different assumptions of affect theories? Our particular concern is with the fundamental usefulness of the affect theories for the study of transferential relations either in therapeutic contexts or those of spectatorship and viewership.
Lisa Cartwright and David Benin Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego, “Affect and Representation in Science Studies” Looking back on Jacques Lacan’s powerful influence in clinical and theoretical psychoanalysis, the French psychoanalyst Andre Green recalls that Sigmund Freud, in The Interpretation of Dreams, produced a theory of the psychic apparatus that was “at the price of a fascination with representations, to the detriment of affects.” Green proposes that affect “from this moment on” was maligned in the emergent science of psychoanalysis for being an unscientific site of research. Representation, partly because of its empirical observability, was foregrounded instead. This paper begins by reviewing the history of affect’s elision from theories of representation, film theory, and visual culture, and by showing some of the ways in which film and video documents have come into play in empirical studies of affect in cognitive science and psychology. Throughout, we put forward the writings of Andre Green on the subject of affect as a useful set of texts through which to consider question of spectatorship, representation and visuality in science studies.
Elizabeth A. Wilson, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, University of New South Wales, “Serotonin and Empathy” One of the established findings in the contemporary psychological literature on the treatment of depression is that the combination of talk-therapy and drugs works better (on average) than either talk-therapy or drugs on their own. The effects of one seem to strengthen the effects of the other. The finding that talk and drugs work best when combined–the notion that neither does as well on its own as it does when allied with the other–suggests that a different kind of conceptual and political model is needed to think about the nature of depression and its treatment. How is it that talk and drug, words and molecules, affects and chemicals are able to intermesh, amplify and transform each other? Taking Silvan Tomkins’ affect theory as its starting point, this paper will explore the rich imbrication of empathy, affect and serotonin that the treatment of depression has made visible. Special attention will be given to the role of placebo–which seems to haunt both classical psychoanalytic and contemporary pharmaceutical claims for efficacy and scientific credibility in the treatment of depression.
Morana Alac, University of California at San Diego, “Techne and affect in laboratories of cognitive science” This paper discusses details of practical methods in cognitive science laboratories — laboratories of neuroscience and machine learning. It attends to the ways in which features of brain images and humanoid robots get enacted through everyday, ordinary scientific work. As disinterested understanding intersects with makings and doings, and scientific representations and models intersect with coordination of multiple gestures, embodied enactments, and technologies, the paper acknowledges and explores affect, performed sensibilities, and care in the day-to-day empirical investigations of the human mind. The aim is not merely to Òexpose to lookingÓ such aspects of practice, but to ask about the ways in which we may see and talk about them.
O4. Becoming/Real: The Future of the Virtual–(ch. Baldwin)
This panel consists of four presentations at the breakdown and permeability of art, theory, and digital media. The presentations will dissolve oppositions of performance / lecture, showing / talking. The goal is not to separate real versus the virtual, but to insist on their porosity or “fuzzy” overlap. The “virtual” is not the subject of the work. These are works about the becoming of the virtual and the real towards other content–or even towards the “content of the other”–on political, social, sexual, linguistic, narrative, psychoanalytical, even spirtual grounds.
Sandy Baldwin, Department of English, Director of the Center for Literary Computing, West Virginia University, “The Virtual has Potential” I will discuss codeworks at the intersection of computer gaming and recycled text. These works make scenes in first person shooters and tactical military computer games, re-purposing the games but also falling for the war world that they posit–which is nothing less than the world we all inhabit today. These works are the temporal playing out of figures cut in game-space, serial metonymizations of contexts that “take place” in the real time of digital media. Digital writing names the space of this taking place. In these works, writing is the terminal point of visibilities that become images and graphematic sign chains that become codified. I call these works “digital literature,” where literature is not a canon of works but a problematization of mediation, a “turning literary of the literal,” a stoppage where media become literature. I argue for a turn against the theoretical promise of the readable image or the perceived text (which I take as the premise of “media theory”). This turning shows the purely institutional relation of representation and context within our notions of mediation, on the one hand; and intimates at interiority within mediation, on the other.
Toni Dove, Independent Artist/Scholar I work with narrative responsive environments – environments that combine computer programs designed to assemble and display media with interface triggers that accomplish this assembly in real time. Programs that perform, or perhaps I should say programs that perform the body, perform perception. These works involve re-seeing narrative through an analysis of perception and re-casting cinema as a spatialized, embodied experience. In other words, we perceive our environment and each other based on an assembly of physical sensations cued by environmental triggers. How can this be articulated in interesting ways to create virtual space? Mutable improvisational media loops with the body to create place, a sensory, embodied experience. In this case, the virtual is a space of potential and affect. It exists as much in time and in physical experience as it does in media. The players activate programs, audience is performer – time is experienced through improvisation in real time – the urgency of time – the suspense of time.
Alan Sondheim, Independent Artist/Scholar My performances bring together video projections of cyborgian, mutating, sexual bodies and the artifacts of battlefields soaked in banal horror. Together, they offer a distorted beauty of the disasters of war and the pleasures of love. I work through laptop performance of video in combination with live audio and real-time text. I inhabit the semantic domain, whether real or virtual–I make no distinctions, and this absence of boundary is part of the work’s content. Analog and digital, mathesis and physical reality, intertwine. The subject and subjectivity move through, and are transformed by, the presentation. The message is the medium, not the other way around.
Tom Zummer, Indpendent Artist/Scholar, “An Inverse Genealogy of Disembodiment” In this paper I will address the disposition of the material body in its various mediations, tracing certain modifications of corporeality through a technical register including online and telecommunications systems, cinema, radio, television, telegraphy and telephony, but also examining the popular mythologies of disembodied virtuality in literary accounts of ether, spiritualism, vivisection, and robotics. The history of “modern spectrality”–what Jacques Derrida has called “hauntology”– is folded into the history of technology’s relation to bodies. I will trace some of the familiar, as well as some of the more unlikely, tributaries of the virtual.
O5. Writing Coding Writing: Electronic Textual Encounters–(ch. Lawson Jaramillo)
Stephanie Strickland, Electronic Literature Organization, and Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo, Director, Integrated Design Curriculum, The New School for Design, “Dovetailing Details Fly Apart–All Over, Again, In Code, In Poetry, In Chreods” Poetry and code–and mathematics–make us read differently from other forms of writing. Written poetry makes the silent reader read three kinds of pattern at once; code moves the reader from a static to an active, interactive and looped domain; while algebraic topology allows us to read qualitative forms and their transformations, both those written by available pathways and patterns and entropy budgets, and those we conjure out of “nothing.”
Nick Montfort, University of Pennsylvania, “Story, Discourse, and Re-Shaping Interactive Fiction” Interactive fiction (IF) indicates a form of text-based computer game, a sort of dialog system, and a kind of literary art which has existed for about 30 years. Since Aristotle, theorists of narrative have distinguished between the level of underlying “story” (corresponding to the simulated world in IF) and “discourse” (corresponding to the way that events and things in that world are related.) But although IF has been around for 30 years, IF systems have not yet embodied this distinction by abstracting the telling from what is told. I describe an IF system that is based on this distinction, extending techniques from computational linguistics (specifically, from natural language generation) by using concepts from narratology.
Talan Memmott, Creative Director and Editor of beeHive, “Thinking/Reading/Writing the Multi-Modal” Literary Hypermedia (un)rests somewhere between the visual, the procedural, and the literary. As such, it requires different modes of signification, and different way of thinking about writing practice. Text in works of literary hypermedia is more than the written word, with interface environment and interactivity having as much rhetorical value. Though it may seem that these modes of signification, when broken apart, are in competition with one another, it seems more valuable to consider the harmonics and resonances between them as an holistic meaning-making device. Through a demonstration of a number of works, this presentation will look at the process of multi-modal meaning making in literary hypermedia.
Daniel C. Howe, Media Research Lab, New York University, and Aya Karpinska, Independent Designer, “Geometry and Recombinant Poetics” This presentation will explore how geometry, which studies relationships of angles and surfaces, can complement recombinant poetry, which uses configurations and arrangements of words and phrases to generate meaning. We all have intuitions about how geometric shapes behave in the world around us. Shapes will fit with each other in a predefined and finite number of ways, just as words and phrases in a recombinant text only “fit” (have meaning) in certain ways. In our collaborative work, three-dimensional shapes often inspire the writing. The spatial relationships among these shapes are what matters – change the shapes, and the writing must follow. At the heart of creative writing lie constraints; geometry provides a logical basis for constraints in a visual space.
O6. Leonardo Education Forum Panel–New Media Futures: The Artist as Researcher and Research as Art in the 21st Century–(ch. Jackson)
Timothy Allen Jackson, New Media, Department of Art History, Savannah College of Art and Design, “Metaphors and Taxonomies: Art as Basic Research”
From the creation of one-point perspective in the Renaissance to the recent invention of the CAVE, art research has a long and distinguished history. Indeed, Alan Kay’s remark, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” is as applicable to art in the 21st century as it is to science and engineering. Within new media art practice, I would make the case that the modernist avant-garde has been replaced with an approach to aesthetic and poetic innovation centered on collective empathy (e.g., interactivity) and networked consciousness (e.g., telematics). Art researchers provide a bridge between the humanities and sciences linked to technological innovation, and contribute to the larger research culture in meaningful ways. This presentation will explore some of these considerations through exemplary works in light of a projective history for art as research in the 21st Century.
Shawn Brixey and James Coupe, Artist, Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), University of Washington, Seattle, “From Simulation to Emulation: A Field Theory for Telematic Art in the 21st Century” Leibniz once claimed that it was impossible for a human to construct something that would equal or surpass him/herself. A wealth of 19th and 20th Century art, science and literature has wrestled to validate this terminal horizon, and sustain our lingering “fear of Frankenstein.” Nevertheless, as humans have become more aware of the intricate physical, social and biological universe in which we reside, we begin to assemble a unique and comprehensive perspective on who we have been and what we may become. The transition inherent in this realization of our cultural, aesthetic and scientific selves is emblematic of emerging new art forms that seek to synergize the physical and biological sciences and define a new mode of arts practice that is significantly deeper than the rich but ultimately superficial, simulative or merely illustrative history from which they emerged. The paper will be presented as a dialog oriented around a number of specific art projects, presented via laptop computer(s).
Nina Czegledy, Independent Media Artist, Curator and Writer, Toronto, “On Art Research: Hybrid Projects” Today, research forms an integral part of contemporary art practice, especially collaborations involving art, science and technology. Established academic programs and publications in North America and Western Europe illustrate a wide range of opportunities. This study presents alternate options from other regions where individuals or small informal groups often initiate novel concepts and where the boundaries between research, education and art production, are frequently blurred. Case studies include the NextLab, Budapest, Cultural Center Lindart, Tirana and Trinity Session, Johannesburg. The “research” of these groups seems to be flexible and fluid–extending to broader interpretations such as experimentation, groundwork or scrutiny.
O7. Byrne/Eno: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts 1–(ch. Reddell)
Trace Reddell, Digital Media Studies, University of Denver, “My Ghosts in the Life of Bush”
In a lecture delivered to the Naropa Institute in 1976, William S. Burroughs describes the cut-up techniques of Brion Gysin in terms of their revelatory power: “when you cut into the present, the future leaks out.” Burroughs articulates a system of divinitory processes incorporating multiple media of composition (paper, magnetic tape, film). Ultimately, he proposes a system in which prophecy is indistinguishable from memory: “cut-ups put you in touch with what you know and do not know that you know.” A year earlier, in the liner notes to “Discreet Music,” Brian Eno describes his investment in “situations and systems” for automatic composition. But it wasn’t until his work with David Byrne on “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (1981) that Eno’s ambient-generating networks turned into a complex, divinitory system. Our present is glimpsed repeatedly as possibility in this album, and the effect is unsettling. To get at the prophetic dimensions of the album, I position the work as a form of “entheo-media,” a technology for calling out the divine, which waits with unreconciliable tension somewhere between invocation and exorcism.
Cary Wolfe, Department of English, Rice University “Echographies from the Bush of Ghosts” I’m interested in exploring the relationship between the visual archive that accompanies the re-release of David Byrne and Brian Eno’s “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts” (http://bushofghosts.wmg.com/home.php) and the music itself, and what it all, taken together, tells us about the uncanny quality of this record/event: that the ether of electronic media is our “bush of ghosts” (across which, as it were, the vocal tracks the record traverse, “like transmissions from a desperate planet” as Byrne puts it). What makes this formulation anachronistic, of course, is that both components of the project were executed using analog, not digital, technologies. The audio “sampling” was done with analog tape and in some cases boomboxes, and the visual elements were created, for example, by pointing a video camera at a TV screen to induce feedback, which was then photographed using a Polaroid camera. The thesis I will explore, then, is that the uncanniness of this project is that it fashions an analog sonogram or “echography” (to use the phrase of Bernard Stiegler and Jacques Derrida in Echographies of Television) of the “bush” of the media-to-come, whose apotheosis (so the story goes) is the-digitizaton-of-all-media, whose “spectrality” (to use Derrida’s formulation) is in some sense “scooped” by low-tech, analog means.
Marcus Boon, Department of English, York University, Canada, “On Appropriation” Byrne and Eno’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”is an experiment in and meditation on appropriation, made by analog means at the dawn of the age of digital sampling. Byrne and Eno appropriated the title of the disk from a novel by Nigerian author Amos Tutuola, which itself is a meditation on appropriations of various kinds in West Africa: the slave trade, possession by the Yoruba deities, conversion to Christianity, technologies of various kinds. The concept of appropriation can also be found at the core of contemporary debate about copyright and intellectual property. Appropriating Heidegger’s argument that Being itself can be thought of in terms of appropriation, I will explore what it means to appropriate and be appropriated. In particular, I will consider the relationship between sound, technology and appropriation, arguing that pioneer sampling artists such as Byrne and Eno “possessed” a peculiar insight into the power of appropriation, its history and its politics.
O8. Byrne/Eno: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts 2–(ch. Wolfe)
This panel will continue the discussion of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” by shifting into roundtable format and further opening up both the audio and visual components of this seminal project. In addition to our usual suspects
Trace Reddell, University of Denver Marcus Boon, York University Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University
we will be joined by two other distinguished observers of the music scene:
Simon Reynolds, born in London, has been resident in New York since the mid-Nineties. Reynolds is the author of four books, Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84 (Penguin, 2006), Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture (Little, Brown, 1998), The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock’n’Roll (Harvard University Press, 1995), and Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock (Serpent’s Tail, 1990). His latest tome, Bring the Noise: 20 Years of Writing About Hip Rock and Hip Hop is due to be published in summer 2007 by Faber & Faber. A freelance contributor for magazines including Slate, The Observer, Village Voice, The Wire, Blender, and Uncut, Reynolds operates a weblog at http://blissout.blogspot.com/ and a website at http://www.simonreynolds.net/.
Paul Rapp is an intellectual property attorney based in Housatonic, Massachusetts. Rapp teaches art & entertainment and copyright law at Albany Law School, and has been a guest lecturer at the School for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the annual Visual Art and the Law conference in Taos, New Mexico, and many other places. Rapp is counsel to The Yesmen, and has worked with Negativland, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Massachusetts and New York branches of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. He writes regular columns about information, art, music, and the law for Metroland Magazine (Albany, New York) and The Artful Mind (Great Barrington, MA). Rapp maintains blogs at splattofestival.blogspot.com and rapponthis.blogspot.com. Also known by the name F. Lee Harvey Blotto, Rapp plays drums with 80s music video pioneers Blotto.
O9. Negative Evolution: AfroFuturisms–(ch. van Veen)
“Futurism” is often associated with the 20th Century’s Italian and Russian avant-garde, and with ambiguously fascist and communist approaches to imagining futurity and technology respectively. Are there other futurisms and has futurism evolved–or critically devolved–from these influential perspectives? A complex relation to these earlier “futurisms” is found in “AfroFuturism.” AfroFuturism loosely articulates a broad spectrum of practices, discourses and philosophies – literature, music, science, writing, politics – tied to the technological imaginaries of the black diasporia and, significantly, beyond. In this panel we examine the technoshamanism of jazz in John Coltrane, RAMM:ELL:ZEE’s graffiti sign-systems, and the decay of Detroit in relation to the constraints of digital rhetoric. (“Negative Evolution” title provided by Underground Resistance, Detroit.)
Trey Conner, Pennsylvania State University, “From Communication to Commons Formation: Coltrane’s Cosmic Model of Rhythmic En-Trane-Ment” ”Once you become aware of this force for unity in life, you can’t ever forget it. It becomes part of everything you do. In that respect, [Meditations] is an extension of A Love Supreme since my conception of that force keeps changing shape.” -John Coltrane During 1965, John Coltrane’s musician collectives regularly and seemingly summarily summoned a spectacular resonance. When Coltrane’s ensembles sampled from Eastern sacred traditions, they remixed the jazz ensemble playback format, troping it towards one of the oldest genres of information compression, the mantra. “A Love Supreme,” “Evolution,” “Cosmos,” “Om,” and “Meditations” are at once information compression algorithms and, at the same time, a sequence of sonic snapshots that regulate and transduce Coltrane’s cosmic “force of unity.” Coltrane’s experiments continue to provide a model for diverse media ecologies moving from communication to commons-formation, and as such, can help us tune in on the role of rhythm in technocultural production. Diverse rhetorics emerge in these digital attention economies in order to describe and participate in these evolutionary dynamics.
Marcel O’Gorman, University of Detroit Mercy, “Detroit Devolution: Memoirs of a Tourist in the Apocalypse” Detroit, Michigan–burned out, abandoned, and in rapid decay–is the post-industrial city par excellence. But of course we all know this because Detroit, America’s urban apocalypse, has played host to a multitude of tragedy tourists. These post-urban colonizers, from the out-of-state graffiti artists looking for fresh walls, to the suburban DJ’s hosting dance parties in empty automotive plants, are eager to capitalize on the city’s empty spaces and sublime ruins. In this presentation, Detroit Techno will play backbeat to a sampling of texts and images from America’s urban apocalypse. What I hope to demonstrate is nothing less than the constraints of cyberculture, or more precisely, of digital rhetoric. I will argue that the unwillingness of digital culture to “ground itself,” to embrace the finitude of the body, to choose place over space, leads us headlong into esotericism, devolution, entropy. I will conclude by examining an urban ecology movement that acknowledges this disembodied carnival, but grounds it in the materiality of lived space.
Tobias C. van Veen, McGill University. “Typefighter Writer / Typewriter Fighter (Burners & Aporias)” RAMM:ELL:ZEE first exhibited his graffiti sign-systems in 1974 on NYC’s trains, “the biggest distribution gallery for any art form known to man.” Shortly thereafter, Ramm elevated WildStyle tags (“burners”), into IKONOKLAST PANZERISM (“Wild Style Corrected”), taking as his inspiration 10th-15th century European monks and their “MEDIEVAL MECHANISM” of armoring letter-carriers . Meanwhile, in Montreal, Jacques Derrida elevated (if we can play a sample) “the question concerning technology,” taking as his inspiration the aporias of language in signaling an “increasingly powerful historical expansion of a general writing,” of which truth, presence, consciousness and other themes of metaphysics would be “effects.” This paper seeks to demonstrate how RAMM:ELL:ZEE enters the equation–“equations have no parents”–at the closure of philosophy and the revolution of AfroFuturism. and to investigate the world of Gothic Futurism as it inscribes its “interplanetary” signs.
O10A. Communication and Intelligence–(ch. Miller)
Jay A. Labinger, Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology, “A Connectionist Model for SLSA: Evolutionary Consilience?”
Some commentators have characterized SLSA-type projects as consisting largely of fuzzy metaphoric connections between hard scientific knowledge and softer humanistic knowledge–at best irrelevant, at worst subverting scientific authority. E. O. Wilson’s Consilience purports to offer a program for reconciling the two realms; however, it is presented in a rhetoric not of alliance but rather of colonization, applying the methodology and standards of the former to the latter. Making use of yet another (possibly fuzzy) metaphor, I will argue that Wilson’s project is analogous to an algorithmic, rules-based learning model, whereas the SLSA program is better described in terms of connectionist and evolutionary models of brain development, represented by Gerald Edelman’s theory of Neural Darwinism, in which connections between an assemblage of neurons are made and tested, not according to any a priori rules, but rather by whether they contribute effectively to improved function: those that do are strengthened; those that do not, atrophy and disappear. An analogous connectionist approach to the generation of knowledge by an assemblage of individual intelligences seems by far the more promising.
Wayne Miller, Duke University School of Law, “Web 2.0: Collective Intelligence and the Problem of Mediated Evolution” ”Web 2.0” was coined to describe how users and developers are creating a different Web through such interactive technologies as blogs, wikis, the Semantic Web, and social networking sites such as myspace.com. At the core of the hype and controversy is a specific claim: “that [these innovators] have embraced the power of the web to harness collective intelligence” (Tim O’Reilly). Whether “collective intelligence” is uniquely human or biologically speaking ubiquitous, it presents a specific problem for discourses about human evolution. Since Turing formulated his test, there has been speculation about the role of artificial intelligence in evolution. Now there is a discursive space in which a mediated but still human intelligence forms the link to a new and brighter human, or post-human, future. We have reason to be skeptical. Friedrich Kittler finds that media have become privileged models for self-understanding “exactly because it is their declared purpose to delude and deceive this very self-understanding” (Optische Medien ). In this paper, I will seek to go behind “Web 2.0” to bring out the media structure from behind the collective.
Roddey Reid, Department of Literature, University of California, San Diego, “Social Marketing as a Global Communication Technology in a Postcolonial World” An interdisciplinary field based in the methods and tools of the behavioral sciences and the entertainment industry, social marketing’s roots are transnational and go back to the 1960s and programs in international development. Many of the contemporary commercial marketing methods and techniques used in health promotion were first developed during the 1970s and 1980s for family planning and breast feeding campaigns in South and East Asia, Latin America, and Africa by US private firms and adopted by US-based foundations and international NGOs and organizations. As its focus, this paper will look at several social marketing firms (for example, The Academy for Educational Development) and their worldwide activities in terms of claims for social marketing as a flexible, “systems approach of universal application regardless of problem or local situation”; methods of segmenting populations and assessing consumers’ “needs”; the choice of communication media; and neoliberal forms of government.
Aden Evens, New Media Studies, Department of English, Dartmouth College, “The Digital, the Virtual, and the Virtual” The digital is characterized by two different virtuals. One is the popular notion of the virtual–anything that happens in or through computers. The concept of virtual reality is the apotheosis of the popular virtual, an eventual total immersion that eliminates the interface of the computer as well as the danger of real world encounters. Though this popular notion of the virtual is often opposed rather strongly to the sense of the virtual drawn from the work of Gilles Deleuze, this paper argues that digital ontology can only be understood through the attribution of both senses of virtuality to the digital. To understand how the digital matters, it must be connected to the virtual as a process of differentiation, which cannot be equivalent to the deterministic logical calculus that governs the flow of electricity through computer chips. This paper looks for those events that mark the intrusion of the Deleuzian virtual into the popular virtual, both historical developments in the history of computing and technical contrivances that inject a measure of indeterminacy into the midst of the self-identical 0s and 1s that constitute the binary code.
O10B. Techno-Literary Futures–(ch. Ciccoricco)
Marija Cetinic, Comparative Literature, University of Southern California, “string theory”
While there has been a great deal of attention to the convergence of discrepant media via digital technology, there has been comparably little attention devoted to the persistence of analog and retro technologies as a concurrent feature of our technoscientific situation. Nor has sufficient attention been paid to the propensity of recent literature to return to such “low” technologies as a mode of narrative invention: as a means of imagining new models of community and of conveying affective tonalities that both respond to and interrupt the discursive hegemony of the World Wide Web. To name three such texts, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2005), and Ben Marcus’s The Age of Wire and String (1995) all practice a brand of magical realism that deploys “old-fashioned technologies, most of which resembled children’s toys” (Foer) as modalities of contact, attachment, and transmission between isolated bodies. This paper reads this literary turn to retro technology in relation to work on embodiment and new media.
Jessica Pressman, Department of English, UCLA , “The Revolution and Evolution of Flash-ing Literature: Bob Brown’s Readies and Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries” This paper participates in charting the “evolution” of new media and, in particular, electronic literature by examining the connections between two techno-literary projects separated by seventy years. In 1930, to advance the “Revolution of the Word,” avant-garde writer Brown proposed to build a reading machine that would speed up the pace of reading literature and thereby change the kind of literature we read. His plans reflect a techno-determinist view that our reading machines affect both how and what we read; they also inspired modernists as Stein, Williams, and Pound to contribute poems to his collection Readies for Bob Brown’s Machine (1931). His Readies are important to contextualizing a more contemporary form of avant-garde, machine-based literature: Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries produce some of the most innovative electronic literature online, Flash works that flash onscreen at heightened speeds. In this paper, I read between and across these two literary endeavors to examine what is illuminated about our contemporary literary moment by exhuming its relationship to a related but relatively unknown artistic and technological past.
Daniel Tripp, Department of English, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, “The Survivalist Rhetoric of Literary Innovation” Ever since Marshall McLuhan helped popularize a Darwinist view of medial evolution, American literature has been increasingly imagined as participating in a grand competition for representational supremacy, a competition it is often considered to be losing on most fronts. This paper examines what I call the survivalist rhetoric of literary innovation, or the critical discourse through which scholars, critics, and writers alike have sought to recalibrate the specificity, and in some cases the superiority, of print literature in an expanding media ecology. The challenges posed to print literature by intermedial rivalry have necessitated both the defense and revision of the literary exceptionalism that for several centuries has taken for granted the privilege and prestige of literature as a mode of representation. Among other things, I argue that the mediatization of American literature, and the subsequent drive to reinvent mimesis, has sparked an arms race for the real that can be read in the accelerated speciation of literary forms and the proliferation of survivalist rhetorics since the 1960s.
Dave Ciccoricco, University of Canterbury, “The Play of Memory’s Shadow: Episodic and Procedural Memory in Video Games” A range of critical approaches has been invoked in the study of video game design and production, including varied modes of narrative theory and the custom-built discipline of “game studies,” which are often cast as opposing methodologies. What has emerged thus far from this dialogue, at the least, is that games are not narratives per se; that games contain narrative elements; that narrative elements are often fundamental in 1) structuring gameworlds and 2) motivating gameplay; and that, ultimately, games and narratives yield different kinds of experience. But whereas the experience of reading and interpreting narrative art has been studied in detail by way of psychological and cognitive frameworks appropriated for narrative theory, the user’s experience of simulative digital environments has not. This paper employs Fumito Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus (2005) to further qualify gaming experiences by applying the basic distinction of episodic and procedural memory from cognitive science, illustrating how participation in simulative digital environments not only draws on but also relies on both forms of memory.
O11. Made Over in America: Cosmetic Surgery, New Media, and Celebrity–(ch. Wegenstein)
Bernadette Wegenstein, Department of Romance Languages and Literature, Johns Hopkins University, and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes, Filmmaker and Fulbright Scholar, Communication and Culture, York University ”
The documentary Made Over in America is a collaboration between the media theorist Bernadette Wegenstein and the filmmaker Geoffrey Alan Rhodes. Fox’s reality makeover drama The Swan (2004-), has served as a point of focus and departure to investigate the makeover culture-complex of cosmetic surgery, new media, and celebrities in which young women are coming to adulthood. No simple answers are sought; instead the contradictions and ambiguities through which these young women must forge their identities and body images are explored after the values of phenomenology and ethnographic film. The project was envisioned as an interdisciplinary approach to popular culture criticism, combining sociological analysis, frameworks based on psychoanalytic, body, and media theory, and experimental video. The final feature film product (71 minutes) communicates the responses by different voices of the U.S. makeover culture. The film traces the construction of a “cosmetic gaze”–the underlying looking mechanism according to which makeover viewers, cosmetic surgery consumers, image makers, and cosmetic surgeons operate– in order to show the state of a twenty-first century body: not a fixed entity, a given, but something that is always in flux, volatile, and therefore to be constantly stabilized. Makeover is then a mode of “stabilization” of such an evasive body identity. This stabilization and “fixing” of the body is also the goal of makeover’s critics: both the practitioners and critics are, in the end, searching for an “authentic” self. The key questions and criticisms are put into the hands of the documentary’s audience to resolve: what does “natural” mean in a body context? What does “beauty” mean? What does it mean to cultivate the desire for a “better self”? Why not look your very best? Though we present no definitive answers in the film, we deliver differing voices as to what the twenty-first century body means as a place of inscription, as a performative realm, and as a platform for a culture’s investments in a “better self,” a “better look,” and an ultimately “better life.”
O12. Code as Media–(chs. Coleman and Ken Wark, New School)
This panel looks at the modalities of code as a media form. In relation to new media arts and visual arts, traditionally code has performed as the architecture in relation to a functional or actual output. The papers on this panel address the question of what are some of the significant changes theoretically and in the production of art and cultural works when code is engaged as representational media form. A discussion of contemporary reworking of information and aesthetic theory is central to the panel. The panel is composed of media theorist and media practitioners (code writers and artists using code), which brings diverse and highly engaged perspectives to the subject. The issues discussed in the various papers include generative aesthetics, networked art works and network culture, and the history of aesthetically oriented code.
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Modern Culture and Media, at Brown University, “Order From Order” ”Order From Order” interrogates the odd erasure of computing necessary to the emergence of digital media and to the formation of “visual culture studies” and “transparent society” (our computers are fundamentally non-visual and non-transparent devices) by outlining some of the surprising parallels between software and race as visualizations of invisible causalities. Software, unforeseen by the early computer designers and non-existent at a physical level, has become a privileged way of explaining the relationship between nature (hardware) and culture (software), the operations of heredity (genetic program), and the functioning of narrative (rhetorical software). Software’s power stems from its programmability and from the ways it concretizes causality: high-level procedural languages in particular reduce language to a series of imperatives, which in turn generate visible effects in an invisible yet understandable manner. Race was, and still is, a privileged way of understanding the relationship between the visible and invisible: it links visual cues to unseen forces.
Mark H. Hansen, UCLA, “Aliis exterendum” The early statisticians recognized the effect of “the law of large numbers,” the possibility for regular behavior in aggregates (crime rates, births, deaths); and even applied the normal distribution (the bell curve) to sociological data. These early statisticians, however, were asked to ‘confine…attention rigorously to facts…stated numerically and arranged in tables’, because interpretation was, as declared by the motto of the London Statistical Society, Aliis exterendum–to be threshed out by others. This stance did not hold sway for long, and statistics evolved from pure data collection to the study of making inferences from data. In the last decade, we have experienced an unprecedented leap forward in our abilities to collect and analyze data, and in particular, our languages to describe patterns, statistical representations of phenomena. In this presentation, I will examine a series of recent works (installations and a planned performance piece created in collaboration with Ben Rubin, EAR Studio) from the context of the “backend,” the code that links observed phenomena and the narrative threads of the ultimate artworks.
Alexander R. Galloway, Culture and Communication, New York University, “A Formal Grammar for Artist-Made Game Mods” This paper articulates a formal grammar for the genre of the artist-made game mod (short for “modification”). Game mods are an unusual thing, for they seem to contradict their very existence: When the mod rises to the level of art, rather than a gesture of fandom–as “Counter-Strike” was to “Half-Life”–then, more often then not, the game looses its ruleset completely and ceases to be a game after all. Jodi’s untitled game” follows this contradictory logic when it removes all possibility of gameplay from “Quake” and propels the game into fits of abstract modernism. Using Peter Wollen’s seven theses on counter-cinema as a guide, this paper presents a new framework for understanding game mods based on the following formal principles: foregrounding, aestheticism, visual artifacts, invented physics, and non-correspondence.
Beth Coleman, Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and Comparative Media Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Mr. Softee Takes Command: Morphological Machines Advance” In this paper I look at the ramifications of cybernetic theory and practice, specifically the demands of contingency, feedback, and automation, on the workings of a generative aesthetic in new media production. I argue that particular forms representative of the categories of “new media art” or “new media” in relation to popular visual culture make a break with the tradition of plastic arts and film/video history exactly in regard to the issue of the generative. I use concepts basic to the theory of cybernetics, information theory, and the “culture of code” as instructive guides by which to discuss new paradigms of cultural production that, as this paper argues, are influenced in equal parts by the history of computing as they are the history of aesthetics. Areas of analysis include the history of electronic and digital arts design and practice in the genre of networked artworks, “deconstructive” digital artworks, generative programs, and Machinima automations. The theoretical works cited include Norbert Wiener’s Human Use of Human Beings, and texts by media and cultural theorists N. Katherine Hayles, and philosopher of technology and temporality Bernard Stiegler.
YELLOW Biology and Medicine
Y1. Medicine, Culture, and Race–(ch. Steven J. Oscherwitz, Artist/Technoscience Reseacher, University of Washington)
Veit Erlmann, School of Music, University of Texas at Austin, “Water, Sex, and Noise: The (Meta)physics of Listening in Germany, circa 1800”
This paper explores the juxtaposition of the emerging neurophysiology of hearing, Kantian transcendental aesthetics and early romanticism in Germany, c.1800. Using the ‘transcendental physiology’ of anatomist Samuel Thomas Sommerring (1755-1830) and the work of novelist Wilhelm Heinse (1746-1803), I argue for the central role of discourses of auditory perception in early romanticism–arguably one of the key sources of modernism–and thus modernity more broadly. Rather than revisiting the “invention” of “absolute music” by poets such as Wackenroder or E.T.A. Hoffmann and its significance for the emergence in the nineteenth century of structural listening, I suggest that the roots of the new forms of auditory awareness lie in the materiality and physiology of the inner ear, its fluids, the structure of the auditory nerve and its proximity to the liquor cerebrospinalis. The site of fierce philosophical, scientific and aesthetic debate, the ear’s central position in Sommerring’s and Heinse’s thought highlights the tensions and shifts in post Enlightenment medicine and culture as it evolved from a concern with Cartesian mechanism to vitalism and organicism, from the aesthetics of affect to that of the sublime.
Cecelia J. Cavanaugh SSJ, Chestnut Hill College, “A Crossroads of Genius – Poetry, Art and Science in Garcia Lorca, Ramon y Cajal and del Rio-Hortega” This paper studies the articulation of the creative process by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the scientists Santiago Ramon y Cajal (Nobel for Medicine in 1906) and Pio del Rio-Hortega, all of whom lived and worked at the Residencia de estudiantes in Madrid in the early twentieth century. In essays, letters and lectures, all three delineated the relationship of their central discipline in terms of another –Lorca referencing science and the scientific method and Cajal and del Rio-Hortega writing extensively about literature and art, a field in which both excelled. It is evident that Lorca was exposed to and receptive to ideas, images and discourse from the scientific community he encountered at the Residencia de estudiantes in Madrid from 1916 to 1928, especially. Tracing the use of scientific vocabulary, scientific principles and the behavior of scientists in his writing demonstrates not only Lorca’s awareness of this discipline, but his respect for it and for its practitioners. Examining the artistic process as a scientific one opens new readings of his work and the work of others.
Amrita Ghosh, Drew University, Co-Founder Editor- Cerebration.org, “19th Century Scientific Discourse and the ‘Race Question'” The latter half of nineteenth-century England was rife with the evolution question. As English imperialism also reached its pinnacle during this time, racial gradations and superiority of the white race in the newly formed human chain loomed large culturally. In 1849, Thomas Carlyle anonymously published his notorious anti-emancipationist perspective in “The Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question,” followed by John Stuart Mill’s divergent response to him in 1850 titled, “The Negro Question.” In 1878, The Westminster Review also published a woman’s perspective, “The Importance of Race and Its Bearing on the Negro Question” by Alice Bodington, which resembled the Carlyle essay in various ways. This paper argues that it is imperative to read these three essays within the scientific discourse of the era, to see how 19th century science, especially phrenology became a “hegemonic system” (a term coined by Edward Said) to perpetrate the normative racial ideologies of the period. Although Mill’s essay was a direct attack on Carlyle and is overtly against Carlyle and Bodington’s ideas, this paper also interrogates Mill’s orientalist sub-text. This is done by comparing the three essays within the scientific framework of Victorian era to show the underlying hegemonic racial discourse and the far reaching impacts of imperialized science.
Nicole Vitellone, Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University, “The Syringe and the Habitus” This paper suggests that the matter of substances–particularly the use of crack and heroin–are not simply effects of social exclusion, which can be measured via ethnographic observation. Rather it points out that substances have come to be inculcated in ways that transform the nature of drugs, the experience of substances and the evaluation of addiction. Reworking Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus–as the embodiment of the socio-cultural–the paper points out that the definition of the habitus should be extended to incorporate non-human matter such as crack and heroin. In so doing, the paper creates a reformulated notion of the habitus which does not close off the matter of drugs but recognises various substances, the technologies of drug use and techniques of their consumption as part of the embodied dispositions which make up the habitus. This is examined in the case of the of criminalisation ‘crack-moms’ in the US and the false medicalisation of ‘crack-babies’. It is also analysed in the British context via the Barnardo’s child poverty awareness campaigns which centred on images of addiction and the child-body. Through this particular example the paper aims to trouble the idea that the object of the disposable syringe and the technological embodiment of drugs offer a way of knowing the sociality of addiction.
Y3. Staging the Fetus: From Body Scripts to Marbeling Pork–(ch. Anker)
Suzanne Anker, Art History Department, School of Visual Arts and Eve Keller, English Department, Fordham University
This roundtable discussion will bring together a visual artist, a molecular biologist, and a literary scholar to address from their differing perspectives, some of the changing conceptions and representations of the human and non-human fetus, from the Enlightenment to modern times. Though each presenter will speak briefly from his or her own discipline, the intent of the session is to generate conversation, both among the presenters and between the presenters and the audience, about how different disciplines approach and construct the object(s) of their attention.
Y5. Medicine and the Mind– (ch. Andrea Polli, Department of Film and Media, Hunter College)
Mark Pizzato, UNC-Charlotte, “The Evolution of Racism in the Brain’s Performativity: Dutchman as Case Study”
How do modern American notions of “race” relate to the evolution of the human race out of Africa, with eventual variations in skin color, and to the performative elements in our brains: a myth-making, left hemisphere and an earlier developing, mimetic, right hemisphere with stronger ties to the primal passions of the limbic system and brainstem? To approach these politico-historical, evolutionary, and neurological relations, this essay will focus on Amiri Baraka’s 1964 drama, Dutchman, and the 1967 film made from it by British director Anthony Harvey. It will apply evolutionary psychology, neurology, and psychoanalytic theory to Harvey’s revision of Baraka’s script about an interracial love affair and murder on a New York City subway car. How does the experience of this drama as cinema, with a white woman seducing and killing a black man onscreen, reflect race and gender relations–not only in the 1960s and today, but also regarding the longer time scheme of human evolution, from nature’s drives to culture’s vexed identifications of skin and sex? Do Dutchman’s screen bodies simply express the destructive dangers of racial envy and manipulative passions–or do they demonstrate the potential of theatre and cinema, in distinctive ways, to contribute to our cultural evolution as black and white, male and female, within one species?
Helen Keane, Gender, Sexuality and Culture Program, School of Humanities, Australian National University, “Prozac, Prescription and Problems of Mass Consumption” In medical literature, antidepressants are commonly described as under-prescribed, depression as under-treated and patients as resistant to anti-depressant therapy. Physicians are advised to treat depression more aggressively and be more alert to subtle signs of its presence. In contrast, public debate and bioethical discussion about the rise of serotogenic anti-depressants such as Prozac present images of excess and mass consumption: prescription rates are soaring, everyday sadness is being medicated and consumers are demanding access to drug treatments, prompted by media and marketing campaigns. This paper will explore these divergent constructions of antidepressant use and misuse (and the difficulty of distinguishing use from misuse). It will focus on the refiguring of medical prescription and prescribed drug consumption in an era of pharmaceutical commodification. How are the actions of doctors and patient/consumers being problematised in models of under- and over-consumption, especially in relation to ideals of autonomous selfhood?
Kiki Benzon, Department of English, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, “Sanity and the Small Screen: Approximating Mental Illness on Television” I will consider how various facets of the psychiatric “industry”–patients, physicians, drug companies, treatment institutions–are simultaneously depicted in and constructed by recent American television series such as e.r., Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. Televisual modes (melodrama, education/propaganda) and techniques (mise-en-scene, narrative sequencing) potentiate a scope of representation that a complex field like psychiatry would require. The “tactility” (McLuhan) of television, furthermore, may facilitate a visceral expression of disorders like depression, bipolarism, and schizophrenia, which are largely beyond intellectual comprehension. But the productive and revelatory possibilities of television are inextricable from the commercial and culturally prescriptive functions of the medium. I will illustrate how programming that deals with institutions surrounding mental illness operates in a double bind that is intrinsic to television itself, where any psychosocially illuminating, didactic or “tactile” renderings of psychiatric disorders coincidentally propagate a vision of “normalcy” that benefits a late capitalist context.
Y6. Imagining Living Being: The Politics of Metaphor in Thinking about Organisms (especially Human Ones)–(ch. Cohen)
Eugene Thacker, School of Literature, Communication & Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology Pestilence and Political Theology”
Historical narratives of plague and pestilence often bear forth a mytho- poetic and political function: plague is often represented as an exceptional instance that is weaponized by a sovereign diety, usually taken to be a sign of divine punishment. The character of these punitive forms, while divinely instrumentalized, involves an intervention into the natural order. If, as Carl Schmitt argues, the miracle in theology is analogous to the exception in politics, then the case of plague-as-punishment presents a conflicted case, existing of the order of nature and yet totally outside of it. This paper will explore the relation between this mytho-poetic and this political function of plague and pestilence. Taking up the dialogue on political theology between Schmitt, Benjamin, and Kantorowicz, this paper will also touch upon current programs in ‘biodefense’ as an ambivalent engagement with the questions of political theology.
Ira Livingston, Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, SUNY, Stony Brook “Dumb Luck Versus Intelligent Design in Origin-of-Life Metaphors” This paper explores the logic of several scientific metaphors of the origin of life, especially physicist Murray Gell-Mann’s account of “frozen accidents” and chemist A.G. Cairns-Smith’s image of “paradoxical structures.” I argue that this logic enacts dialectical contradictions within current paradigms and thus points the way toward new frameworks. Between the extreme inadequacies of both “Intelligent Design” and the scientific response that might as well be called “Dumb Luck” (as in Daniel Dennett’s assertion that “the designs found in nature are nothing short of brilliant, but the process of design that generates them is utterly lacking in intelligence of its own”), can scientific theory affirm an intelligent universe?
Ed Cohen, Women’s and Gender Studies and Comparative Literature, Rutgers University, New Bruswick, “The Inheritance of Inheritance” The current vogue for genetic testing raises a number of questions about the political inheritance of, and the economic and psychological investments in, the biological concept of “inheritance.” As made evident by the popular embrace of genetic testing–whether for purposes of personal identification, property claims, access to resources allocated to designated ethic and racial groups, citizenship rights, or child custody and support–the metaphor of genetic “inheritance” today literalizes the political, legal and economic assumptions upon which it rests. Inheritance was first adopted in the nineteenth century to describe the continuities of “traits” across generations of individuals within a species. Prior to this biological incarnation, inheritance served primarily as a political, legal, and economic concept which defined the temporal disposition of property and position through kinship not biology. The eventual apotheosis of the new bio-political concept in the strands of human DNA, which now figures as the vault where this “inheritance” reposes, thoroughly naturalizes its metaphorical genealogy and thereby conceals its juridico-political origins. Yet as recent critiques of the dogma of DNA suggest, it behooves us to consider the attributes that we inherit when we inherit the trope of genetic inheritance–which is what this paper will do.
Y9. Opportunistic Infections: Disease and Power in Literature and Film–(ch. Garden)
This panel explores the political use of the biological as represented and contested by literature and film. Taking as their premise state and corporate claims of production of and dominion over the healthy and productive body, these papers tease apart the mechanisms of power in relation to the biological by examining representations of health and disease in texts that contend with national (and multinational) control. Some of the texts under discussion frame the diseased body as the limit figure of state power or as a threat to political stability, while others figure state and corporate power as disease or controlling virus. This panel brings together a range of examples of artistic responses to social control through medical regimes of the body and frames activist interventions in the narratives of state power.
Rebecca Garden, Bioethics and Humanities, SUNY Upstate Medical, University, Program Chair, Consortium for Culture and Medicine, “Contagion, Immigration, and Politics: Yellow Fever, SARS, and Avian Flu in the U.S. American Imaginary” In 1793 in Philadelphia, then the capital of the new republic, the seasonal occurrence of yellow fever exploded into a devastating epidemic, which resulted in the loss of over 5,000 Philadelphians, over ten percent of the city’s population. The cause and transmission of the disease were unknown and occurred in conjunction of the arrival of refugees from Haiti, where a slave rebellion was overturning French colonial rule, while revolutionary terror reigned in the colonial power, France. The movement of peoples and revolutionary ideologies around the Atlantic were interpreted in the U.S. as deadly contagion; these social phenomena were interwoven conceptually with the physiological and the metaphorical. My paper will examine the representations of this conflation of disease, immigration, and revolutionary ideology in the novels of early U.S. American author Charles Brockden Brown, reading these representations as a historical template that organizes current understandings of contagion. I will unpack this influence in media accounts of recent and ongoing fears about deadly pandemics–specifically SARS, monkey pox, and avian flu in the twenty-first century–tracing conflations of the biological and metaphorical and the use of the rhetoric of disease in accounts of immigration.
Sue Laizik, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, “Cancer and the Corporation in Richard Powers’ Gain“ Richard Powers in several of his novels explores the relationship between narrative and illness. In his novel Operation Wandering Soul, for example, narrative is a contagion. A resident pediatric surgeon in a hospital in an impoverished section of Los Angeles tries to control the effect of the sickness around him by blocking out the narratives of his patients. In Power’s novel Gain, the spread of cancer in a dying woman becomes the analogical model for the history of a large multinational corporation, providing a narrative structure in which willful and controlled agency is called into question, in which growth does not necessarily imply progress, and in which the human body is the site of narrative. Illness, particularly cancer, offers a perspective that distinctly contrasts with the expansive suggestiveness of the trope of evolution, which implies slow, forward progress on a large scale. Focusing on the novel Gain, I will examine Powers’ complex representations of illness, not simply as a physiological phenomenon, but as a trope, and as itself a creator of relations and connections and thus narrative.
Hyon Joo Yoo Murphree, Department of English and Textual Studies, Syracuse University, “The Incurable Feminine and the Hygiene of the Nation in Contemporary Korean Cinema” Foucault argues the classical form of sovereign power to kill and let live undergoes transformation into the sovereign right of the modern state to make live and let die where the state power is primarily defined by its right to generate and expand civic life. This creative biopower extends the sovereign power beyond the power to discipline and punish. Manufacturing of the hygiene policies and discourse is the culmination of the sovereign right to make live. Nation-states co-construct biophysics and pathology as a new field of power/knowledge necessary to maintain the healthy and productive body of the nation which culminates in the medical regime. I argue the core of the medical regime is in the invention of the incurable which denotes the limit of that technology, and thus, the body to be feared. The creation of the incurable within the technology of hygiene is crucial in consolidating that very technology as the epistemological power that undergirds the power to institutionally control civic body in general. In my paper, I will examine this “reason” of the incurable through the representation of the diseased feminine body (particularly, with mental illness and AIDS) as the incurable and the limit figure of the patriarchal nation in contemporary Korean cinema.
Ziv Neeman, Michigan Society of Fellows, Department of English Literature and Languages, University of Michigan, “From the Material to the Informational: Viral Contagion in William S. Burroughs’ Middle-Period Works” In Naked Lunch (1959), one of the central tropes William S. Burroughs uses to describe drug addiction is contagion. A single exposure can cause immediate and extreme physical, psychological, and behavioral transformations. In the Cut-Up Trilogy–The Soft Machine (1961), The Ticket That Exploded (1962), and Nova Express (1964)–the epidemiological framework and contagion are rendered with greater specificity. However, the trope now comes to be associated mainly with language. Hence, the trope changes from one associated with drugs, a material substance, to one associated with language, an informational medium. This shift can be correlated with Burroughs’ changing conceptualization of his writings’ central theme–control–and his role as a writer. In Naked Lunch, drug addiction functions as the central figure for control with Burroughs (ambivalently) warning against its terrible toll. In the latter works, the forms of control become total and increasingly psychological, and Burroughs offers his radically disjunctive texts as an antidote to the “language virus” controlling people’s “thought feeling and apparent sensory impressions.” Burroughs thus imaginatively transforms the medical (material) concept of contagion into an informational trope that will influence later writers and artists. It also, to an extent, prefigure Dawkins’ notion of “cultural meme” and computer viruses.
Y10. Making Loss Visible Through Fiction, Legislative Testimony and Legal Briefs–(ch. Layne)
This panel (Linda Layne, Heather Swain, Lynn Paltrow) consists of excerpts from two episodes of “Motherhood Lost: Conversations,” an award-winning educational television series co-produced by Linda Layne and Heather Bailey at George Mason University Television which advocates a women’s health approach to pregnancy loss. Footage from “Normalizing Miscarriage Through Popular Culture: A Conversation with Heather Swain, author of Luscious Lemon” and “Combating the Criminalization of Stillbirth and Miscarriage: A Conversation with Lynn Paltrow, Esq., Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women” will be the starting point for a discussion comparing the strategic potentialities of different forms of representation. When, why, and whose pregnancy losses are hidden or made visible? What roles can/should art play? What are the special qualities of fiction, first person, and expert testimony as expressive media for loss? What is at stake when pregnancy loss is kept hidden or made visible?
Y11A. Evolving Humanistic Perspectives in Medical Literature–(ch. Bonk)
Literature with topics or themes related to medicine provides a unique vantage for viewing the society from which that literature derived. Such medical literature can show viewpoints of not only providers and patients, but also the social stage on which medical literature performs. This panel presents medical literature from three key writers–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Albert Camus, and Lauren Slater–to reveal trends for the past two centuries in the evolution of humanistic perspectives in medical literature.
Joshua Dolezal, Dept of English, Central College, “Persuasion and Reform: Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Rhetoric of Medical Science” This paper examines Holmes’s role as a catalyst in the re-imagination of the scientific physician in American literature. One of Hawthorne’s closest friends, Holmes devoted much of his literary and scientific work to medical reform, establishing himself as the patient’s advocate by arguing against poor hygiene in “The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever” and by exposing reckless therapeutics in “Homoeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions.” Holmes’s medical principles were heavily influenced by the French clinical tradition, particularly by his mentor Pierre Louis. Bringing the clinical method to bear on his practice of medicine in the United States, Holmes stressed the role of storytelling in medicine by engaging the popular imagination with accessible, science-driven metaphors. His medical reforms may have been reactions to the caricatures of medical scientists in Hawthorne’s short fiction and other nineteenth-century American literature.
Robert J. Bonk, Widener University, “Medicine as Absurdity in Albert Camus’s ‘The Plague'” As a social construct, modern medicine perforce reflects that society’s paradigms and perspective. But did modern society open a Pandora’s Box releasing remedy and risk from medical technology? Both cared for and cut by this caducean sword, society began to question if its desired ‘magic bullet’ can offer a panacea for our antiseptic institutions. Such internal conflicts required a new microscope for examining this increasing dilemma. Enter Albert Camus. Afflicted in his youth with tuberculosis and then depression, Camus transitioned from an early journalism career into fiction writing, eventually recognized by the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. His novel “The Plague” (first published in 1947 in the original French as “La Peste”) examines a bubonic-like epidemic in Oran, a soon-to-be quarantined seaside town in Algeria. Players isolated by sand and sea look in vain to their institutions of society–religion, government, medicine–as they struggle to survive this epidemic. Within this context, Camus’s perspective of absurdism–struggle against the conflict arising when trapped between contradictory inevitabilities–offers a vantage point into this modern society nonetheless powerless to stave off “The Plague.”
Elizabeth Donaldson, Chair, Interdisciplinary Studies, Dept of English, New York Institute of Technology, “The “Bad” Patient: Lauren Slater’s Lying“ As the public awareness of anti-depressant medication surged in the 1990s, Lauren Slater’s Prozac Diary became the quintessential auto-pathography, documenting her life with major depression and the subsequent alleviation of her symptoms with the new media-darling wonder-drug Prozac. However, Slater’s pronounced ambivalence about her Prozac-inspired “cure” or recovery–like Peter Kramer’s cautions about the ethics of the ever-increasing medication of people with minor depressive disorders in Listening to Prozac –was relatively ignored by a culture swept up by the Prozac enthusiasm. Slater’s later “metaphorical memoir,” Lying, on the other hand, is not so easily appropriated. A parody of the illness narrative, a pathological pathography, Lying is the dark sister text of Prozac Diary –Slater’s subversion of the autobiographical conventions and imperatives of illness narratives. As such, Lying reveals the shortcomings of reading practices in medical humanities, which have often used patient narratives as transparent evidence of the illness experience. In this model, reading patients’ narratives become moral exercises, ideally fostering empathy and teaching doctors to practice medicine humanely. Slater’s Lying, however, is unreliable (some would say unlikable) and purposefully resists this sort of reading. Slater’s autobiographical writings, I will argue, force us to recognize and to rethink the assumptions about the patient and the text that structure the genre of illness narratives.
Y11B. “Nebulizer: The Asthma Files”–(ch. Fortun)
Rich Doyle, Department of English, Penn State University and Alexandra Shields, Institute of Health Policy, Harvard Medical School
This panel centres on a video/dance performance about asthma as an experience, social and political-economic phenomena, and object of scientific concern. The performance brings together the work of a video artist (Surajit Sarkar, Department of Arts and Integrated Electronic Arts [iEAR] Studios, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), an ethnomusicologist and dancer (Tomie Hahn, iEAR, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), an electronic musician (Curtis Bahn, iEAR, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), a historian of science (Mike Fortun, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and a cultural anthropologist (Kim Fortun, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). The dancer unfolds a layered costume to become a projection space for images and sounds of various facets of the asthma experience – from the vantage point of affected people, their care-givers, and scientists from different disciplines; at different scales, from the genetic to the community to the national. The performance take viewers through the lived experience of asthma; possible triggers and physiological dynamics of asthma; efforts to understand how gene-environment interactions contribute to asthma incidence and exacerbation; diverse ways of treating asthma; and, finally to trackings of extraordinary and socially uneven prevalence of asthma in different locales today. A video of the performance is accompanied by two talks on asthma genetics, followed by commentary.
Y12. Evolving Pedagogies of Humanities in Medical Education–(ch. Bonk)
Medical education can take many forms across the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate stages. Within this hierarchy, traditional medical pedagogy has focused on the sciences and their application; this focus, in fact, potentially increases in our modern technological age. The humanities, however, offer our institutions another avenue for inculcating in medical students (regardless of their educational stage) an appreciation for their patients and the human condition overall. This panel presents three approaches for adding that depth to medical education through the humanities.
Ruben J. Nazario, M.D., Section of Inpatient Pediatrics Kentucky Children’s Hospital, “Humanities in Medicine or Medical Humanities? The Evolution of Medical Humanities Programs” The purpose of this paper is to explore the underlying curricular paradigms driving the collaboration between the humanities and medicine. The essay will explore the philosophical evolution behind the inclusion of the humanities in the medical school curriculum, starting with the perception by medical school educators in the middle of the twentieth century that medicine was undergoing a technical shift away from its humanistic basis. The paper will examine some of the curricular models currently used in medical humanities programs. Finally, the essay will examine possible avenues for the implementation and interaction of the humanities and medicine.
Robert J. Bonk, Widener University, “From Page to Stage: Exploring Medicine through the Humanities” Both a science and an art, medicine reflects more about a society than simply our technological paradigms. By exploring medicine through the humanities, students can discover mirrors within societies that reflect the many facets of medicine–especially the dichotomies of life-death, health-illness, and provider-patient. To provide this viewpoint, I developed an undergraduate course at Widener University that targets Honors students with an interest in medicine and related healthcare fields. A key element of the original course focused on a public session of staged readings directed by a local theater expert (funding provided through an internal grant). In this first offering, students’ evaluations documented the value they perceived from exploring and appreciating medicine through literature. A key aspect was the session of staged readings: anecdotally, many students commented on how assuming the roles of patients, providers, and caregivers brought the literature to life. Given this success, I expanded the original course to encompass more multifaceted genres–history, philosophy, film, and the fine arts now complement the original poetry, prose, and drama. But the heart of this course remains a public forum that will continue to elevate ‘from page to stage’ the humanistic aspects of medicine.
Lois LaCivita Nixon, Division of Medical Ethics and Medical Humanities, Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, University of South Florida, “End-of-Life: Postmodern Revisions” Before the phrase “end-of-life issues” became an important part of contemporary thinking in a world transformed by technology, death was considered a natural event in life’s journey. Often, it occurred at home within a family context. At an appropriate time, physicians, who were generally unable to provide life-extending care, stood aside as a religious figure stepped in to assume authority. As to the physician’s feelings and frustrations, these were unexpressed. This discussion focuses on examples from the humanities, specifically art and poetry, to illustrate changes that have occurred in setting and circumstances and how, in recent years, we have begun to hear subjective responses from physicians and patients. In the context of medicine, science, and ethics, the paper is intended to provide a complementary but different slant to end-of-life information presented in the medical text.
Susan Arjmand, M.D., Dept of Family Medicine, Rush Medical College, “The Humanities & Physician-Patient Relationships” Medical educators recognize the need to teach empathy, communication, and capacity for developing satisfying and therapeutic physician-patient relationships. The humanities are recognized as disciplines that may provide a pathway to achieving this goal. The presenter will share her experiences teaching a course using narrative with third- and fourth-year medical students, a seminar using literature with family medicine residents, and a course using medical readers’ theatre with second-year medical students. The objectives were to teach physician-learners to engage in close reading of text to promote critical and cultural analysis and self-reflection about the patient encounter.
G1. “The Public Face of Cosmic Evolution”–(ch. Palmeri)
Steven J. Dick, NASA Chief Historian, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, “Cosmic Evolution: Origins, Development and Uses of an Idea”
Cosmic evolution has become the conceptual framework within which modern astronomy is undertaken, and is the guiding principle of major NASA programs such as Origins and Astrobiology. While there are 19th- and early 20th century antecedents, it was only at mid-20th century that full-blown cosmic evolution began to be articulated and accepted as a research paradigm extending from the Big Bang to life, intelligence and the evolution of culture. Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley was particularly important in spreading the idea to the public in the 1950s, and NASA embraced the idea in the 1970s as part of its SETI program and later its exobiology and astrobiology programs. Eric Chaisson, Carl Sagan and others were early proponents of cosmic evolution, and it continues to be elaborated in ever more subtle form as a scientific research program. It is taught in some universities as “Big History,” the ultimate in Fernand Braudel’s longue duree history. It also has religious and philosophical implications; Arthur Peacocke, a biochemist and an Anglican priest, has termed cosmic evolution” Genesis for the Third Millennium.” This paper documents the development of the idea, and argues that it will play an increasingly important role in the Third Millennium.
JoAnn Palmeri, History of Science Department, University of Oklahoma, “Harlow Shapley, Cosmic Evolution, and the Promotion of Science as ‘Rational Religion'” As in the case of biological evolution, in the 20th century cosmic evolution has functioned as more than a scientific account of nature. It has become a scientific idea invested with cultural and moral significance. Astronomers use cosmic evolution to promote their discipline, bolster the case for biological evolution, and encourage support for science. These themes are examined using the case of Harlow Shapley, who became an influential spokesman for science through his roles as astronomer, observatory director, and popularizer. Shapley’s mission was to bring the facts of science to the widest possible audience and to identify the societal significance of these facts. In his popular lectures and books he promoted a vision of the cosmos that held lessons of the broader significance of science for humanity. He drew heavily upon evolutionary ideas in his advocacy of astronomy, science, and rationality. From the 1950s through the 1960s cosmic evolution served as the foundation for Shapley’s efforts to promote science as “stellar theology” or “rational religion,” which he identified as the next step in the evolution of religion. This paper will focus on Harlow Shapley’s use of cosmic evolution as a central theme in his efforts to promote and popularize science.
Craig McConnell, Department of Liberal Studies, California State University, Fullerton, “Evolutionary Metaphors and the Popularization of Big Bang Cosmology” Since early in the development of big bang cosmology, evolutionary metaphors have been applied to cosmological theories. George Gamow invoked the metaphor in part to distance himself from the ex nihilo implications of the expanding universe, implications that his work on the early universe drew ever greater attention to. Many astronomers, physicists, and science writers since the 1950s have extended the use of this metaphor in many directions. For some, the word evolution merely implies development over time. Lee Smolin, on the other hand, has advanced the idea of “cosmological natural selection,” fully embracing the evolutionary metaphor. In this paper, I will examine the origins of evolutionary language in popular works on cosmology, and draw attention to the implications that these metaphors have for the reception of the big bang in philosophical and popular contexts. http://faculty.fullerton.edu/cmcconnell
G2. Interrogating Intelligent Design–(ch Blackwell)
Stephen H. Blackwell, University of Tennessee, “Nabokov, Goethe, and Morphology in Evolution”
Vladimir Nabokov’s work as a professional lepidopterist is famous but poorly known. Even less known are his efforts in the field of evolutionary theory. Some of these were fictional, in the form of writings by his character in The Gift and its supplement “Father’s Butterflies,” Konstantin Godunov-Cherdyntsev. Others are to be found in his scientific papers published in the 1940s and -50s. Careful analysis of these theoretical proposals reveals that they are all closely allied with what is now called “Goethean” science: a science focused on a detailed phenomenological study of nature, one which approaches nature “holistically” and resists Newtonian quantification. In this paper I explore important unities linking Nabokov’s scientific work and his “fictional” science, demonstrating how Nabokov creates his own idiosyncratic theory of evolution, based in part on ideas drawn from German Romantic Naturphilosophie, in part on his own scientific research. This personal theory in turn can serve as a valuable heuristic in assessing the significance of his works’ complex structures, which express artistically various aspects of the theory.”
Martin Potschka, Independent Scholar, “Intelligent design does not contradict Neodarwinian logic” Neodarwinism has been challenged along two lines. One, by Creationists who take a literal reading of the Bible. The second line focuses on intelligent design, claiming that there is evidence for irreducible complexity that depend on a blueprint. Proponents usually overlook the fact that the blueprint needs to be designed itself, i.e. has its own evolution. We do not know the structural base of intelligence but if we assume that it resembles natural language, some conclusions are possible. According to the hypothetico-deductive paradigm of epistemology supported by Popper, Einstein and many others, inference from facts to principles is an impossibility. Goal directed action unconsciously is executed by a trial/variation-and-error procedure, a testing in virtual space before selecting and remembering the optimal action path. Creating an intelligent design therefore is a neodarwinian process and bootstrapping intelligence in its initial stages was highly dependent on Neodarwinian principles of variation and selection. Intelligent design therefore is no conceptual alternative to Darwinism but may add features to biology that remain to be discovered. The full paper can be found as a link at: http://homepage.univie.ac.at/martin.potschka/Evolution.htm
Jeremy Smyczek, Dept of English, University of North Carolina Wilmington, “By any Other Name: Retitling as Rhetoric in Intelligent Design” On Dec. 20, 2005, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III (Middle Pennsylvania) maintained that intelligent design (ID) theory, the idea that biological life is “irreducibly complex,” and must by inference be attributed to a divine creator, is “merely biblical creationism in a new guise.” This view is in accordance with that held by the substantial majority of laboratory biologists and most educators that this new name does not itself denote a new intellectual or scientific entity. Proponents of evolution in the biological curricula claimed a watershed moment in their efforts to cement the teaching of physical science without appended metaphysics. Yet, even if the assertion is granted that this nominal new movement is but an old movement repackaged, the effects of this renaming remain uncertain and largely unexplored. This essay argues that the rhetorical implications of retitling creationism are more significant than is popularly assumed. It explores intelligent design as a title-as well as the intents and effects of that title toward and upon adherents and the broadcast media who are the arbiters of public nomenclature. What will be ultimately examined is the manner in which the new name for this movement can successfully alter public perceptions of its nature.
G3. Out of Order: Evolution and Chronology–(ch. Meyer)
“Out of order” can mean either “out of sequence” or “broken”: what happens to our understanding of evolution when we put both meanings into play? Are we still left with some form of evolutionary theory? Is it Darwinian? Is it Darwinism? Are these the same or different? (Or have we merely replaced “order out of chaos” with “out of order, disorder”?) Gertrude Stein described herself as a creature of the nineteenth century insofar as she was “a natural believer in science a natural believer in progress. “Darwin’s theory of evolution” opened up the history of all animals vegetables and minerals, and man.” Yet, as she gradually came to realize, “at the same time” it “made them all confined, confined within a circle.” As a result there was ‘no excitement of creation any more. “In this panel we are concerned with demonstrating various ways that evolutionary histories, among them the history of the Darwinian concept of evolution, may require a supplementary dose of (bracing) disorder in order to avoid the dullness of repetition–the same explanation over and over of so much evolutionary psychology, for example–that Stein warns against. Evolutionary theory has a history. Here are several, hitherto unwritten, chapters of that history.
James Bono, Dept of History, University at Buffalo, SUNY, “From the Book of Nature to Darwin’s ‘Entangled Bank’: Multiplicity, Immanence, and the Shadow of Disorder” The will to order–and with it, the desire for the clarity and transparency of abstractions wrested from the entangled web of experience, captured in concepts, theories, and laws– has a long history. It is, moreover, a history written in the shadow of “disorder,” as Michel de Certeau shrewdly notes. Darwin’s achievement was to bring new order to the world of organic forms, while nonetheless insisting that we turn our gaze, however fleetingly and forgetfully, upon the profusion–the bewildering variety–of living things. If Darwin’s discovery was of a temporal and contingent world in which material life-forms were “out of sequence “with respect to a now “broken”–or, at the very least, disarticulated–chain of being, his invention was, powerfully, to redescribe the order of nature as the agonistic and messy product of natural selection. Rather than focus on Darwin and evolution proper, my paper ruminates upon the prehistory, if you will, of attempts to fashion order in the shadow of disorder as a necessary context for appreciating Darwin’s turn to a nature uncompromising, at once, in its immanence and its sheer multiplicity. I look to the period signaled by de Certeau: to the emergence in early modern Europe of a new experience of spatiality as multiple and fragmented and as requiring a toolkit of techniques to tame–to bring order to–the multiplicity of objects found in the proliferating microcosms uncovered by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Ultimately, by tipping the balance toward immanent processes, temporality, multiplicity, and becoming, Darwin would authorize a search for order that forever parts company with traditional renditions of the Book of Nature: a search for order that can never escape the shadow of disorder. In good Whiteheadian fashion, the “unity of the universe requires its multiplicity”: understanding nature, listening to it in its multiplicity, means that “there is no parting from your own shadow.”
Joan Richardson, Dept of English, CUNY Graduate Center, “Emerson’s Evolutionary Sense” “ Oliver Wendell Holmes was the first to observe Emerson’s anticipation of evolution, even before Robert Chambers’s 1844 Vestiges of Creation. Like Darwin, Emerson was an avid reader of scientific texts. Both were also interested in philology and language theory, and, significantly, read and reread Milton’s Paradise Lost, realizing in its grammatical inversions and syntactic variations a template for imagining new worlds. While Emerson’s secular conversion after his famous 1833 visit to the Jardin des Plantes, when he vowed to become “a naturalist,” has been richly discussed, as has his reading in natural philosophy, geology, botany, etc., these experiences have not been sufficiently considered in connection with the dramatic effects of his style. Reading Emerson with the texts from which he borrowed alongside reveals his mode of composition to be a linguistic analogue of the process of speciation he had observed in the adjoining parterres at the Jardin des Plantes. While he did not have the vocabulary of evolution, his writing evidences how deeply he had internalized it into his perceptual framework, derived from his close observation of “the method of nature,” which he described as “ecstasy.” Emerson’s work changed the idea of imagination itself, representing in the formal characteristics of his writing the process of imperfect replication, or mutation, that is the engine of evolutionary change.
Steven Meyer, Dept of English, Washington University, “What Does Anachronism Have to Do with Evolution?” Recently, Romanticist literary history has taken something of an anachronistic turn, with Jerome Christensen and James Chandler, for instance, arguing for positive forms of anachronism, at least for the usefulness of a more positive spin on the old bugbear. The problem is that traditional, progressivist accounts (progressively better or progressively worse, Hegelian, empiricist, post-whatever) have become too clearly, and tiresomely, just that: stories, not actual history. Literary history, it appears, is no less prone to the Just So stories and related exercises in tautology that notoriously afflict evolutionary psychology. Behind Christensen and Chandler, one occasionally catches glimpses of Paul de Man’s full-scale assault on “patterns of historical periodization” which are “at the same time so productive as heuristic devices yet so demonstrably aberrant.” On this account, history proves to be a function, first and foremost, of “the rhetoric of history” or what a decade earlier de Man famously characterized as “the rhetoric of temporality.” Any history worthy of the name must take such rhetoricity as fully into account as possible. Instead of serving as prima-facie evidence of ahistorical sloppiness, anachronicity alerts one to framing problems and at the same time suggests possible solutions. In the present paper I propose to investigate several biological analogues of such anachronicity–Darwinian and post-Darwinian accounts of atavism and repurposing, for instance, as well as the punctuated equilibrium of Gould and Eldridge–in light of the meta-historical historical work of de Man, Christensen and Chandler.
G4. Teleology, Emergence, and Radical Chance– (ch. Alexander)
Victoria N. Alexander, Dactyl Foundation, “Deterministic Chance (As a Kind of Punning), Emergence, and Final Causality”
My talk will revisit the idea of teleology from the perspective of nonlinear dynamics research, which revives and naturalizes many of its concepts, such as the existence of archetypical patterns, evolutionary directionality, and self-organization. From this new vantage point, we can clearly see that teleological phenomena have two distinct aspects, which I call directionality and originality. Drawing on Vladimir Nabokov’s lepidoptery, I give examples of the evolution of butterfly “mimics” favoring one or the other. My argument will show a preference for deterministic chance, rather than radical chance found in quantum mechanical systems, as key to understanding unpredictability in evolution because it is the nonlinear dynamics of complex systems that provides the mechanisms for locking in a fluctuation and generating order out of disorder, that is, for breaking symmetry. I will briefly rehearse some of the nitty-gritty details of symmetry breaking in butterfly wing pattern formation to show how the process can be considered a semiotic process. In conclusion, I will attempt to improve upon C. S. Peirce’s semiotic by emphasizing what I term the “accidental” or “poetic” nature of some instances of icons, indices, and symbols.
Jeffrey Goldstein, School of Business, Adelphi University, “Symmetry and Symmetry-breaking in the Self-transcending Constructional Logic of Emergence” To explicate the nature of emergent wholes, theorists have turned to different conceptualizations including the idea of symmetry groups. Yet, since emergence also involves genuine novelty, there must be some sort of symmetry-breaking as well. Symmetry and symmetry-breaking have proved their value in several fundamental theoretical approaches in physics such as the study of phase transitions, the Standard Model of particle physics, quantum field theory, and superstrings. In previous work I have developed the concept of “self-transcending constructions” as both a generalization and codification of emergence, primarily for drawing-out its metaphysical implications. In this paper, I will first show how the notions of symmetry and-symmetry breaking can be of some help in shedding light on emergence. But I will conclude by discussing some of my reservations concerning the ultimate usefulness of symmetry-breaking for understanding emergence.
Arkady Plotnitsky, Theory and Cultural Studies Program, Department of English, Purdue University, “Two Conceptions of Chance, Teleology, and the Structure of Evolutionary Theory” “ My title alludes to Stephen Jay Gould’s title of his magnum opus, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, published posthumously in 2002. Forty years earlier, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn noted that the most radical idea behind Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory was the idea that the primary force of evolutionary change is chance rather than any causal teleology. Both Gould and Kuhn link the structures of biological and scientific evolutions, or revolutions, to chance. My question in this paper is what is the particular character of this chance, specifically, whether this chance is a manifestation of necessity, however hidden or remote, or not. These two alternatives define two notions of chance-classical, which entails a hidden necessity behind chance, and nonclassical, in which case we do not and indeed cannot assume a necessity or causality behind this chance. Our conception of evolution is crucially determined by whether we assume that chance that shapes evolution to be classical or nonclassical. Indeed, as I argue, the very ideas of both history and teleology, at least from Hegel on, is essentially linked to how we think about chance. I shall close with a brief discussion of the significance of literature for the ideas considered in this paper.
G5. Featured Panel: “Into the Cool”–(ch. John Bruni, Department of Humanities, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology)
Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan discuss their book, Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life (Chicago, 2005), a scientific tour de force showing how evolution, ecology, economics and life itself are organized by energy flow and the laws of thermodynamics. There are natural, animate and inanimate systems like hurricanes and life whose complexity are not the result of conscious human design, nor of divine caprice, nor of repeated, computer-like functions. The common key to all organized systems is how they control their energy flow. Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool, Schneider and Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics. See www.intothecool.com
G6. Origin of Species by Natural Semiosis: Biosemiotics and Evolution–(ch. Hoffmeyer)
Jesper Hoffmeyer, University of Copenhagen, and Don Favareau, National University of Singapore, “Origin of Species by Natural Semiosis: Biosemiotics and Evolution”
The myth of the blind mutation has permeated biological thinking for decades. Its main function has been to safeguard biological theory against all kinds of instructionist ideas whether of Lamarckian or Christian origin. Moreover, the recurrent religiously motivated attacks on Darwinian teachings in the U.S. has made it very hard to critically discuss, even from a scientific point of view. There are however serious reasons to question this myth, as has been shown not least in the work on symbiogenesis of Lynn Margulis and co-workers: The conventional view of natural selection “directs evolution through the propagation and elimination of what it already has,” write Margulis and Sagan. Symbiogenesis–or creation of novel form via mutually beneficial co-“operation” between organisms–may, however, ultimately prove to be the primary generator of the new “raw material that natural selection can then select.” The study of natural systems as basically semiotic systems, i. e. biosemiotics, reinforces Margulis’ criticism by placing symbiogenesis inside an even more comprehensive understanding of the interaction patterns of living systems. According to biosemiotics, organisms not only belong to ecological niches, they also belong to semiotic niches–which is to say that all organisms have to master a set of signs of visual, acoustic, olfactory, tactile and chemical origin in order to survive. And it is entirely possible that the semiotic demands on species populations are often a decisive challenge to success (and hence, the evolution of more sophisticated sign-detecting and sign-processing apparatuses in organisms). If this is the case, then ecosystem dynamics, therefore, shall have to include a proper understanding of the semiotic networks operative in ecosystems. Very likely our present knowledge gives us only a small glimpse of a nearly inexhaustible stock of semiotic interaction patterns taking place at all levels of complexity from cells and tissues inside the individual body, to interaction among and between organisms, all the way up to the level of ecosystems. In this view chance mutations are not selected because they are beneficial; they are beneficial because they happen to appear in a relational system which was already well prepared for them. Thus evolution is not at all a result of blind mutations, but is caused rather by those semiotic integrations which allowed biosystems to profit from the eventual appearance of “lucky” mutations. Or in Pasteur’s famous saying “only the well prepared will profit from good fortune.” The panel will discuss biosemiotics in the context of organic evolution and discuss historical and philosophical aspects of this new approach to the life sciences.
G7. Biosemiotics–(ch. Wheeler)
Eugene Halton, Dept. of Sociology, University of Notre Dame, “Shut Up!”
The human body-mind formed in the living landscape, and deformed in the domesticated landscape and cityscape. The regressive removal of body-mind from living landscape into walled cities and sacred books seems to be an infernal law of devolution. Today the sacred screen has taken the body-mind absorption further. Modern science has achieved precision, but the cost has tended to be the cutting away as unreal the body of the fountain of life, our biosemiotic essence, our capacities for empathic sensing, for poetic imagination, for full passionate awareness. Is it possible to keep the baby, but change the bathwater, not throw them both out? The baby is our hunter-gatherer body-mind, the bathwater is the self-enclosures of consciousness that began with civilizational consciousness, that narrowed in the Judeo-Greco-Christian-Islamic bottleneck, and that strangulated in the modern mythic machine view of a tick-tock universe associated with science and technology. The progress associated with history can be considered as a contraction of mind, as humanity shut up inside an anthropocentric mind it constructed. Yet the original body-mind remains our evolutionary human heritage. Related work by Halton can be found at pragma cyberlibrary: http://www.unlv.edu/centers/cdclv/archives/pragmat_lit.html/
Vicki Kirby, School of Sociology and Anthropology, The University of New South Wales, “The Life of Language as the Language of Life” The “linguistic turn” in the humanities has textualized the object, underlining the dynamic self-reference of sign systems, the unstable and problematic nature of identity and the temporal implosions of an “always/already” that refuse simple linearity. The complexity of language and its creative “machinery” are routinely attributed to a human author. But what if it is in the nature of Nature to rewrite its own script in a self-referential convers(at)ion? How is the human secured against Nature if Nature’s very evolution and internal individuations are expressions of this literacy? This paper will explore this contention by considering a contemporary debate within biology about what constitutes a “first sign” of life. In the curious case of “nanobes,” purportedly discovered in meteorites, deep drilling cores and Martian rocks, disagreement over their existence reflects a more general question about the nature of the sign itself. What is a sign and how does it work? In a sense, the question of language is the puzzle of genesis in its most general sense. How is difference proliferated – in natural languages, genetics, speciation, mineral parsings? Does the leap from non-life to life mark the inauguration of language, or is it an instantiation of language at work?
Thomas Lamarre, McGill University, “The Serial Being of Objects: Individuation, Biosemiotics, and Media Ecology” Simondon’s concern with the ‘physiological’ dimension of the individuation of technical objects (their interior necessities or entelechies) is sometimes contrasted with the serial being of aesthetic objects, which are allegedly a matter of exterior design. But, I would argue, Mikhail Bakhtin in literature and Henri Focillon in art are equally concerned with the physiology of their series, Bakthin with transformations of the novel that are entirely internal to its form, and Focillon with changes in linear forms that arise for internal reasons. More importantly, I will argue, mass-produced objects such as those of film or television–what might be called ‘generic objects’–do not simply blur the distinction between the technical object and the aesthetic object but also transform in accordance to internal necessities or entelechies and might be said to have a physiology in Simondon’s sense. In addition, Simondon’s ideas about individuation mesh in many ways with biosemiotic and physiosemiotic analyses of the ways in which living things make worlds. Generic objects may entail ‘world-modeling,’ and consideration of this aspect of generic objects may afford another approach to media ecology.
Wendy Wheeler, Reader in English, Dept of Humanities, Arts & Languages, London Metropolitan University, “A Failed Act of Eating: Appetite and Semiosymbiogenesis in a Biosemiotic Account of Aesthetic and Ethical Creativity” In her suggestion that evolutionary creativity, as complex and emergent, may have depended upon a microbial ‘failed act of eating’, Lynn Margulis offers a productive way of thinking about the ways in which the human evolution of culture might be thought about as a repetition, at different and emergent scales, of this fundamental cellular gesture. This paper will explore the implications of this, as a form of tacit knowledge, in order to argue for a biosemiotic understanding of both aesthetic and ethical creativity as kinds of creative ‘failed eating’. Taking C.S. Peirce’s observations both of ‘nature’s tendency to take habits’ and of the ‘outward clash’ of the object world in all subjective experience, I will suggest that the human encounter with the demands of difference–in both ethical and aesthetic life–might fruitfully be understood as a repetition of the tensions involved in the creative act of symbiosis by which all life evolved. Following the argument that nothing is lost in evolution, and that ‘every cell in our bodies contains the history of the universe’, I will suggest that the symbiogenesis of ‘failed eating’ provides the creative pattern in which C.S. Peirce’s ‘nature’s tendency to take habits’ is repeated in our ethical and aesthetic encounters.
G8. Evolution, Race, Media– (ch. Clough)
Lindy Orthia, Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, The Australian National University, “Boundedness, Relationality and Evolution in Biological Systems”
The study of biology in its current form is largely premised on a classificatory way of seeing that breaks the biological world into bounded entities ranked in one or more hierarchies: taxonomic, ecological, genealogical, structural, etc. It is increasingly apparent that this way of seeing the world does not fully reflect its reality: eg, mycologist Alan Rayner considers it more useful (and more accurate) to characterise biological systems as having dynamic boundaries, and as constantly shifting between determinate and indeterminate ways of being. In this paper I will draw on literature questioning the thingification of the biological world, and discuss how these challenges might affect some of the basic premises of contemporary evolutionary theory. In particular, I want to address the idea that relationality is a more primary characteristic of living systems than is reproduction. This implies the necessity of disrupting the centrality of adaptationist approaches to explaining biological phenomena. Relationality may be an important organising idea for understanding diverse biological phenomena from the ‘selection anomalies’ of altruism and homosexuality to autoimmune diseases to the maintenance of sexual reproduction.
Aviva Taubenfeld, State University of New York, Purchase College, “Mendel’s Melting Pot: The Drama, Politics, and Science of Making Americans in the Early 20th Century” The 1908 drama The Melting Pot, written by a British Jew and backed by an American President, introduced into public discourse the central symbol of immigrant-host interaction in the United States. Overlooked to date, however, are the complex ways in which the play and the contradictory relationship between its author, Israel Zangwill, and his Presidential patron, Theodore Roosevelt, participated in and problematized trans-Atlantic debates over evolution, race theory and the developing science of genetics. This paper examines Zangwill’s work as a deliberate intervention in these discussions. It places the play back into the context of the science of the period and looks at how Zangwill used “the Jew” to put forth a liberal theory of heredity and integration that ultimately reified race.
Patricia Ticineto Clough, The Graduate Center CUNY, “Inviting and Dismissing A Post-biological Evolution in the Discourses of Biomedia and New Media” Taking up recent critical discourses on biomedia and new media, I examine the way these discourses are drawn to a post-biological evolutionary threshold, which is approached however with a strong ambivalence. I explore this ambivalence by focusing on the way these discourses treat both the autopoietic body and digitization in terms of the philosophical conceptualization of the virtual. I argue that it is in crossing an empirical treatment of digital technology and the autopoietic body with the philosophical conceptualization of the virtual that the postbiological threshold is reached, even while being dismissed. Yet, it is at this threshold that capital is accumulating in the domain of life itself while deploying a racist biopolitics that allows some life capacities to be valued against other life capacities, allows the risk to life of some populations against others to be calculated as a matter of biopolitical control. Yet, in their ambivalence to a post-biological threshold, I want to argue, the discourses of biomedia and new media are restricted in providing a criticism of the present day political economy of life and death.
G9. The Idea of Evolution in Literature and Art: How Darwin Shaped Literary Theory and Modernist Art History Writing–(ch. Wunsche)
This panel explores the role that evolutionary theory played in the formation and development of literary theory and art history writing. While the concept of evolution distinctly influenced the shift from formations of rather a-historic aesthetic categories to interpretations of the “natural” development of artistic styles and the interaction of modernist -isms, it also shaped the artists’ understanding of their role in the overall process of human artistic and cultural development. This panel wishes to particularly focus on the various modernist narratives of the development of artistic styles and the visual arts in general as well as on new interpretations of the role of the artist in this process.
Mark Wolff, Hartwick College, “Evolution and Literary History in Late Nineteenth-Century French Education” During the Third Republic, literary history served to construct the idea of a French cultural identity that united students and teachers in a common intellectual enterprise celebrating the genius of great French authors. Gustave Lanson played a pivotal role in establishing the ideas of individuality and l’esprit francais as foundational concepts for understanding a national literature, relying on Hippolyte Taine and Ferdinand Brunetiere to formulate his idea of the great author. Taine had established the importance of an author’s race, milieu et moment in making sense of a literary work, but Brunetiere used the idea of evolution to explain literary history. In L’Evolution des genres dans l’histoire de la litterature (1890), Brunetiere described great literary works as mutations of genres in particular historical contexts. Lanson would appropriate this idea to explain the irreducible originality of the great author, but for Brunetiere, the continuing efforts of critics since the Renaissance to classify texts demonstrated that human understanding of literature had evolved over time and would continue to change. Brunetiere’s theory of the evolution of genres ultimately challenged Lanson’s idea of a transhistorical French mind that could apprehend the works of great national authors throughout history.
Alexandra Karl, University of Utah, “Darwinian Men in Late Nineteenth Century German Painting” One of Darwinism’s many contributions was to articulate ‘the animal nature of man.’ This talk will chart some of the ways in which this new identity was explored by German painters working in the late nineteenth century. Specifically, we will investigate several new manifestations of composite subjects (Tiermenschen). Evidence of their Darwinian nature will be provided both in iconography and critical reception.
Jennifer Marshall, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University, “Intelligent Design: Functional Form in Alfred Barr’s Interwar Modernism” As the first director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it was Alfred Barr’s job to explain modern art’s innovations to a skeptical public. For Barr, predisposed to a teleological view of art’s unfolding, evolutionary discourse supplied a useful language for explaining how artistic mutations – all those many “-isms” -could eventually further art’s progression toward beauty. In this endeavor, Barr argued that certain necessary principles of shape and structure guaranteed all artistic survival. One particularly striking example of this appeared in Barr’s essay for MoMA’s industrial design show of 1934, Machine Art. In keeping with the longer tradition of citing patterns in nature as proof of biology’s tendency toward perfection (even in all its diversity), Barr compared a mechanical spring to a snail shell. The helix’s recurrence in both offered evidence that a limited number of shapes constituted functional fitness and, accordingly, artistic beauty. By examining the naturalist metaphors in Barr’s Machine Art essay, this paper will demonstrate how his highly influential brand of formalist modernism relied first of all on a functionalist cosmology of intelligent design: a worldview that deeply shaped how MoMA would interpret modern art and artistic change in the early twentieth century.
Fae Brauer, The University of New South Wales, “Modernism as Devolution: Gombrich, Darwin and Darwinism” In his 1953 Ernest Jones Lecture on Psychoanalysis and the History of Art, Ernst Gombrich puzzled over why so many preferred Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon to Bouguereau’s nymphs. Drawing his model of art history from Darwin’s Descent of Man, Gombrich’s Story(ies) of Art were narrated as the progressive evolution of illusionism in Western art over generations modified by artistic selection. Given that not every human being was, according to Gombrich, born with the capacity for progressive mimesis, his evolution was reliant upon a genealogy of selective influences spawned by so-called “superior artists”. Seminal to this long evolution were “superior artists” overcoming “inferior” ones in accordance with the Darwinian axiom, “survival of the fittest”. Yet instead of the “fittest” art evolving from the twentieth-century struggle for survival, in his last book Gombrich lamented that the opposite had ensued. “The cult of regression”, which Gombrich elided with a culture of regression, had resulted in Duchamp’s Fountain, which Gombrich located as “the landmark” in the downhill slide from John Constable to “ground zero”. By exploring these Darwinian Story (ies), this paper will ascertain why Modernism was downgraded by Gombrich as devolution while Western illusionism was elevated as what he unashamedly called “the gold standard” of art.”
G10. Evolution and “Life”–(ch. Anderson)
This panel aims to explore a term that is basic to evolutionary discourse by examining various definitions of human and nonhuman “life.” In a wide range of philosophical and historical contexts–early twentieth century U.S. eugenics and poetry; eighteenth century musical automata in France, Switzerland, and Germany; Frankenstein and Hegel; and Heidegger and nanobiotechnology–this panel will investigate the theorization of “life” and its relationship to biopolitics, affect, technology, and subjectivity. In the context of evolutionary and proto-evolutionary discourse, particular attention will be paid to the way this designation has been formed and complicated.
Karen Leona Anderson, English Department, Cornell University, “Poetry, ‘Life,’ and Eugenic Evolution” Through lens of Foucault and Agamben’s notions of “life,” this paper will argue that two twentieth-century poets intervened in the understanding of evolution common to mainstream eugenics. In the sense that eugenics was represented as an artificial corollary of natural selection–as Frances Galton put it,”[w]hat Nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly”–it depended heavily on an idea of evolution as a controllable and ameliorative process. Poems by Anne Spencer and Lorine Niedecker, on the other hand, expose an unstable “life”as the ground for eugenic analogies drawn between moral and intellectual improvement and plant or animal breeding. The failure of such analogies within the poems is used to challenge both the eugenic methods of evaluating “improvement” and the idea of evolution as necessarily progressive or degenerative. Further, in their versions of such metaphors, these poems point out how progressive or degenerative “life” authorizes the sub-categorization of humans by race, ethnicity, class and gender, constituting a critique of eugenic evolution by showing how the human under eugenics is always premature, the not-yet-human.
Adelheid Voskuhl, Department of The History of Science, Harvard University, “‘Evolution’ and ‘Life’ in the Construction and Interpretation of Eighteenth-century Android Automata” Of the android automata built during the eighteenth century by European artisans, a surprising number were designed as figures engaging in artistic activity such as writing, drawing, or music-making. In my paper I look at two automata – both display women playing a keyboard instrument – and explore how they make manifest the convergence of “motion” and “life” and the evolution of gesture and affective expression. The automata’s sophisticated mechanisms allow them to play music on ordinary instruments of their time and move their bodies in harmony with their musical pieces. This design embodies and illustrates eighteenth-century efforts to develop codes for the expression of affects and passions during musical performance through the musician’s moving body. Relying on close readings of two types of texts – a satire on “machine-men” by the German poet Jean Paul (1763-1825) and pedagogical literature on how to play musical instruments by musical pedagogues – I investigate the interrelations between bodily motions, the communication of affects during music-making, and the evolution of conventions of sentimental selfhood, social interaction, and bodily comportment in the emerging bourgeois culture of eighteenth-century Europe.
Nathan Brown, English Department, UCLA, “Nothing-otherthan-object” This paper takes recent advances in molecular-scale materials research as the occasion for a return to Heidegger’s three theses in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, according to which “the stone (material object) is worldless; the animal is poor in world; man is world-forming.” The emergence of nanobiotechnology threatens Heidegger’s schema by promising an endowment to inorganic materiality of “life”: those capacities of sensory receptivity and environmental “access” that, for Heidegger, specify “the kind of being that pertains to animals and plants.” Heidegger’s schema has become a major topos for contemporary philosophical investigations of “life” and its modalities of being, figuring prominently in Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal, in Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Sense of the World, and in Jacques Derrida’s final seminar, “The Beast and the Sovereign.” This paper attempts to situate these treatments of and challenges to Heidegger’s schema in relation to the fabrication of synthetic life by nanobiotechnology, attending in particular to the ontological status of the stone, or “nonliving being.” Juxtaposing this primordial “object” and perennial philosophical example with forms of synthetic life, the paper interrogates the philosophical stakes of the (now routine) application of the category of “life” to inorganic matter.
Dehlia Hannah, Philosophy Department, Columbia University, “Recognizing Life in Hegel and Frankenstein” This paper examines the philosophical definition and narrative description of Life in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. For Hegel, the conditions of recognizing another being as a human subject involve recognizing an object as a living organism, and then, recognizing an organism as a self-conscious subject. The monstrosity of Frankenstein’s creature arises from its trespass against the first boundary and it failure to cross the second threshold, as the monster is an object come alive, yet he can neither give nor receive recognition from human beings. Whereas Hegel’s slave learns from labor and becomes Marx’s hero, Frankenstein’s monster haunts us in the form of scientific perspectives that seem to reduce humans to lifeless machines, and economic conditions that discipline humans to the rhythm of mechanical production. How must a being be produced and ordered so as to be recognized in the senses of epistemological identification and social valuation? I will read Frankenstein’s monster as an indication of how mechanization (as natural philosophy) and industrialization (as its worldly incarnation) imply a transformation of what counts as Life, and what Life counts for in the determination of who will be recognized as a subject and accorded its privileges.
G11. Before and After Darwin–(ch. Michaela Giesenkirchen, Humanities, Utah Valley State College)
Eric White, Department of English, University of Colorado, “In the Beginning was Slime Mold: Evolution & the Grotesque”
The life cycle of cellular slime molds entails a commingling of biological categories: unicellular amoebic entities so long as food is abundant, when their food supply has been exhausted, the hitherto free-ranging amoebas spontaneously aggregate to form a multicellular slug-like creature whose subsequent transformation into a spore-forming fruiting body completes the slime mold life cycle when the release of spores ensues in the next generation of amoebas. At once single-celled and multicellular, combining attributes associated with animals, plants, and fungi, cellular slime molds are precisely grotesque in their composite, acategorical character. Slime molds may in fact be understood to exemplify what Mikhail Bakhtin has famously described as the grotesque body of carnival culture, a traditional figuration of communal vitality precisely as a mutating throng of heterogeneous parts that remain, Bakhtin says, always in process, never resolved in a closed unity or final form. The present paper will reflect upon the extent to which Bakhtin’s discussion of the grotesque–and its reworking in Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection– may provide the basis for the aesthetic appreciation of an organism that, I will further suggest, may itself serve as a pleasing synecdoche for the evolutionary becoming of terrestrial life in general.
Robert Azzarello, CUNY Graduate Center, City College, CUNY, “Renfield’s Insane Ecosystem: Queer Nature, Fin-de-Siecle Science, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula“ Responding to Darwin’s Origin of Species (1847) and Descent of Man (1871), as well as applications of evolutionary theory to culture, such as Max Nordau’s Degeneration (1895), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) critiques the dynamics of authority and power inherent in the fin-de-siecle scientific classification of nature–human and otherwise. One character in particular, R.M. Renfield, acts as a pointed and effective epistemological disruption of knowing the difference between “the natural” and “the unnatural.” Renfield orchestrates a food chain in his asylum bedroom consisting of flies, spiders, and sparrows. This “insane” ecosystem and the concomitant erotics of predation, I will suggest, indicates the ways in which Stoker’s Dracula creates a “queer nature” that calls into question the knowability of the “true” relationship between the human, the natural, and the sexual.
Vanessa Corby, Dept of Art History and Visual Culture, University of Central Lancashire, UK, “Couched in Aggression: Darwin’s legacies for Freudian Theories of Creativity” ”Couched in Aggression,” is a transdisciplinary paper written from the dual perspective of an artist and art historian. It mobilises tools of the social history of art and psychoanalysis to question the means by which these disciplines construct narratives for or ‘story’ (White & Epston, 1990) experience to make sense of their objects of study. In so doing the paper turns it’s attention to the ideologies that shaped the genesis of psychoanalysis. “Man and Human Nature,” (1955) written by anthropologist Ashley Montagu situates the writing of Sigmund Freud within the theory of Darwinian evolution that characterised late Victorian thought after the publication of ‘The Origin of the Species,’ (1859). Via a critique grounded in Hobbes (1660) belief in the ‘nasty brute’ nature of man Montagu pays particular attention to Freud’s emphasis on aggression. The Death Drive (1920) has served as the modus operandi for key theorisations of artistic practice for contemporary art historians and cultural theorists (Pajaczkowska, 1995, Fer 1996). With reference to the work of German Jewish American artist Eva Hesse (1936-1970) the lineage Montagu constructs for Freud enables a space in which to question whether theory has been complicit in the pathologisation of artists and their practices.
G12. Darwinism and Society–(ch. Luberda)
Brigid Hains, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, “Evolutionary Theory and Redemptive Power”
Can evolutionary theory have redemptive power in the human sphere? Although evolutionary theory is currently treated with suspicion by progressive social thinkers and religious conservatives alike, this was not always the case in the United States. In the 1950s books like The Biological Basis of Human Freedom and Evolutionary Humanism argued that evolutionary theory could be a foundation for understanding humans as unique, responsible, conscious products of the evolutionary process. This paper focuses on the ideas of Ernst Mayr, one of the architects of the Evolutionary Synthesis, to elucidate the ways in which neo-Darwinism seemed to offer a new grounding for a hopeful postwar humanism. In particular it argues that Mayr created a marriage between liberal humanist values and evolutionary concepts to turn against the metaphysics of his own German intellectual legacy. Yet he held to a belief in the importance of holism, which I argue has been lost in more recent ‘hard-line’ evolutionary thinking, and which enabled an idealistic aspect to the evolutionary perspective on life. This balancing act between holism and scientific materialism is characteristic of all of the optimistic evolutionists of the period, and indeed characteristic of the evolutionary humanism which they developed.
Yvonne Howell, Dept of Russian, University of Richmond, “Sociobiology in the Soviet Union” When sociobiology emerged as an intellectual movement in the early 1970s, critics of the new paradigm argued vehemently that the malleable human mind, together with the unique force of culture, had severed the connection between our behavior and our evolutionary roots. In the U.S., this position was often tied rhetorically to the idea that “malleability” and “cultural construction” could be opposed to “determinism” and “social darwinism,” therefore leaving the doors open to enlightened social policy. However, in the Soviet Union the new sociobiological paradigm was framed as a scientific vindication for diversity, pluralism, individual difference, heterogeneity, human rights, and ultimately, individual responsibility for one’s own actions. In short, the same scientific discipline that in the West was associated from the outset with racism, reductionism, and social determinism developed in the USSR as a kind of code for alternative social and political views. This paper examines V.P. Efroimson’s groundbreaking 1971 text “The Geneaology of Altruism: ethics from the perspective of evolutionary genetics” as an example of what Hains calls a “balancing act of holism and scientific materialism.” In both Tsarist and Soviet times, Russian literature was valorized as a “voice of conscience” conveying a vision of utopian humanism, whose implementation would always be thwarted by the authoritarian State. Efroimson’s sociobiology is an attempt to articulate the distinctly Russian liberal dream in a new language of contemporary evolutionary biology.
James Luberda Dept of English, University of Connecticut, “Spencer’s Plots: Habit, Heterogeneity, and Special Creation” The Victorian polymath Herbert Spencer is commonly described, oddly enough, as a foundational figure in the awkward historical construct known as “Social Darwinism.” That label is intended to suggest an adherence to a survival of the fittest writ large, and it is here his evolutionary reputation is often left to lie. However, the real Herbert Spencer had an evolving and complex set of developmental narratives he worked through in the 1840s and 50s. Embracing the notion of lawful organic progression over time, he constructed and dismissed narratives of “millions of special creations” in favor, initially, of Lamarckian “habits” as the mechanism of organic change, later rolling this into the umbrella concept of an immanent cosmological law of differentiation/specialization that affected all things, organic and inorganic. This paper will address the uses of Spencer’s narratives of creation and evolutionary change, focusing in particular upon his later narrative of differentiation, which, on the one hand, liberally valorized difference for its own sake, while at the same provided for a normative critique of particular differences in the context of the teleological goal of a humanity perfectly adapted to the social state. The paper will identify the underlying conflicts in this key non-Darwinian evolutionary narrative and its use for both fictional and nonfictional plotting in the Victorian era and beyond.
Jonathan Greenberg, Dept of English, Montclair State University, “Darwin and Contemporary Theory” Although neo-Darwinian thought has been rapidly gaining influence in the natural and social sciences, literary theorists have often regarded attempts to extend evolutionary models into descriptions of human behavior as politically dangerous and methodologically reductionist. Meanwhile, the Darwinist movement within literary studies has often assumed a rear-guard position in respect to contemporary theory, rejecting the last three decades of theory outright. Underlying conflict between the current historicizing bent in literary study and the universalizing impulses of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology suggest that reconciliation is unlikely. Yet Darwin’s thinking has served as a crucial precursor from contemporary “postmodern” literary theory. Significant points of overlap between these conflicting schools of thought include: (1) a common emphasis on what Menand has called “relational thinking,” the priority of difference over essence; (2) a common rejection of the Enlightenment subject, and an accompanying critique of agency; (3) a common rethinking of the physical boundaries of the human, shared by Dawkins’ notion of the extended phenotype and Katherine Hayles’s theorization of the posthuman. Indeed, various intellectual lines of descent from Darwin through figures such as Nietzsche, Freud, James, and Kuhn might reveal such overlap to be more than coincidental. Furthermore, if literary theorists suspect neo-Darwinians of Panglossian thinking, then they must apply the same critique to homologous strains of poststructuralism and neopragmatism.
BLUE Environment and Ecology
B3. Animals and Death–(ch. Snider)
Alvin Snider, University of Iowa, “Human Blood and Animal Bodies”
In 1665 the English anatomist Richard Lower succeeded in transfusing the blood of one dog into another, creating a sensation across Europe. Not fully aware that interspecies transfusion of blood could have fatal results, English and French physicians overlooked the severe anaphylactic reactions they sometimes observed. Experimentation continued until transfusion-related deaths led to the banning of the practice in the 1670s. Early modern physicians prescribed transfusions not for loss of blood (phlebotomy and transfusion sometimes proceeded together) but as a technique for transforming the mental outlook of a patient. What makes this so surprising is that blood–with its deeply rooted symbolic associations with purity and pollution, kinship and nationality, temperament and social status–would seem the least likely substance to transfer across the species boundary, even in the absence of later hematological knowledge. Why, then, did seventeenth-century physicians, who thought of blood as a vehicle of a person’s disposition and bodily essence, consider crossing the line between species? To answer this question I turn to texts published between 1666-80 that explore sanguinary differences among humans and between species, including letters printed in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and Le journal des Scavans.
Ellen ter Gast, Philosophy and Science Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, “Invisible Monsters: Transgenic Mice and the Actuality of the Frankenstein Myth” In the 200 years since Shelley published her novel, Victor Frankenstein became the stereotype of the mad bio-scientist, his hideous creation the archetype of science out of control. How does modern biotechnology relate to the obscure activities of Victor Frankenstein? In contrast to the world of Frankenstein, today’s science is controlled by strong internal and external review and laboratory practice guided by strict safety procedures. Monsters like Frankenstein’s do not exist in laboratories. They are the product of fantastic literature and wild imagination. In this paper I propose that with the birth of the first transgenic mice and their successful invasion in the life sciences a new type of monster arrived. Their monstrous character however, is less visible. These mice are not out of control hurting the innocent. They are safely hidden away in scientific laboratories. No human body parts are stitched on their backs. Invisible to the eye, human genes are inserted in their DNA. Partly human, these living artifacts are pioneers in the future world of biotech. As they show, reshaping life is no longer a myth. Being real but invisible these monster mice ask for a close rereading of the classic novel.
Jeff Karnicky, Department of English, Drake University, “A Promise to Return: Evolution, Migration, and ‘Nuisance’ Birds” The voiceover of the 2003 film Winged Migration states that migrating birds make a “promise to return” year after year. In one memorable series of scenes, the film shows a group of Canada geese flying along a river in France, only to be shot out of the sky by hunters. Despite this staged hunting scene, Winged Migration omits any reference to the ways humans are altering bird migration patterns. Every year, more and more Canada Geese become non-migratory, partially because of suburban habitat inadvertently created by humans. Canada Geese populations are on the increase, but many no longer migrate, instead staying in one place all year. Many of these resident populations of Canada geese have been deemed “nuisance” birds by the USDA’s “Wildlife Services” department, which in 2004 killed 10,735 “nuisance geese.” At the same time, Bernd Heinrich, after studying a large group of Canada geese, concluded that “each possess[ed] a unique history and a particular set of relationships with other individual geese.” This paper will examine how human actions are altering the migration patterns of birds that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and the ethics of human-goose interactions.
Kari Weil, Chair, Critical Studies, California College of the Arts, “Unnatural Selection: Animal Death and the Struggle for Ethics” The recent interest in animals, and in animal death in particular, accompanies a turn at once ethical and counter-linguistic in literary studies. Killing, as the Animal Studies Group reminds us, is the most widespread form of interaction with animals and the act is largely invisible. Why? What is revealed when that act is made visible, brought before our eyes, and in what language does that revelation take place? This paper will compare three scenes of animal death from three contemporary authors: Temple Grandin, Coetzee and Cixous, in which the technology of death appears to reveal what Georgio Agamben calls “bare life”–a zone of indeterminacy between human and animal. Language falters in that experience of bare life which is at once abject and sublime, a moment of apparent ethical intensity and potential for shared life forms. But what weight does that unspeakable ethics have? How does it affect the meaning of killing in each instance, and affect the politics that establishes man as the political sovereign, authorized to end the life of an other?
B4. Darwin and the Disciplines: Human/Animal Expression–(ch. R. Brooke Morrill Jr., University of Connecticut, Storrs)
Sarah Winter, Department of English, University of Connecticut, Storrs, “Darwin’s Biology of Expression, Rhetoric, and Human/Animal Ethology”
This talk explores the emergence of a Darwinian evolutionary science of expression in the context of the history of rhetoric and of scientific discourses of race. In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), Charles Darwin attempts to supersede a series of earlier studies of gesture and expression, including rhetorical treatises, manuals of stage acting, and works of natural philosophy, such as Charles Bell’s The Anatomy and Philosophy of Expression (1806), which defined expression as an indication of uniquely human intelligence with its origins in divine design. Darwin’s study explains facial expressions not as conventional signs of rhetorical ethos or manifestations of psychological character, but rather as a repertoire of automatic emotive responses resulting from natural selection and shared with animals. Darwin’s argument contradicts Bell’s and later physiologists’ and physiognomists’ racialization of human features by arguing for the universal meaning of expression, but it also undermines the historical and conceptual roles of rhetoric and aesthetics in defining expression as a form of discourse. In suggesting a view of language as supplemental to instinctive and involuntary modes of communication, Darwin’s biology of expression also provided the basis for the new discipline of ethology.
Karalyn Kendall, Department of English, Indiana University, Bloomington, “Of Mongrels and Men: Levinasian Humanism and Human-Dog Coevolution” A central project of Western humanism has been the establishment of a concrete distinction between humans and nonhumans. But post-Darwinian biology, ethology, and anthropology have derailed this project, rendering any categorical distinction tenuous at best. In particular, theories of human/canine coevolution present a potent challenge to the category of the humanist subject. If the human brain literally has been shaped by our evolutionary relationship with dogs, then the concept of the human as an autonomous subject becomes radically unintelligible. Emmanuel Levinas grapples with this unintelligibility in his essay, “The Name of a Dog, or Natural Rights.” This paper explores Levinas’s struggle to preserve human uniqueness in light of the evident “humanity” of a dog, Bobby. Levinas holds that the human alone possesses a face which articulates and reciprocates the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Nevertheless, he seems tempted to grant that the dog, too, has a face. While others have explored Levinas’s struggle to preserve his categorical distinction when “thinking of Bobby,” I argue that it is precisely the (co)evolutionary intimacy of humans and dogs which enables the mongrel to so thoroughly confound the face as an ethical category.
Nancy Barta-Smith, Department of English, Slippery Rock University, “On the Margins of Expression: The Human/Animal Divide in Piaget, Baldwin, and Merleau-Ponty” In The Story of the Mind, published in 1898, the American psychologist James Mark Baldwin outlines progression in animals of forms of behavior that are similar to behavior in children and that increasingly take on an expressive character and evolutionary significance. This same progress from reflex to imitative action is present in Piaget’s descriptions of the prepersonal or presubjective life of the child. For Piaget deferred imitation marks the movement into the symbolic since the child refers not to a model she copies in the experiential world, but to memory and imagination, beginning the movement to intentional life characterized by language use and understanding of formal operations. Thus, for both Baldwin and Piaget, the child is akin to the animal in its initial reliance on instinct, imitation and the prepersonal. For the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, however, intentional life is already embraced in what Baldwin calls the animal’s “imperfect instincts” and the “general instinct” of imitation. Merleau-Ponty’s work offers a response to Darwin’s The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals and efforts like Baldwin’s to account for gradations in instinct.
B5. The Industrial Construction of Animals–(ch. Broglio)
Ron Broglio, Literature, Communication, and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Biotech and the Construction of Cattle”
The Igenety company advertises “insider information” about their clients’ cattle through the company’s software analysis of each animal’s genetic profile. The use of genotypes to figure the animal extends cattle breeding and further colonizes the “inside” of the animal. This paper will explore the transformation of genetic material into patented information, verbal and visual rhetoric, and profitable commerce in shaping particular breeds. Secondly, it will examine this transformation as it might affect the sense of an animal “inside” and any sense of animal world. Using genotypes to selectively breed is new but its results reveal the already extensive history of intervention and transformation in the lives of other species through selective breeding according to phenotype. Such genetic intervention transforms the material economy of genes and animal flesh into an economy of meat and commercial profit. I will attempt to trace this transformation from gene to genetic information to software code and finally back into the body of animals as a study of the relationship between representational languages and actual bodies, beasts, and animal world.
Susan Squier, Department of English, Pennsylvania State University, “Industrial Farming and Pharming: The Cobb 700 and the Ova TM System” I will talk about the industrial construction and marketing of chickens, focusing on two specific examples from industrial farming and pharming. Specifically, I will focus on the Cobb 700, a broiler cross created and marketed internationally by Cobb-Vantress, a global poultry company owned by Upjohn, and a hen created in a collaboration between the Roslin institute and Viragen, using their patented OVA tm system, that can express a target protein in her eggs. My talk will draw on a range of resources: on interviews I have conducted with an Avian pathologist and DVM and a neuroendocrinologist working in transgenics; on my research into the poultry industry; and on my own experience raising two Cobb 700s. While the Cobb is the end-product of a long process of carefully guarded three generational hybridizing, and thus represents the culmination of 20th century Poultry Science, the Roslin-Viragen hen represents a transgenic breakthrough: the use of the chicken as a pharmaceutical bioreactor. I will discuss the implications of this for human and avian health.
Richard Nash, English Department, Indiana University, “Pharm Life” The sport of horse racing traces to immediately prior to the Agricultural Revolution of the 18c, and its history consequently spans the modern era defined by Capitalism, Nationalism, and Urbanization. From its very onset, the sport has been defined by global commerce and commodity exchange; and its vitality in the twentieth century has long been seen as an archaic vestige of vanished aristocracy–the sobriquet “the Sport of Kings” having long ago acquired an ironic veneer. Less frequently noted by historians, though not entirely overlooked, has been the oddity of its agrarian roots within an increasingly urbanized culture–racetracks thrive (where they do at all) in intensely urban settings. Part of that elaborately paradoxical self-definition has been predicated on the notion that the sport somehow holds out for urban life a glimpse of agrarian renewal; and that familiar mythos was long ago identified with the practice of “turning out” horses on the farm–a period of rest from the labor of racing that was coded as “restorative” at a physiological level. Today, even as the economics of the sport dictate an unceasing schedule of competition, the “farm” has come to be replaced by the “pharm.” In this presentation, I will sketch briefly how contemporary human-animal economies seek to retain a mythos of the restorative farm in the face of an increasingly ambivalent relation to its replacement by the pharm.
B8. Ecology and Technology–(ch. Zuelke)
Denice Turner, Literature and Environment, University of Nevada, Reno, “The View from Above: Man, Machine and the Paradox of Airpower”
Drawing upon Freud’s concept of modern man as “prosthetic god” and Tim Armstrong’s discussion of “the influencing machine,” I plan to look at how body and mind conform to the airplane, which both limits and extends human perception of nature aloft. Since the man-to-(flying)-machine metamorphosis is, by its nature, paradoxical–the mechanism which makes man “godlike” actually renders him more vulnerable to nature–I am interested in examining how contradictory perceptions and sensations play out within the literature of flight, which tend toward extremes: as entrenching mythology about the transcendence of flight (man conquers and surpasses the natural world), and as manifestations of fear and reverence (nature as sublime, supreme, power). For the purposes of this paper, I will analyze excerpts from texts by pilots from the early days of powered flight, including Antoine de Saint Exupery and Amelia Earhart, as well as selections from contemporary aviation writers such as Richard Bach and Patty Wagstaff to show how each constructs nature through the twin forces of power and vulnerability. Ultimately, I will argue that issues of power and vulnerability make the aerial perception and representation of nature impossible outside of dialectics of power.
Michael A. Bryson, Humanities, Evelyn T. Stone University College, Roosevelt University, “The Historian and the Photographer: Confronting Urban Sprawl in Data and Image” Sprawl is bad, and everybody knows it. Or is it? In his provocative new book, Sprawl: A Compact History (2005), historian Robert Bruegmann tracks the evolution of urban and suburban space, and argues not only that sprawl is an old rather than recent phenomenon, but also that it might be a good thing. While Bruegmann successfully contextualizes and problematizes the debate over sprawl, his analysis has significant gaps, particularly the failure to acknowledge the present and future environmental impact of sprawl. Artistic explorations of urban space can provide corrective vision to this ecological myopia. In an ecocritical meditation on Sprawl, I pair Bruegmann’s ideas with the photography of Terry Evans, whose Revealing Chicago: An Aerial Portrait (2005) provides a fascinating bird’s-eye perspective on the character and transformation of the Chicago region’s urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. Ultimately, while Revealing Chicago does not make an explicit argument for or against sprawl, it forces us to confront our tacit assumptions about growth, community, technology, nature, and progress in the urban environment.
Karl Zuelke, College of Mount St. Joseph, “E. O. Wilson and the Future of Life” In several of his recent works, including Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, The Diversity of Life and The Future of Life, Wilson has outlined a program of action whereby humankind might behave in ways that could still engage with and rescue the critical biodiversity and environmental health of the earth, and beyond that, he has suggested a number of ways by which human beings might re-imagine their relationship to the biosphere which would facilitate this critical behavioral about-face. Wilson has thought in deep and sometimes controversial ways of the possibilities for emerging from the environmental crisis. In this paper I propose to explore E. O. Wilson’s environmental politics, paying special attention to his notions about the roles that science and technology will play in helping humankind through what he terms the “environmental bottleneck” we are currently negotiating, and just as importantly, I will also touch upon his ideas concerning the ways that spirituality and reverence for life impact the decisions we will make in these extraordinary times.
B9. Phenomenological Contributions to an Environmental Ethics–(ch. Newell)
Mary Newell, Alumni Dissertation Fellow, English Department, Fordham University, “Ground Rules for Intersubjective Exchanges”
Mary Oliver’s poetics develops for interspecies relations a methodology that transcends anthropocentrism. I draw on phenomenology to indicate the correlation between embodied actions and attitudes, for example, between the hand movement of grasping and an appropriative attitude toward the natural world. Oliver’s primary ‘ground rule’ is an attitude of non-appropriation or non-disruption of embedded orders of life forms, based on the conviction that other life forms have significance independently of human purposes. Maurice Merleau-Ponty claims that such a non-possessive attitude is a requirement for exchange. Oliver structures perception as a participatory exchange, not a subject/ object dichotomy. Most of Oliver’s poetic encounters with other species show attempts at reciprocity, with the acknowledgment that we can never fully comprehend another. Between humans and other species, there can be zones of exchange and zones of non-interference. Merleau-Ponty’s concept of reciprocity, represented by the embodied act of a handshake, provides a reference for encounters that function reflexively, offering a sense of re-acquaintance with self as well as with ecosystem.
Craig A. Condella, Philosophy Department, Fordham University, “The Importance of Dynamis Within Aristotle’s Nature Theory” Though Martin Heidegger does well in uncovering the origins of our present environmental crisis within his critique of modern technology, he seems to fall short of offering an alternative understanding of nature that might open the way to an environmental ethic. Acknowledging this as a possible shortcoming, I believe that a closer look at Heidegger’s overall corpus reveals an interpretation of natural beings that runs importantly counter to the modern technological reduction of the natural world to what Heidegger calls Bestand, or standing-reserve. This reconceptualization of nature principally emerges in Heidegger’s lectures courses in the 1930s on Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics. Here we find Heidegger stressing the importance of dynamis (usually translated as potentiality) within Aristotle’s nature theory, paying particular attention to the way in which it renders natural beings as perpetually self-fulfilling. In short, natural beings are constantly evolving, inherently self-sufficient, and importantly resistant to any full or final human appropriation. Nature is not simply a class of beings available for human use. Rather, it is a way of being that demands a respect that I take to be foundational to any environmental ethic that looks to locate an inherent worth within the natural world.
Adam Konopka, Philosophy Department, Fordham University, “Eco-phenomenology and the Flux of Nature” In an attempt to further the dialogue between phenomenology and contemporary environmental ethics, this paper develops a conception of natural time as a reciprocal phenomenon with traditional accounts of anthropomorphic temporality. Much of the Western tradition, from Aristotle and Augustine to Newton and Bergson, has emphasized the “internal” or subjective dimension of temporality often at the expense of “external” or objective notions of time. Non-human time has been conceived by this tradition as a measurable sequence of successive “now” moments which unfold in a linear continuum. However, this view can be contested through a phenomenological articulation of a natural temporality that has its own depth and cyclical repetition. In short, the irreducible dynamism of evolutionary biology provides evidence for the constant flux of nature to be understood as a repetition of progressive cycles. This view of natural temporality is not unlike the one Mircea Eliade highlights using the myths of indigenous peoples.
B10. Interrogating Fear: Bioterror, the Environment and the Construction of Threats–(ch. Subramaniam)
We live in contradictory times. On the one hand, panic and fear surrounds us everywhere. Simultaneously other issues are surrounded by neglect and willful silence. Fears evolve. The bald eagle, once feared and despised, is now an icon of American survival, freedom, and imperial power. This panel addresses the politics of threat, panic and fear that surround environmental and biological discourses. It addresses how environmental and biological fears are used to manufacture threats to individual, national and global security. Simultaneously it addresses why other environmental and biological issues recede to relative neglect and obscurity. The panel explores why we must systematically interrogate “fear” and “threats.” In order to understand the continually evolving nature of fears and threats, we must understand the historical, political, and cultural specificity of fear and anxiety.
Betsy Hartmann, Director, Population and Development Program, Hampshire College, “Strategic Demography and the Naturalizing of National Security” This paper explores the framing of national security threats in demographic terms, or what is sometimes called “strategic demography.” Strategic demography not only employs demographic statistics in its calculus of threats, but alarmist images, tropes and narratives to identify, describe and build fear of the enemy. Of particular importance is the ‘degradation narrative,’ the belief that population pressures in rural areas precipitate environmental degradation, migration and violent conflict. This narrative is central to the development of the environmental conflict field which reached its zenith during the mid-1990s but which continues to have policy repercussions, especially in terms of the growing militarization of conservation. It also serves as a link to other strategic demographies such as the “youth bulge” used to build and sustain anti-Islamic prejudice in the ‘war on terror’, the “bare branches” theory that Asia’s surplus male population poses a security threat, and neo-Malthusian renderings of immigration. The paper examines the diverse actors and interests involved in constructing these threats, from population and conservation organizations to private foundations to the role of military agencies.
Jackie Orr, Dept of Sociology, Syracuse University, “Making Civilian-Soldiers: Panic and the Politics of Memory” How to re-think the contemporary militarization of U.S. civilian psychology against the historical backdrop of World War II and Cold War efforts to target the psychic life of civilians as a battlefield component of ‘total war’? Tracing the entangled histories of academic social science, the mass media, and military technologies, this paper suggests that the post-World War II emergence of the U.S. national security state is founded in part on the calculated promotion of civilian insecurity and fear. The militarization of civilian psychology becomes visible as a strategic administrative imperative of U.S. government. Can a more public and collective memory of this strategic militarization make a difference in the complex politics and cultures of terrorism today?
Banu Subramaniam, Women’s Studies, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, “The Obligation of Reluctance: Natives, Aliens and the Politics of Immigration” Fears of invasive plants and animals continue to proliferate. Historicizing this fear seems particularly instructive. How do we reconcile our panic around foreign plants today with the fact that in 1898, the United States Development Agency (USDA) developed a “foreign seed introduction project?” How have our biological theories of nature, its evolutionary ad demographic histories shifted over time? What conceptions of biology, evolution and nation underpin our assumptions? Drawing on the literature on evolution, ecology, science and ethnic studies, this piece explores the historical, political and cultural specificity of our fear and anxiety surrounding immigration, of plants, animals and humans.
Charles Zerner, Environmental Studies, Sarah Lawrence College, “Emerging Cartographies of Environmental Danger: Africa Ebola, and AIDS” This essay explores the production of environmental imagery and rhetorics, and their links to racist geographies of African culture and environment in policy discussions, fiction, non-fiction, and film. Zerner examines the ways in which Ebola virus is configured as a “terror”, the historic layering of imagery about Africa, women, and viruses, as well as the trajectories of dissemination–globally and nationally. His work suggests how an environmental and public health problem is constructed and managed through military interventions and institutions, embodying a larger turn, in conservation particularly, and social policy more generally, toward the resolution of public sector problems through militarized “solutions” and the amplification of environmental fears.
I1.Arakawa and Gins Part I: Making Dying Illegal–(ch. Rosenberg)
Arakawa and Gins’ 2002 volume Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press) attracted significant attention, as did a two-volume special issue of the journal Interfaces: Image/Texte/Language. In Fall 2005, University of Paris X-Nanterre hosted an international Arakawa and Gins conference. This Fall, Roof Books brings out their newest volume, Making Dying Illegal. These two panels will examine how Arakawa and Gins use architecture to re-cast human life. Over a period of four decades, these two thinkers have invented cognitive science, ecology and architecture very much on their own terms. This year, they introduce a new science: biotopology. Biotopologists, readers learn, will live in a world in which dying is illegal. You die, you go to jail. Having two decades ago declared death old-fashioned, and then conceived of a reversible destiny, which means the reversal of life’s usual downhill course, they now want through a law to have the communal human effort to stay alive be focused and organized. It is the demise of mortality itself that is being sought. Within their built works – Arakawa and Gins have constructed several large-scale works of architecture – the heretofore single, simple trajectory of an organism that persons splits into many streams of invention. Interdisciplinarity with a purpose – that is what these panels, whose members are poets, philosophers, architects, critical thinkers and scientists, bring to the conference. These panels will bring the radical theory and practice of Arakawa and Gins into further fruitful dialogue with contemporary cognitive science, evolutionary biology, revolutionary poetics, and new feminist-based ecological ethics.
Panel One: Don Byrd, Department of English, SUNY Albany, (Moderator), Reuben Baron, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Trish Glazebrook, Department of Philosophy, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Andrew MacNair, Columbia University, Alan Prohm, University of Art and Design, Helsinki.
I2. Featured Panel, sponsored by NYU in tandem with SLSA, Sm(ART): Art and Design that Learns from Nature–(ch. Levy)
Moderator Ellen K. Levy, Artist, Brooklyn College, with Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Curatorial Director, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Paola Antonelli, Acting Chief Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, and Manuel DeLanda, Philosopher, University of Pennsylvania
With DeLanda providing a context by exploring smart materials and complex systems, this panel will look at some prescient exhibitions that have taken place over recent years that reveal how artist/designers continue to look to nature and its evolutionary processes for inspiration. The interrelationships among innovation, the fine art, and design have roots in Cyril Stanley Smith’s foresighted book, The Search for Structure (1981), and its concerns are reflected in the recent publication by Janine Benyus’s book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. The issues raised by these exhibitions may help inspire new forms and significant cultural developments. The exhibitions integrate art, media theory, and evolutionary biology and tend to stress evolutionary processes that assist survival. These forward-looking exhibitions include the following: 1. “Extreme Textiles” at the Cooper-Hewitt shows how some new technologies have borrowed from nature to create more resilient materials (cur. Matilda McQuaid). 2. “SAFE: Design Takes on Risk” at MOMA (cur. Paola Antonelli). Note that Antonelli has curated related exhibitions, including “Mutant Materials” and “Workspheres” at MOMA.
I3. Art and Evolutionist Controversies–(chs. Fae Brauer, Department of Art History and Theory, University of New South Wales, and Barbara Larson, Department of Fine Arts, University of West Florida)
In 1859, Emmanuel Fremiet submitted his sculpture of a gorilla carrying off a woman to the French Salon. Immediately rejected, thirty years later when The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man had been absorbed into the mainstream, a closely related work was awarded a medal of honor. Although not a Darwinist himself, Fremiet had significant company in his imaging of the close relationship of man and animal by those who supported humanity’s evolutionism. Some repulsed by the prospect of their immediate ancestor being a “hairy, tailed quadruped” turned to the pre-Darwinian evolutionary theories of Buffon, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Lamarck, and Louis Agassiz. Others disenchanted with the capitalist and colonialist ‘civilization’ arising from evolution of their species strove to capture a “pure” time at ‘the origin.’ With Weismann’s discovery of germ plasm and the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics, the advent of Galtonian eugenics, Ernest Haeckel’s ‘Spartan Selection’ and popularization of “sexual selection” and “survival of the fittest,” art and its relationship to evolutionism complexified. These panels will examine art in its relationship to these aspects of evolutionism.
Panel 1: Emerson, Spencer, Symbolism, and Fin-de-Siecle Art
Lauren Klein, Department of English, CUNY, “The ‘Emerson Museum’ and the Darwin Exhibit: Observation, Classification, and Display in the Early Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Darwin” In 1833, while Charles Darwin was on board the HMS Beagle, Ralph Waldo Emerson was also overseas. On July 13th of that year, Darwin, in Montevideo, prepared crates of specimens to be sent back aboard a mail ship, where, he hoped, they would reside in the “largest and most central collection” of England. Simultaneously, Emerson, in Paris, paid his seminal visit to the natural history museum at the Jardin des Plantes. On that day, both men were engaged in processing specimens–Darwin in his makeshift laboratory, and Emerson in his mind. While Emerson and Darwin reach different conclusions, they rely on similar methods. Drawing upon their journals and published works, and upon current museum theory, this paper will explore the similarities between Emerson and Darwin in terms of their reliance on the museum model of display, and their embrace of the ability of language to transport and to transcend.
Catherine Clinger, Department of the History of Art, University College–London, “Rodolphe Bresdin: A Picture of Cogitating Urschleim” Rodolphe Bresdin (1822-1885) was an artist-printmaker to whom many artists looked to as the progenitor of the French Symbolist movement in the visual arts. Jules Champfleury’s novel Chien-Caillou (1845) was inspired in part by the life of Bresdin. As noted by the art historian Meyer Shapiro, Champfleury described Bresdin as the conjurer of child-like, fanciful images, claiming his was a na•ve response from the heart, not the mind. This reception of the artist fails to take into account Bresdin’s very real interest in the evolutionary sciences, ornithology, herpetology and botany. I will argue that the work of Bresdin is a proto-ecocritical response to the expeditionary voyages of his day: He is a creator of Lamarckian landscapes as well as the visual synthesizer of Darwin’s biological world. Bresdin situated his invented zoophytes in primeval marshes and verdant forests, imbuing them with consciousness of the kind proposed by Gustav Theodor Fechner in his Elemente der Psychophysik (1860); thus, his work is a catachrestic reflection of generative thought.
Barbara Larson, “Darwin’s Sexual Selection and the Jealous Male in Art” The ultimate scientific sourcebook on the passions of romance in the late nineteenth century was Darwin’s final chapter of The Descent, “Sexual Selection in Relationship to Man.” Darwin repeatedly emphasized the importance of jealousy, rage and rivalry to the propagation of the human species. At a time when innocent “true love” no longer was seen to have any benefit to survival of the species, biological drives were on the ascendant regarding mating behavior. Darwin believed that jealousy and competition were necessary components of species survival. Jealous men in art can be found in academic paintings like Paul Jamin’s An Abduction–The Stone Age in which an early stone age man fights another for a woman to the modern painting of Munch. One of Munch’s closest friends as well as his rival in love was the novelist Przybyszewski who wrote Homo Sapiens (which takes as its themes biological drives and instincts associated with jealousy, violent psychology and sexuality). This paper examines the jealous male in art in light of Darwin’s popularized theories of human suffering.
I4. Art and Evolutionist Controversies 2: Modernism, Purism, Duchamp, and Surrealism–(chs. Brauer and Larson)
Blake Leland, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Anti-Entropic/Evolutionary Modernism”
A master trope of Western history is the notion, rooted in biblical eschatology, of vectored time. Yet the great instauration of modern science, Newtonian mechanics, was founded on a notion of un-vectored, reversible time. By mid-19th century, the Biblical timeline and the un-vectored time of classical mechanics (and uniformitarian geology) had been displaced by, or entangled with, the vectored scientific temporalities of thermodynamics and evolution. For the past few centuries the West has attempted, in various ways, to sort out or re-braid its tangle of times. This paper examines briefly some of the ways in which Modernism often attempted to subvert notions of vectored time (both eschatological and scientific)–attempts which include the valorization of the isolated, infinite moment found in Pater, Bergson, Pound; the Modernist refusal of notions of artistic progress found in T.S. Eliot or Picasso; the Modernist flirtation with exotic images of infinite temporal cyclicality found in Nietzsche or Yeats; the Modernist notions of synchronic structuralism laid out by Saussure and Freud–and will, I hope, offer some tentative suggestions as to why Modernism felt so compelled to deny a direction to time.
James W. McManus, California State University–Chico, “Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades–Punctuating Equilibrium: ‘Can one make a work of art that is not a work of art?'” Stephen Jay Gould observed that, “Small peripheral isolates are a laboratory of evolutionary change.” In 1913, Duchamp, writing one of his many notes, posed the question to himself, “Can one make of art that is not a work of art?” At the time of its writing Duchamp had begun his celebrated withdrawal from the art world. Peripherally isolated, over the next few years he was able to conceive of a population of objects, the readymades. Akin to the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr’s “typostrophic variations,” they seem an entirely new type, and unlike Mayr’s opposing population (“ecotypic variation”), objects emphasizing the homogenizing effects of gene flow and the stabilizing of large interbreeding populations. Questions this paper pursues are whether the readymades conform to one of Mayr’s criteria, and whether at their moments of entry they affect stasis as laid out by Gould and Niles Eldredge in their theory of punctuated equilibrium. Two historical moments will be considered; the first in the second decade of the twentieth century when the readymades initially appeared, and the second in 1964 when Duchamp along with Arturo Schwarz reproduced them in an edition of eight sets.
James G. Hatch, University of Western Ontario, “The Great White Hope: Darwin, Purism, and World War I” Near the end of the First World War, the Swiss architect Le Corbusier joined forces with the French painter Amedee Ozenfant, in seeking to redress European society. Although they saw the “Great Test” as symptomatic of the degeneration of European culture, it nevertheless provided an opportunity for an almost complete reconstruction of that culture, and the technological tools to achieve it. Their thoughts on this, as expressed in their numerous writings during and immediately following the war, were heavily indebted to Social Darwinism. For Le Corbusier, natural selection would be the mechanism determining everything from the efficient design of everyday objects to framing the social interactions between human beings. In the hope of improving society, Ozenfant and Le Corbusier’s “Purism” adopted a vision that paralleled the rather disturbing uses of Social Darwinism at the end of the 19th century that ultimately contributed to the rise of National Socialism in Germany.
Gavin Parkinson, History of Art, University of Oxford, “Surrealism and the Dark Side of Nature” Given its magnetic attraction to the city of Paris and an avowed avant-garde lineage extending back to Baudelaire, Surrealism’s confirmed association with the metropolitan is no surprise. However, this has led to a predisposition toward the urban in the scholarship on the movement acting entirely at the expense of the Surrealists’ fascination with nature. My paper opens up this overlooked area of Surrealist inquiry with reference to Surrealism’s engagement with evolutionary theory, mapping the reception of Darwinism and development of biology in French art and culture between the wars. The Surrealists were aware of the centenaries in the 1930s of two of Darwin’s forebears–Goethe and Hegel–and were readers of Nietzsche and Freud, both influenced by Darwin’s theory. Focusing largely on pioneering Surrealist artists Max Ernst and AndrŽ Masson, I locate Surrealist art and thought within this discursive field, giving an account of its theoretical and pictorial investment in ‘la cote nocturne de la nature.’
I5. Art and Evolutionist Controversies 3: Degeneration, Regeneration, and the Male Body: Degas, Cubism, Futurism, and the ‘Nordic’ Ideal–(chs. Brauer and Larson)
Anthea Callen, University of Nottingham, “Degas, Degeneration and Masculinity”
Much attention has been paid by art historians to Degas’s images of women. Yet the appearance in his oeuvre of the naked male body is a significantly rare and tortuous event: for him embodied masculinity, nude or clothed, is clearly an uncomfortable affair. In the context of contemporary debates in France on degeneration (Morel, Darwin, Broca, Lombroso), and Degas’s own noted interest in this and other aspects of the modern human sciences, this paper explores the meanings of his representations of the male body between 1860 and 1880. Focusing on a close analysis of changes Degas made over this twenty year period to his major early composition Young Spartans Exercising, the paper will examine the visualization of ideal masculinity, degeneration, and changing male subjectivities during this critical period, which ended with the virtual the erasure of the male body in Degas’s art.
Fae Brauer, “Virilizing Masculinities: Lamarckism, Cubism and Gustave Courtois’s ‘Kings of Strength'” During the Third Republic Jean Baptiste Lamarck was chauvinistically reinstated by French scientists as the “greatest” of all evolutionists who had guided Darwin. In seeming to explain how psychological changes of habit, physiological reuse of organs and recontrol of the environment could lead to biological evolution, Lamarck’s zoological theory of transformism was latched as a panacea to France’s degeneration, depopulation, impotence, effeminacy and ‘inversion’. As Lamarckism entailed the transmission of parents constitutions at the time of procreation, fitness became a national imperative. Modern sport and physical culture flourished, particularly “la culture physique” launched by Edmond Desbonnet. Those trained by Desbonnet were exalted as “Kings of Strength” and prized as virilized models of masculinity, particularly by the painter, Gustave Courtois. While Cubists were exhibiting what looked like decomposing bodies, Courtois was portraying these “Kings ” as the contemporary ‘Greek Gods’. Whilst the Cubists were denounced as cowardly, effeminate and impotent, this paper will reveal why Courtois’s “Kings of Strength” were hailed by Lamarckians as sufficiently virilized to inspire regeneration of the nation — and by Andre Gide for virilizing homosexuality.
Christine Kanz, Department of German, University of Bern, “Male Pregnancy, Transformation Theory, Evolution and the Historical Avant-garde” Early 20th century text, culture, and film are full of male birth fantasies, of men wishing to give birth. From psychoanalysis’ male “pregnancy envy” (which is thought of as a parallel to female “penis envy”), to texts by authors such as Franz Werfel, Franz Kafka, or Fillippo Tommaso Marinetti, to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” Robert Wiene’s “Dr. Caligari,” and the work of artists such as Hans Bellmer, Max Beckmann, or Umberto Boccioni; male birth fantasies are a phenomenon of mass culture. At the same time male birth fantasies tend to return to older theories of evolution such as the theories of preformation or epigenesis. In my talk I will focus on Jean Baptiste Lamarck’s transformation theory and its echoes in Marinetti’s novel “Mafarka the Futurist.” Although somewhat forgotten, recent research in genetics suggests that there may be some truth to Lamarck’s theories. Given this background Marinetti’s Futurist text too–or Futurism at large–once again becomes an important source on the interrelations between modern culture and the world of modern science.
Lorettann Gascard, Department of Fine Arts, Franklin Pierce College, New Hampshire, “Max Schmeling: The ‘Modeled’ Citizen or Missing Link of Nazi Eugenics?” When in 1936, Max Schmeling, the then world Heavyweight boxing champion, defeated the seemingly undefeatable black, American boxer, Joe Louis, shockwaves of jubilance shot through National Socialist Germany. On his return to Germany he, along with his actress wife and mother (!), was received by Hitler for an afternoon of coffee and cake at the chancellery. When the film of the fight was brought in, Hitler and Goebbels watched it repeatedly with “enthusiasm and delight.” Shortly following his victory, an over 3.5 meter bronze of Schmeling by Albert Speer’s preferred sculptor, Josef Thorak, was permanently installed at the Olympic Stadium complex in Berlin. Even following his defeat by Louis two years later, he remained the embodiment of the “volkisch” National Socialist ideal. However, as a bulky, powerful figure at the center of a boisterous sport, his physical and cultural presence challenged the eugenicist’s prescription of a German, Nordic ideal.
I6A. Art and Evolutionist Controversies 4: “The New Man”: Russian Avant-Garde, Bolshevism, Jasper Johns and Stelarc–(chs. Brauer and Larson)
Isabel Wunsche, International University Bremen, “Germany Organic Symbiosis versus Natural Selection: How Lamarck Informed the Ideal of the New Man in Russian Avant-Garde Art”
The concept of evolution strongly shaped the synthetic approaches of Russian avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Mikhail Matiushin, and Vladimir Tatlin. However, while evolutionary theory was accepted in Russia at the beginning the the 20th century with the broad and general understanding of a continuous organic development from simple to more complex forms in nature and society, Lamarckism was favored over Darwinism. Emphasizing the national character of their culture and distinguishing themselves from Western European capitalism, Russian intellectuals rejected “natural selection” and “struggle for existence” as selective mechanisms of the evolutionary process in favor of the idea of “harmony” and “mutual aid.” The Russian emphasis on the crucial function of “cooperation” and the idea of the active role of the organism in the evolutionary process was reflected in the artists’ conclusion that the artist has the ability to be actively involved in the development of new art forms. This paper will explore how Russian avant-garde artists, through their experiments and artistic creation, strove to speed up the process of human evolution and create the New Man.
Pat Simpson, History and Theory of Art, University of Hertfordshire, “Darwinism, Lamarckism and Bolshevism: The Art of Creating the New Soviet Person” Central to Bolshevik thinking, even before October 1917 was the idea that a successful socialist revolution would give rise to a new species of humanity–‘a new biologic type,’ as Trotsky wrote in 1924. Throughout the 1920s there was a wide range of discourse, debate and experiment all focused on how this goal might be achieved, accompanied by a wealth of diverse visualizations of this eugenic ideal in art, propaganda posters, photography, literature and the theatre. The process had to be perceived as ‘scientific’–in keeping with the notion of Bolshevism as ‘scientific socialism.’ It also had to be seen as ‘evolutionary’–in keeping with the link forged by Engels between Darwinism and Marxism. This paper will use aspects of contemporary visual culture to explore this curious and complex relationship between Bolshevism and Darwinism in this period, with regard to the concept of the New Person. While today we would regard the solution pursued by the Communist Party as deeply unscientific, it will be argued that there were certain logical aspects to this preference in the Bolshevik context of the 1920s.
Isabelle Wallace, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia, “Cracking the Code: Image and Individual Circa 1955″ My paper grapples with the implications of an apparent parallel between shifting conceptions of the individual and image in the West, focusing particular attention of the fact that the mid-1950s bears witness to two important, and I claim, related developments in the spheres of aesthetics and genetics. In particular, my paper links Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA’s structure to Jasper Johns’ contemporaneous discovery of a code at the heart of Abstract Expressionist painting. Treating Johns’ dispassionate analysis of Abstract Expressionist brushwork as the pictorial equivalent of Watson and Crick’s analysis of our own genetic code, I consider both the existence and implication of this mutual unveiling and analysis, and ask what conclusions can be drawn on the basis of this un-remarked synchronicity.
Michael Filas, Department of English, Westfield State College, MA, “Stelarc and Post-Evolutionary Consciousness” The Australian performance artist, Stelarc, argues that humanity has reached a point where Darwinian evolution can no longer provide the adaptations our species needs to survive. In the contexts of digital matrices and artificial intelligence, our bodies are obsolete anchors to a physical dimension that has become secondary in importance to the goings on in digital and extraterrestrial domains. Stelarc considers the present age a time of post-evolution, a time when synthetic integration with manufactured environments and virtual worlds is more important than perpetuation of unified subjects existing in individual bodies. His performances and writings dramatize contemporary possibilities for distributed consciousness and a post-evolutionary devaluation of embodiment. I will situate Stelarc’s work in the context of cyberpunk literature and film–Neuromancer, The Matrix, and eXistenZ, and discuss how Kevin Warwick human-machine connectivity experiments relate to Stelarc’s more brazen demonstrations.
I6B. Arakawa and Gins Part II: Architecture Against Death–(ch. Byrd)
Panel Two: James Sherry, Roof Books, NY, NY. (Moderator), Don Ihde, Department of Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook, Martin E. Rosenberg, Independent Scholar, Stanley Shostak, Department of Biology, University of Pittsburgh..
Arakawa and Gins have once again escalated the struggle to reverse destiny, this time taking on the legal and governmental structures that would be needed for Making Dying Illegal. What if death were to be made illegal? For one, it would make those already tragic deaths in a terrorized world even more tragic. One of the secrets to Arakawa and Gins’ trajectory is that they engage our actions, particularly our embodied actions, to radically change our ethical perspectives. Beginning with the disorienting way of looking at paintings with eyes closed, standing on a ramp, on through the highly interactive housing architecture that engages and changes perspectives, now into the wider social world, they produce the procedures that radically reverse our ordinary embodiment, and it’s taken for granted we are led farther and farther into a different destiny.–DON IHDE
Impossible, you say? Well, then sit back in your movie theater and watch yourself propelled toward doom: Enraptured or skeptical; it’s all the same. Or act. Can’t decide? Well, then read Arakawa and Gins’ new volume Making Dying Illegal and learn that until, like a free radical, you drift against the major flow, beyond Duchampian skepticism and Deleuze’s vitalist rapture, and you feel your way through a “biotopology” of an enacted life lived in an architectural surround. Whatever is forbidden is mandatory.–MARTIN ROSENBERG
Take a deep breath and read, “A herd of bison watch helplessly, with eyes and miens that call out to be read as suffused with fellow-feeling, as one of their number falls through the ice.” Let it out slowly. Now read the rest of Making Dying Illegal. YouÕre ready. –STAN SHOSTAK
I7. On Mutaphobia–(ch. Zaretsky)
Adam Zaretsky, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “On Mutaphobia”
A brief analysis of the attractions and repulsions, responsibilities and sociopathologies which are coincident with the flesh hacker’s arena of sculpting inheritance: Is our ecosphere being altered by Genetically Modified Organisms built for profit margins without authentic oversight or risk assessment? If the technology for genome sculpting of new style humans is a possibility, what, if any, effect will imagination play in our future kindred? What can we know about animal sentience and non-human awareness? How are artists taking these factors into account as they try to express themselves through living collage? As new biological comprehension sprouts new technological processes, what are the overt and covert roles of creativity on the decisions of which traits get embedded into whose new bodies? These are today’s major issues emanating from the intersection of Art and Biology. For more, see http://www.ciac.ca/magazine/archives/no_23/en/dossier.htm.
Monika Bakke, Philosophy Department, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland, “Vertigo of the Post-anthropocentric Condition” Post-anthropocentrism exists but it is still a rare and rather marginalized condition. For some it means the catastrophic end of the human, for others the beginning of a new and less lonely species. The post-anthropocentric mood can be traced in the realm of art practices and literary, philosophical and scientific writings, but most unsettling is the observation of its consequences. Hence most of us still cannot imagine what it is like to really perceive a non-human life form as subject. In my paper, I would like to examine some bio art practices which while questioning human essentialism explore the unsettling effects of post-anthropocentric convictions. The latter can be observed as 1) vertigo of excess (Bataille) felt confronting the opening up of endless connections with other life forms, those already existing and future ones; 2) vertigo of not knowing (de Certeau) evoked by this unprecedented situation in western culture, and finally 3) vertigo of voluptuous panic (Caillois) which is experienced by those anti-essentialist humans who do not believe that only post-humans could be post-anthropocentric.
Oron Catts, Artistic Director, SymbioticA, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, “Extended Phenotypes or Non Darwinian Beings?” The ability of one species (human) to intervene, manipulate and modify different levels of living systems is increasing to the degree that a growing number of beings exist outside of framework of Darwinian evolution. From ecologies to parts of organisms, hybrids and fragments, technologically mediated and augmented life subsists and in cases thrive. These entities challenge cultural and biological evolved human perceptions of life, as well as question future evolutionary directions. The marriage of life and technology comes in different ways; cyborgian and semi-living entities, transgenic organisms, industrial farming, and urban environment. Artists seem to be in the forefront of the explorations of the broader cultural, ontological, epistemological and phenomenological implication these entities present.
Clea Badion, Visual Criticism, California College of the Arts, “The Transgenic Gaze” In his essay, “Why Look at Animals,” John Berger describes how the gaze between human and animal has changed so dramatically that we no longer “see” them. With the creation of transgenic animals in both science and art, a new species has emerged. Has a new gaze emerged as well–one that demands contemplation from the point of view of both human and animal? Are artists in particular encouraging this gaze? In this paper, I will consider the evolution of the gaze between human and animal, creator and created. This evolution begs the question: Do we view these transgenic creatures differently and do they view us differently? Eduardo Kac has addressed the “social existence of transgenic animals” in his work. This notion that transgenic animals exist within a new social system takes on new meaning–and vision–if genetically engineered creatures might one day become “more” than us, as Donna Haraway has suggested. If we are smarter because we’ve constructed “smarter” environments, these creatures might become smarter as well.
I8. Bioteknica and Intelligent Skin (ch. Sha Xin Wei, Fine Arts and Computer Science, Concordia University)
Jennifer Willet, Studio Arts and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program, Concordia University, and Shawn Bailey, Studio Arts, Concordia University, and the Hexagram Institute, “BIOTEKNICA: Soft Experiments from the Laboratory”
BIOTEKNICA is an umbrella art/research project posing as a fictitious biotech corporation in which designer organisms are generated to meet consumer demand. However, the organisms produced by BIOTEKNICA, do not adhere to the structures and functionality normally manifest in nature. They are irrational and grotesque. They are modeled on the Teratoma, an unusual cancerous growth containing multiple tissues like hair, skin, and vascular systems. Monstrous as this may seem, scientists today see the Teratoma as an instance of spontaneous cloning, and are conducting research on the Teratoma with the goal of developing future technologies. In 2006, we returned to SymbioticA to work in Collaboration with Tissue Culture and Art Project (TC&A) to complete our Teratological Prototypes. Our paper will investigate the deterioration of legitimacy in instances of interdisciplinary production with an emphasis on our experience as non-scientists working in the SymbioticA laboratories, and our status as pseudo-specialists in peer based ethics review procedures for scientific research involving the use of animal and human research subjects. We will explore models of ‘soft experimentation’ that highlight our liminal status as critic/practitioners working in contemporary biological art practices and the realm of scientific technologies and discourses–and the methodological foundation of BIOTEKNICA.
Vera Buhlmann and Klaus Wassermann, Institute for Research in Art and Design, University of Applied Sciences, Basel, “Intelligent Skins: Towards a Logics of the Circumstantial” Urban milieus are places of fast change, where nowadays media architecture is playing an increasingly important role. Exploring these creative processes, the “intelligent skin” project adopted the hypercycle as a pivotal concept. The visible part of “intelligent skins” are large facade-like displays, which operate in a quasi-species mode through their informational autonomy. They are conceived as a cross-over of concepts from media theory and artificial life, architecture and biology, for investigating the possibility to establish new hypercycles from a media architecture perspective. The displays are like a skin/fur of house-beings, Oikoborgs, which develop individuality while growing as a center of gravity for new modes for negotiating codes in dynamic urban spaces. Those new codes and consistencies emerge in a mixed-species setting according to a logic of the circumstantial. As a living example of social genesis, Oikoborgs add a further “mediatrophic” level, which we describe in terms of basic ontic elements. Taken together, reaction-diffusion, compartmentalization, topological “randolations,” and hypercycles are not concerned just with nature any more. They describe synthetic openness as Deleuzean virtuality in mindful cultures as well, and so the possibility for foamy urban co-habitation in new semio-spheres.
I9A. The First Supper: Living and Working with Artifactual Life Forms–(ch. Sheryl Brahnam)
Kenneth Gross in his essay “Moving Statues, Talking Statues” imagines the day when sculptures step off their pedestals to join us for dinner. He is certain we will need a manual for dealing with these creatures, a helpful “handbook (suitable for poets, critics, and sculptors–at once a history, a book of spells, a courtesy manual, and a diagnostic treatise)” that will tell us how properly to address these foreign guests, how to dispel their misconceptions, and how, if necessary, to insult and even to destroy them. That day–when human artifacts come to dinner–is rapidly approaching. Technology is evolving, separating itself from the human to become autonomous life forms. As robots and virtual creatures begin to populate our social space, fragments of “a history, a book of spells, a courtesy manual, and a diagnostic treatise” are rapidly taking shape. Papers and artwork presented in these panels will examine what philosophy, film, literature, critical theory, and human-computer interaction have to say about the ‘proper human’ and its relationship to other humans, the thing, and the animated beings in between.
Stephen Weininger, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and MIT, “Condillac’s Statute and the Meaning of ‘Human'” In the 17th and 18th centuries philosophers attacked the idea that humans had innate ideas; they argued that all our knowledge derives from sensations conveyed to us by our sensory organs. One thoroughgoing “sensationist,” the AbbŽ Condillac, imagined a statue that is “alive” but prevented by a marble sheath from having sensations. Then, one by one, its sensory organs are uncovered. The first is the sense of smell, which alone cannot lead to either a sense of objects or of self. However, the statue has the capacity of memory and can compare sensations. As more modes of sensation, above all touch, are added the statue learns attention, judgment, reasoning, abstraction and many other “human” characteristics and, finally, a conception of “self.” Various investigators have invoked “Hume-Condillac machines” as models for doing sociology, and in arguments over whether machines can “think.” In Condillac’s formulation the statue was always guided by its “needs and interests.” Can a machine have “needs and interests?” I will explore some implications of Condillac’s statue for our understanding of the meaning of “human.”
Sheryl Brahnam, Missouri State University, “Working with Autonomous Human-Like Artifacts and the Anthropomorphic Tension” For over a century, science fiction has painted vivid pictures of what it would be like to live and work alongside animated human-like artifacts. Researchers are aware, however, that building working relationships with human-like machines is difficult and that people are oftentimes hostile towards anthropomorphic interfaces. These problems are often blamed on technological limitations that irritate people and disrupt the suspension of disbelief. In this paper, I argue that an ‘anthropomorphic tension’ challenges the suspension of disbelief. When confronted with things, two powerful forces come into play: the tendency to anthropomorphize and a strong societal pressure, especially evident in the West, to banish the anthropomorphic for the sake of objectivity. Not only is this tension at odds with the suspension of disbelief but it also provides motivating grounds for abusing these artifacts. This presentation will discuss some ethical implications of this abuse as well as some of the unique characteristics of human-like artifacts.
Edmond Salsali and Rebecca Ruige Xu, Missouri State University, “Encountered” We will discuss our artwork, which will be exhibited on Saturday. This work questions the potential problematic consequences between humans as creators and their own creations. Our project includes real-time interaction with 3D characters in virtual 3D environments. The user selects from a collection of characters and environments. Each character has a different appearance, age, and personality. The environments also differ in terms of setting, mood and atmosphere. The interactions of the participants with the characters include making them walk, run, jump, sit, crawl, dance, and fly. The user has control over the shape of his/her character’s body and can bend, twist, stretch, and bulge it to the point of total distortion. The characters have physical and vocal reactions to user manipulations. Participants can freeze the character and start over a new interaction. Each cycle adds a still image and potentially a distorted character to the artwork. Therefore, the mass of deformed 3D bodies along with various superimposed sounds of characters result in a unique audio visual experience.
I9B. Surrealism and Beyond: Astronomy/Astrology, Eidetic Perception, and Self-Transmutation–(ch. Sha Xin Wei, Media Arts and Sciences, Concordia University)
Ashley Schmiedekamp, Department of Art History, University of Texas at Austin, “Surrealism, Astronomy, and Astrology in the 1940s”
This paper explores the fascination of Surrealist artists with astronomy and its occult counterpart, astrology, in the 1940s. Although astronomy had first been brought to the attention of the general public in the works of the nineteenth-century scientist/occultist Camille Flammarion, it attracted new interest from the 1920s onward as current developments in cosmology were popularized in sources on the new Relativity physics, such as James Jeans’s The Mysterious Universe. Flammarion’s Astronomie populaire also remained in print, and such books (and others) stimulated a range of responses–from Max Ernst’s overt concern with astrology to numerous Surrealist works incorporating stars, planets, and the universe, in general, such as Ernst’s Bewildered Planet (1942) and Matta’s Galaxies: Mysticism of Infinity (1942).
Mark Morrisson, Department of English, Pennsylvania State University, “From Spiritual Alchemy to the New Alchemy: Self-Transmutation and the Magical Pharmacopoeia” Alan Watts’s seminal essay, “The New Alchemy” (1960), links alchemical self-transmutation to a mystical experience of LSD and is widely quoted and cited on web sites dedicated to psychedelic alchemy. As Watts notes, the effects of LSD on the brain, leading to a mystical experience, might well seem to some to suggest a material, chemical basis for spirituality_-a fascinating tangle of spirituality and material science. Yet such a conception of spiritual self-transmutation through chemical manipulation of the brain can already be seen in the “spiritual alchemy” of the late Victorian occult revival and its twentieth-century inheritors. Focusing on the alchemical tropes governing the drug use of occultists such as Arthur Machen, W. B. Yeats, Paschal Beverley Randolph, and Aleister Crowley, this paper explores the significance of what Alex Owen calls the “magical pharmacopoeia” to self-transmutation experiments following from the Hermetic practice of spiritual alchemy, and begins charting the connections between later twentieth-century psychedelic alchemy and its occult predecessors.
Kirsten Hoving, History of Art and Architecture, Middlebury College, “Astronomy and Fantasy on Utopia Parkway: Joseph Cornell’s ‘Nebula, The Powdered Sugar Princess'” The American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-72) devoted his career to constructing collages and assemblage boxes with objects juxtaposed in poetic ways. He dedicated boxes to butterflies and forgotten ballerinas and stories from eighteenth-century books. Above all, Cornell was fascinated by the scientific facts and spiritual significance of astronomy. He produced hundreds of works with references to astronomical phenomena: found-footage films, three-dimensional “space-object boxes,” enigmatic collages, and collections of related cosmic ephemera. Around 1941 Cornell drafted a scenario for a never-realized ballet-film, probably written in 1941 and variously entitled “Nebula, The Powdered Sugar Princess” and “Princess Nebula.” By comparing Cornell’s imagery for his imagined film with descriptions of the discoveries of Hubble and his colleagues about distant nebulae, it is clear that Cornell’s ballet depicts the evolution of a nebula as it forms a star system and belongs to a larger context of popular interest in nebulae, seen in such venues as Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.”
Peter Mowris, Department of Art History, University of Texas at Austin, “Andre Breton and Eidetic Perception” Surrealists looked to scientists other than Sigmund Freud. In 1933, Andre Breton described new possibilities for artistic creation by describing how recent studies in psychophysiology support radical forms of perception. Breton’s specific uses of eidetic perception theories by scientists like E.R. Jaensch or Pierre Quercy has not received any attention from art historians. This scientific discovery arose from studies in which scientists presented children with an image or an object that they examined for fifteen seconds. The scientists then removed it from the child’s visual field. The child’s mind, unsullied by culture, is fresh enough to retain a sharp mental image of an object after its disappearance. Breton’s use of eidetic theory posits the concept of unified visual consciousness in the Surrealist project. This paper will present these rather apocryphal perception theories, detail Breton’s specific uses of them, and will conclude with a discussion of the repercussions these theories have for analyses of Surrealist art and theory.
I10A. The First Supper: Living and Working with Artifactual Life Forms 2–(ch. Brahnam)
Terence H. W. Shih, University of Edinburg, “A Love Seeker: The Frankenstein Monster from an AI Perspective”
Following Newton’s mechanical worldview and Descartes’ assertion of animal-machines, equivalent to automata, the eighteenth-century concept of artificial humans and empiricism directly nourish Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In this essay, I initially investigate artificial humans in the eighteenth-century theories of Condillac, Hartley, and La Mettrie, in an attempt to arrive at the mechanism of the Frankenstein monster. Furthermore, the Monster’s learning process by dint of an empiricist view (John Locke, David Hume) clearly mirrors that of a robot. Lastly, a philosophical discussion on the pursuit of love will be demonstrated to make a comparison between the Frankenstein monster and the robot child David in the movie AI (2001).
Antonella De Angeli, School of Informatics, University of Manchester, “Virtual Companions: Power and Punishment in Mixed Species Interaction” For decades science fiction writers have envisioned a world in which robots and computers act like human assistants, virtual companions, and artificial slaves. Nowadays, that world looks closer. A number of life-like creatures are under development in research centres world-wide, and some prototypes have already entered our everyday lives. They are embodied conversational agents, chatterbots, and talking heads, displaying a range of anthropomorphic features. These artificial creatures offer information, services and even company to whomever wants to or is capable of engaging them. This paper will address social dynamics of these virtual relationships within a socio-cognitive perspective, and discuss issues of power distribution and punishment. The overarching goal of this research is to propose a cyber-social model of virtual relationships, to define the foundation for the implementation of social intelligence in computing machinery.
Michael J. Klein, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, “Hideous Progeny: Alternative (Re)production in SF Film” Science fiction (SF) films often focus on the use of “non-natural” or alternative methods of reproduction, warning us of the potential pitfalls of producing humans or human-like creatures through the use of biotechnology. The irony of these warnings, however, is that these creatures are less to be feared and avoided than the society that condones and orders their creation. The individuals created through new techniques are treated as objects, reflecting problems already evident in the societies that created them. In Blade Runner, replicants are treated like slaves, and are killed whenever they escape. In Gattaca, genetically engineered humans, while held in high regard, are forced to assume roles and fulfill expectations that many cannot. Finally, in The Island, clones are engineered and conditioned to be used as spare body parts for the elite and wealthy. These visions speak to the very fears our culture has in the constant tension between societal progress and personal autonomy.
I10B. Art Exhibition: “Encountered”–(ch. Brahnam)
Edmond Salsali, Department of Media, Journalism, and Film, Missouri State University, Rebecca Ruige Xu, Dept of Art & Design, Missouri State University, and William Alexander, Missouri State University
Artificial characters are increasingly acquiring the abilities to reveal physical and emotional reactions to human acts. The intention of this artwork is to metaphorically illustrate this characteristic, and to question its potential problematic consequences in the relationship between humans as creators and their own creations. Our project will include real-time interaction with 3D characters in virtual 3D environments. The user will be able to select from a collection of characters and environments. Each character will have different appearance, age, and personality. The environments will also differ in terms of setting, mood and atmosphere. The interaction of the participant with the characters will include making them walk, run, jump, sit, crawl, dance, and fly. The user will have control over the shape of his/her character’s body and can bend, twist, stretch, and bulge it to the point of total distortion. The characters will have physical and vocal reactions to user’s manipulations. Participant can freeze the character in space and start over a new interaction. Each cycle will add a still, and potentially distorted character to the artwork. Therefore, the mass of deformed 3D bodies along with various superimposed sounds of characters will each time result in a unique audio visual experience
VIOLET Culture, Theory, and History
V3 The Prehistory of the Robot in Western Culture 1–(ch: Kevin LaGrandeur, Dept of English, New York Institute of Technology)
These two panels discuss how the robot was prefigured in various ways in Western culture well before the age of computers, or even the age of industry. There were some automatic mechanisms designed in antiquity by proto-engineers such as Philon of Byzantium, who is mentioned by Vitruvius in the 1st Century B.C.E. and by Heron of Alexandria in around 50 C.E. as having made automatic theaters with puppets powered by water or steam. Heron himself is famous for his treatises on hydraulic and steam-powered automata. But automata, especially mechanical humanoids, became very popular in the Middle Ages with the advent of clockwork. Artisans, particularly clockmakers, began to produce marvelous automatic figurines, literature began to depict artificial humans and animals, and scholarly treatises by natural philosophers even proclaimed methods for creating living humanoids. In the Renaissance, all of these trends increased, as real automata also began to appear in formal gardens and at court for the amusement of the wealthy and powerful, and artificially made humans and animals began to appear in the scientific and imaginative literature of the time.
Scott Lightsey, Department of English, Georgia State University, “From the Court to the Street: Early Automata in Performance” In order to live out the textual wonders of romances in their daily lives, medieval elites commissioned fantastic automata to enhance the reputations of their courts. These clockwork-driven automata and other mechanisms circulated in a kind of economy of wonders, anticipating Renaissance patterns of scientific exchange and functioning as an important aspect of status negotiations among elites. But they also engaged civic environments, where they were adapted by the crafts-classes for performative events such as civic entries, moral dramas, and religious ceremonies. As such they entered the public among lower artists and craftsmen, whose work was then written back into genre texts by Chaucer, Mandeville, and other writers engaged in reproducing the culture of romance. In these texts, automata occupied a paradoxical social framing in which they represented the preternatural mirabilia of romance, but operated as the politicized machines.
Jean-Louis Trudel, Department of History, University of Ottowa, “Medieval Robots Before Clockwork: The Case of the French Romances” The thirteenth-century romances have long been identified as a springboard of European literary interest in magical and mechanical marvels. It is not always appreciated, however, to what extent their authors integrated contemporaneous reports and speculations about technological achievements witnessed in distant lands and in Antiquity. Furthermore, it appears possible to trace, over the space of a few decades, the evolution of the robot motif as automatic mechanisms morph from the more realistic portrayal of early texts to the more and more purely fantastical descriptions of the later Arthurian romances. Even though chronological reconstructions are problematic, it seems possible that literary marvels became more fantastical than mechanical just as medieval craftsmen and their patrons began to invest in actual automatic mechanisms. Both phenomena prefigured the even greater vogue of automata after the advent of clockwork.
Scott Maisano, Department of English, University of Massachusetts-Boston, “Milton avec Descartes: or, Natural-Born Cyborgs in the Garden of Eden” In her recent work, In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit, Noreen Herzfeld insists that “as we human beings attempt to create in our image through artificial intelligence, the imago Dei becomes an even more important symbol.” Herzfeld’s argument is compelling but her decision to locate the origins of this spiritual crisis–the diminution of the “soul” and it replacement by “reason” as the basis of our humanity–in the recent speculations of authors such as Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil will feel a little shortsighted to her more secular readers. After all, Rene Descartes insisted more than three hundred years ago that “machines” (by which he meant animals as well as artfully constructed automata) possessed all the same capacities as humans, except for the capacity to reason, which came via the pineal gland from the immaterial soul. In this paper, I hope to show that in Paradise Lost John Milton sought, like Herzfeld after him, to rescue the imago Dei from the narrow confines of a “substantialist” interpretation which regards “reason” as the defining characteristic of both God and humanity.
V4. Mathematics and the Body– (ch. Arielle Saiber, Department of Romance Languages, Bowdoin College)
Anne Brubaker, Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Literature in the Age of Mathematics”
Feminist critiques of Descartes have paid particular attention to the gendered dualisms and masculinist underpinnings that structure Cartesian epistemology, and these critiques have contributed significantly to the breakdown of Cartesian subjectivity within contemporary literary and cultural theory. I argue, however, that this breakdown has not occurred equally across all disciplines; mathematics in particular has been reluctant to give up on a Cartesian worldview. Thus, feminist scholarship can usefully turn to the subject of mathematics as both a means to reproduce the always-split or fractured self, as well as a particularly enduring way of describing ‘difference’ along gender lines. After all, Descartes, both a philosopher and a mathematician, bases his understanding of the subject on a mathematical conception of being; the mental realm is separate from the physical world just as mathematical truths are independent of an always-changing Nature. This paper explores how women science fiction writers including Judith Merill, Joanna Russ, and Ursula K. Le Guin negotiate the subject’s relationship to an emerging technoscientific culture, and offer different sorts of critiques of the mathematization–and masculinization–of “modern culture.” Drawing on the work of Philip Mirowski, I trace both the destabilization and reappropriation of Cartesian dualisms in the fiction of Merill, Russ, and Le Guin. I follow this feminist ‘poaching’ and exploration of mathematics as a way to offer a feminist take on masculinist science and metaphysics.
Ellen Moll, Comparative Literature, University of Maryland, “Ada Lovelace’s Webs of Knowledge: The Portrayal of Intellectual Breadth in Zeroes and Ones and Conceiving Ada“ This paper will compare representations of “intellectual breadth” in Sadie Plant’s prose poem/theoretical work, Zeroes and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture, and Lynn Hershman-Leeson’s film, Conceiving Ada. Both texts consider the life and works of Ada Lovelace, the nineteenth-century mathematician and scientist who is considered the first computer programmer, and both explore how knowledge-making processes are connected to gender, human and non-human agencies, and shifting subjectivities. In these texts, knowledge work, especially innovative knowledge work, entails many kinds of boundary-crossing, intellectual and otherwise. This comparison will examine how these texts define and attribute “intellectual breadth” to Lovelace and her works in order to examine several questions related to the above issues. It is especially significant that Lovelace has come to mean a great deal to more recent communities, especially in narratives that claim continuity between Lovelace’s scientific and philosophical work and current debates over how technology relates to culture, difference, and embodiment (for example, cyborg studies). This comparison will consider how notions of “intellectual breadth” contribute to the portrayal of Lovelace as an intellectual/political ancestor to today’s “digital women.”
Bonnie Shulman, Department of Mathematics, Bates College, “What is White Mathematics?” This very question has provoked anger and hostility from many mathematicians/people. For in all the debates about multicultural education, mathematics has always been immune to critique since it is believed by all to be universal and, therefore, culture-free. If its practitioners are primarily white males, this is only an artifact of the institutions in which it is practiced, it has nothing to do with the content of the subject. I propose to challenge as myth the deeply embedded belief that mathematics is a culturally neutral phenomenon, and indict (implicate) both mathematical practice and mathematical knowledge as powerful weapons in the imposition of white, European, “western” culture on indigenous peoples.
V5. The Prehistory of the Robot in Western Culture 2–(ch. LaGrandeur)
Kevin LaGrandeur, “Early Modern Androids as Symbols of Intellectual Rebellion”
The factual and fictional literature of the Renaissance contains references to the creation of artificial humanoids–somewhat remarkable for an era that predates not only the era of cloning and robotics, but also the era of industry. These figures range from images in fictional literature of talking brass heads to discussions of the homunculus by Renaissance natural philosophers and to Jewish legends of the golem. What would motivate all these images of androids in a pre-technological age? I will examine this question in light of Early Modern scientific ambition and social values concerning such ambition. My working theory is that these images of the artificial android represent fears about intellectual adventurousness and about human arrogance concerning their natural dominion.
Minsoo Kang, Department of History, University of Missouri-St. Louis, “Wonders of Natural Magic: The Automaton in the Transition from Magic to Science, 1533-1622″ In the Renaissance magus Cornelius Agrippa’s seminal work on natural magic, Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1533), one finds a list of wonders, or various automata of both legendary and factual origins, used to illustrate the efficacy of natural magic. The list, in modified forms, appears in the works of other Renaissance hermetic magicians. What is surprising, however, is that it was also transmitted into the works of early modern scientists, with a faint echo of it appearing even in the Enclyclopedie, in the article ‘automate.’ What are we to make of the same group of marvelous objects appearing in works of both magic and science–utilized to demonstrate the use and power of what used to be regarded as antagonistic views on nature (i.e. the magical-animistic verses rational-mechanistic). Using recent scholarship on the subject on natural magic and early modern science, from the works of Frances Yates to those of Brian Copenhaver and Anthony Grafton that question the simplistic view of this antagonism, I will show how the automaton serves as the perfect symbolic object with which to observe the continuity, rather than a rupture, in the transition from Renaissance naturalism to mechanistic thought.
Carol Colatrella, Literature, Communication, and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Representing the Technological Past: Proto-Robots in Melville’s ‘The Bell-Tower’ and Piercy’s He, She, and It“ Although science fiction often writes a history of the future, Herman Melville’s “The Bell-Tower” (1856) and a significant portion of Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It (1991) turn instead to examining the early Western roots of experimentation with robotics. Melville’s Bannadonna builds Talus, an automaton designed to strike hours on a public clock of a bell tower in early modern Italy. Piercy’s novel compares the Golem in seventeenth-century Prague to the futurist robot Yod in the late-twenty-first century in what was once the northeastern United States. Despite being technological marvels and objects of fascination for others, these proto-robots destroy and do not survive their creators. These creations have been all too successful at their respective assigned tasks of keeping time and protecting threatened communities, while also desiring to break free from the domination of their masters. In this way, Melville and Piercy historically delineate proto-robots as dangerous creations with prospects exceeding human imagination, call into question the limits of human creativity, and develop an ethics of robotics for a new class of beings.
V6. Imagining Transportation Systems: Past/Present/Future–(ch. Smiley)
In imagining a transportation system, what are the constraints, the goals, the ideas, the imagined people or beings that take them? How has class, race, or gender functioned in the imagined construction of a transportation system? How would a transnational public transportation system function? This panel of artists and scholars will imagine the evolution of future transportations through examining media and society of the past and present.
Holly Henry, Department of English, California State University, San Bernardino, “The Epoch of Space and Modernist Travel Writing” Michel Foucault writes: “The present epoch will be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.” This paper examines the ways that modernist travel writing responded to the “epoch of space” that Foucault described. The paper explores how Einstein’s theories of relativity had filtered into the popular imagination just as modern forms of travel had expanded access to remote regions of earth’s globe. In Postmodern Geographies (1989), Edward Soja contends, “Geography may not yet have displaced history at the heart of contemporary theory and criticism, but there is a new animating polemic on the theoretical and political agenda, one which rings with significantly different ways of seeing space and time together.” Perhaps surprisingly, modernist travel writing addressed not only travel technologies and Einsteinian space and time, but an emerging global politics and human evolution.
Helen J Burgess, Washington State University, Vancouver, and Jeanne Hamming, Centenary College of Louisiana, “Selling the Superhighways: A Future History” This presentation looks at the highway propaganda campaigns GM, Ford, and the highways authorities used in the 1950s to “sell” the Interstate Highway system to the public. In particular, we’d like to discuss some of the film campaigns produced during this period. We will look at GM’s “Motorama” exhibition, Universal-International’s “Highway Hearing” films, GM’s “Give Yourself the Green Light” and Ford’s “Freedom of the American Road.” All of these films use the usual suspects–technological progress, futuristic optimism and American frontierism–to sell the superhighway. But they also use some interesting narrative stagings–a midnight dream, a mock “hearing” featuring a film-within-a-film–designed to appeal on a more personal level to suspicious audiences.
Sam Smiley, AstroDime Transit Authority, and Bebe Beard, Wentworth Institute of Technology, “Will Panda Bears Ride Free on the Handle Bars in 2192?” Over the past year, we have gathered responses from artists, scientists, engineers, and public transportation users regarding imagined and future transportation systems to compile on to a DVD. The submissions take the form of interviews on interplanetary orbits, animations of train stations in the future, abstract musings on motion and historical oddities, and the technology of hauling empty boxes. In a time period where Virgin Galactic is planning its first honeymoon sub orbital flights, and Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of a space elevator is being developed, where will the transit stops be? We will talk about near future fictions and their impact on society and culture today and will also show selections from our DVD compilation. Both transportation utopias and dystopias will be examined and a survey will be passed out to session participants.
V7A. Early Modern Observation–(ch. Chico)
Ann Ponten, Theoretical and Applied Aesthetics, School of Architecture, Lund, Sweden, “The Tensile Geometry of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man”
One of the most frequently reproduced drawings in Western art history–Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man–has been claimed being based on empirical measurements, which generated the geometry of the square and circle inscribing the man. By treating the geometric figures themselves empirically, a margin of error for the instability of the drawing is suggested. Within this margin of error a number of constructive relations between the square and circle can be found. Some are very good approximations of the squaring of the circle–a problem to which Leonardo devoted numerous notes. Leonardo’s manuscript treats the body as a moving geometric tool and its text prescribes certain relations between the bodily positions within the square and the circle. It can be shown that the body–and specifically the separation of the legs–cannot generate the geometry suggested by Leonardo. The manuscript can thus be interpreted as refuting both the idea of empiricism and the idea of the body as a tool generating the square and circle. It ends up as an illusion demonstrating the persuasive rhetoric of Leonardo’s style.
Al Coppola, English Department, Fordham University, “Retraining the Virtuoso’s Gaze: Wonder, Politics and the Anthropocentric Spectacle of the Musaeum Regalis Societatis” Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park have identified a shift in the attitude of the natural philosopher over the seventeenth century, from astonished “wonder” to a more disciplined, rational “curiosity.” The texts produced by the Royal Society around the turn of the 1680s are actively engaged in retraining the naturalists’ gaze, but the specific sort of curiosity promoted by their publications, particularly the spectacular museum catalog compiled by Nehemiah Grew, privileges above all else the normal, unmediated perspective of the naked human eye. This move comes as part of an effort to open natural philosophy up to a new class of nonspecialists, but in doing so it aggressively restrains the enthusiasm associated with the radical discoveries afforded by the microscope and the telescope. This containment of enthusiasm was intended to have a political effect–Grew’s Musaeum comes as part of a campaign to promote a new style of natural philosophy as an alternative to the imaginary plots and discoveries of party politics in the Exclusion Crisis.
Tita Chico, Department of English, University of Maryland, “Trivial Pursuits” In this paper I argue that debates about optical instruments, in particular microscopes, offer us a model of eighteenth-century observation that is defined by its often uneasy conjunction of technology and body, and its explicitly social nature. This is far from the disembodied notion of observation that Jonathan Crary argues dominated in the eighteenth century. According to Crary, eighteenth-century observation, understood through the metaphor of the camera obscura, offers “the guarantees of authority, identity, and universality.” In contrast, I argue that analyzing debates about microscopy allows us to understand the competing and vexed discourses that shaped eighteenth-century notions of observation as an activity of the technological body. Not figured as the solitary, abstract, or stable entity of Crary’s analysis, the observer I analyze is fraught–socially embedded and susceptible to delusion. The very problematics of observation evident in experimental philosophy thus point to wider negotiations of subjectivity, power, and material culture.
Annika Waenerberg, Department of Arts and Culture Studies University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, “Goethe and Leonardo. Drawing the Invisible” The idealistic morphology of the 19th century in its approach to nature emphasized the visual through an increased awareness of patterns of formation and growth. The discipline, deeply rooted in Goethe’s morphology, acknowledged an intrinsic relationship of science and art because both uncover and show hidden laws of nature. For Leonardo art was science and his drawings of the growth of tree branches in Trattato seem to be an obvious predecessor to Goethe’s laws of plant morphology. This paper suggests that the essential parallel between Goethe’s and Leonardo’s approaches lies in comprehending the underlying principles and making them visible rather than detecting patterns of growth as such. This can only be achieved by drawing lines that make the invisible visible, not by mere imitation of the objects. For Goethe the force to be perceived is ‘life’ or the living evolution, a concept which did not yet exist in Leonardo’s time. Nevertheless, Goethe’s definition of ‘life’ as movement or motion (Bewegung) shows a close parallel to Leonardo’s idea, including the drawing of lines to render imperceptible or intrinsic forms visible.
V7B. Approaches to the Fourth Dimension–Late 19th to 21st Centuries–(ch. Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin)
William F. Lindgren, Slippery Rock University, “Flatland as Classical Greece”
Although Edwin A. Abbott was not the first person to posit a two-dimensional universe inhabited by geometric figures, he was the first person to imagine such a space endowed with a highly developed social and political structure. Abbott’s model for the social and political structure of Flatland is not late-Victorian England, which is certainly the target of his satire, but rather classical Greece. As Frank M. Turner and Richard Jenkyns have shown, there was a widespread conviction among Victorian writers that the historical situations of the Greek and English civilizations were essentially similar. To maintain this similarity, writers like Matthew Arnold had to rationalize away fundamental differences and ignore morally distasteful elements such as Greek slavery. Abbott has heightened his satire by featuring some of the very elements of Greek society that these writers disregarded.
Elizabeth Throesch, University of Leeds, “‘The Study of Permanent Things and a Moving Consciousness’: Contextualizing the Correspondence of Charles Howard Hinton and William James” In 1892, the English-born popularizer of the fourth dimension, Charles Howard Hinton, wrote to American psychologist, William James, that he was experimenting through his fiction with “the study of permanent things and a moving consciousness.” The Hinton-James letters, spanning from 1892 to Hinton’s death in 1907, provide fascinating insights into what Hinton perceived to be the highest calling in his life: assisting others in perceiving the fourth dimension of space. In this paper I will examine Hinton’s correspondence with James in detail, placing it in the context of both Hinton’s and James’s work on consciousness, time, and space. I will be particularly concerned with James’s idea of the stream of consciousness in conjunction with Hinton’s 1895 story, “An Unfinished Communication,” the most experimental of Hinton’s fictions, and a likely candidate for Hinton’s “study of permanent things and a moving consciousness” from the 1892 letter.
Tony Robbin, Artist, New York City, “Drawing Four-Dimensional Figures” The talk will discuss the drawing techniques used by mathematicians to depict hypercubes and other four-dimensional objects, and how these have been borrowed and modified from existing drawing techniques used by artists and architects. Mathematic and artistic visualization of higher-dimensional objects is a two way street: techniques and influences pass both ways. Visual examples will be presented including Stringham, Schlegal, Shoute, Banchoff, and Francis. There will be a special emphasis on the collaboration of topologist Scott Carter and myself.
V8. The Immaterial Cultures of the Ether–(ch. Henderson)
John Tresch, University of Pennsylvania, “Electromagnetism and the Fluid Imaginary in France before 1848”
This paper explores the overlapping theories of subtle and dynamic fluids which ran through French science, literature, and philosophy between 1789 and 1848. Its landing point is the electromagnetic research of Andre-Marie Ampere, whose life and work inspired Honore de Balzac’s tale of modern alchemy, The Quest for the Absolute. Ampere’s investigation of the dynamic properties of electricity and magnetism should be understood in the light of this period’s fascination with techniques for harnessing and converting the fluids found in such ostensibly incompatible sources as Laplacean physics, mesmerism, and Naturphilosophie. In Ampere’s epistemology, like that of many of his contemporaries at the start of industrial modernity, the worlds of mind (or spirit) and extended matter could be bridged by means of various material and immaterial media–whether experimental devices, literary technologies, or the electric ether.
Linda Dalrymple Henderson, University of Texas at Austin, “The Ether, the Fourth Dimension, and Cubist Painting” In most cultural histories of the 20th century, the ether of space barely survives to the end of the first decade of the century. If not finished off by the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment, the ether is said to have died in 1905 with Einstein’s formulation of the Special Theory of Relativity. But the story is not that simple. Not only did the general public not hear of Einstein’s theories until 1919, the existence of the ether was hotly debated among scientists skeptical of Einstein’s theories during the 1910s and 1920s, with passionate defenses of the concept published in both scientific and popular literature by Sir Oliver Lodge and others. Like the fourth dimension of space, which was also largely eclipsed during the 1920s by Relativity Theory, the ether was central to the world view of early 20th century painters. Often linked as well in this period to higher dimensional space, the ether is one of the major lacunae in scholarship on early modernism. This paper explores the evolution of Cubist painting against the backdrop of the lay public’s understanding of space as suffused with ether and possibly possessing more than three dimensions.
Joe Milutis, University of South Carolina, “Oliver Lodge, Movietone, and the Archived Ether” For this presentation, I will introduce a rare archival news film of Oliver Lodge speaking on space, ether, and magnetism. The outtakes of this 1929 sound film unwittingly demonstrate the powers of space more than his scripted address does. Diverse thinkers such as P. D. Ouspensky, Charles Hinton, Yogananda, and David Bohm have all thought of media technologies as pedagogical instruments for perceiving higher dimensions, a topic I have taken up in my recent book Ether: The Nothing That Connects Everything. I will discuss these ideas in relation to the Lodge outtakes.
V9A. Aesthetics and Affect–(ch. Kiki Benzon, Department of English, University of Lethbridge)
Lisa McDonald, Discipline of Media, School of Humanities, University of Adelaide, “‘The Stuff of Future Stars’: Corporeality and Poetics in the Cultural Flows of Science”
Recent writing in the intersections between feminist and science philosophies articulates the basis for innovative dialogue between biological science and the humanities, what one writer considers an inquiry into “how the biological prefigures and makes possible the various permutations of life that constitute natural, social, and cultural existence” (Grosz, 2004). In this paper, I consider the prosthetic contract between bodies and light in a recent reprise of Darwin’s “biological resonances,” and explore some limitations of the epistemological imagination, the making-do of words in notions of the biological body. My interest is in the poetic, or transformative, momentum offered by advances in reproductive science and in the quiescent spaces of its lived negotiations, the “soma-tones” of imagistic force (Bergson, 1896/1988). With volatility in mind, then, I ask, “What is the question which seeks temporality as its answer?” “. . . as though to suggest the outside of knowing an image coalesces to a single point of light then disappears . . . ”
Phillip Thurtle, Comparative History of Ideas, University of Washington, “‘I Believe That Comic Book Heroes Walk the Earth’: Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Becomings in a Monstrous World” It is a common conception that superheroes are super because they possess the agency to change the world. Under this conception, a superhero battles evil by using his special powers to change the world. Unfortunately, this conception of superhero agency does not account for how the superhero became super in the first place. Through an affective/phenomenological analysis of the ways that comic books inform their readers and a critical examination of the role of disasters in post-industrial society, I am able to argue that superheroes inform us about our world precisely because they lose human agency by becoming part of their surroundings. From this perspective, the superhero is super through his intertwining with his environment. This characteristic allows comic books to conceive of the possibility of anomalous events outside the usual bounds of representational practices. It also offers superheroes as exemplars of moral engagement with a world that is only dimly understood and often monstrous in its consequences.
Marsha Rosengarten, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK, “The Expression Of A Racialised Human Host in HIV Evolutionary Theories” Picking up on a statement by Winkler et al (2004) in the journal Human Molecular Genetics that ‘the current HIV-1/AIDS epidemic may soon deposit its own footprints in human genomes in the form of rapidly expanding protective haplotypes and selective sweeps of advantageous alleles’ I consider how this type of evolutionary account sits alongside the apparent de-evolving or reversion of drug induced drug resistant virus to wild type. Winkler et al’s statement involves an evolutionary account of racial groups but, also, shows how ‘evolution’ in molecular genetics imagines nature as an unchanged force that endures beyond the very forces ascribed to it, that is, the evolving mix of human and viral code. My interest is in what this suggests about efforts to understand host and virus, especially in light of other HIV science that situates the virus as bearing the potential to de-evolve in terms on going replication and mutation. In short, motility seems to be implied but foreclosed on by a prior account of the dynamic.
Suzanne Black, Department of English, Purdue University, “What Color is Your Proline? Towards a Rhetoric of Color in Molecular Biology” Rhetoricians and philosophers of science display growing interest in science’s visual forms. So far, however, this research has paid little attention to the role of color in scientific communication–a surprising omission, given color’s aesthetic impact and its importance as a perceptual category. One scientific field in which color plays a key, yet little theorized role, is molecular biology. Journals feature sophisticated and striking representations of large biological molecules, and genetic engineering has produced rabbits, fish and frogs carrying green fluorescent proteins. How might we understand color in such images and animals? Is it strictly a matter of convention and a tool for differentiation, or does it carry an argumentative and rhetorical burden? In this paper, I lay out a brief semiotic and historical trajectory of chemical representation, drawing on the work of Roald Hoffmann and Eric Francoeur, then seek to place it in dialogue with more reflective discussions of color, such as those of John Gage.
V9B. Cybernetics 1–(ch. Bruce Clarke, Department of English, Texas Tech University)
Arndt Niebisch, Department of German, Johns Hopkins University, “Hyper-Sensitivity: Sensory Evolution in Futurism and Dada”
The avant-garde was obsessed with the re-configuration of the human sensorium. Especially the leader of Italian Futurism F.T. Marinetti and the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann engaged in a discussion of new and immediate forms of perception that correlated to modern media technologies. On both sides, these ideas of tactile, hypersensitive forms of perception were understood as a new evolutionary step. Both artists aimed in their projects for an advancement of the physiological capabilities of human beings. In my paper, I will discuss Marinetti’s project of a tactile art, “Tattilismo,” that is based on the phantasmagoria of emerging radio technology, and Raoul Hausmann’s theory of sense perception that addresses his project of constructing a light-sound modulator (optophone) rather than actual biological conditions. It is central to the Futurist as well as Dadaist approach towards an evolution of the senses that this augmentation of physiological possibilities connects to emerging technologies and already feeds into a kind of cybernetic paradigm that simultaneously describes biological and technological processes.
Henning Schmidgen, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, “The Purloined Machine: Lacanian Psychoanalysis and French Cybernetics” Lacan’s seminal article “The Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter'” can be read against the background of French cybernetics and its material culture. Besides Wiener’s and Ashby’s visions of cybernetics, the mathematical theory of communication as well as game theory were of crucial importance to Lacan’s discourse on the symbolic order. Important aspects of this discourse were a result of abstracting from much more specific questions concerning technology. In his teaching, Lacan showed some quite explicit interest in the details of cybernetic machine technology. In his 1954/55 seminar on Freud’s theory of the ego, he repeatedly referred to cyborg devices such as Grey Walter’s turtle robots and Albert Ducrocq’s electronic fox. However, Lacan turned away from the materiality of these machines when it came to prepare his 1957 article for publication. This purloining of the machine does not just reflect Lacan’s interest in language, but also his reliance on arguments made by Alexandre Koyre with respect to the priority of theory, not practice in the history of science.
Nick Hales, English Department, West Virginia University, “Technocrat vs. Terrorist: Cybernetic Construction of the Terrorist Other” American political discourse as articulated by the US Executive Branch and Pentagon technocrats constructs Islamic terrorists and their “criminal” activities as diametrically opposed to the American military and the “legitimate” warfare it wages. This discourse attributes technological proficiency to the U.S. war machine and technological crudity to the international Islamic terrorist. This binary organizes itself around the trope of technology.. I discuss the technocratic conceptualization of the American martial body and its positioning as diametrically opposed to the terrorist body. Technocrats construct the US martial body as a cybernetically controlled, coherent entity. In contrast, technocrats construct the terrorist body as lacking central control, without a head, fragmented, and even sometimes as an absence. I conclude by discussing a particularly important “text” for understanding the martial body of both parties: digital videos distributed on the internet of American soldiers and civilians being beheaded. I argue that the terrorist subverts the dream of an ordered, controlled cybernetic engagement in warfare by marking the US martial body back down to the level of mortal flesh.
V10. Cybernetics 2–(ch. Clarke)
Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University, “The Cybernetics of Gaia”
Lynn Margulis is associated with at least two seminal developments in postmodern science, symbiogenesis and James Lovelock’s Gaia theory. In this paper I explore how cybernetic discourses link Lovelock’s and Margulis’s work. Lovelock’s Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth devotes a chapter to classical cybernetic control theory, positive and negative feedbacks, and homeostatic regulatory systems. Margulis’ writings with Dorion Sagan have incorporated the concept of autopoiesis, Maturana and Varela’s second-order cybernetic description of cellular systematics. Putting the cybernetics of Gaia together with the systems theory that informs Margulis’s accounts of evolution and speciation yields a “geophysiological” synthesis that scales from the cell to the biosphere.
John Johnston, English and Comparative Literature, Emory University, “Mutant and Viral: Artificial Evolution and Software Ecology” In the early 1990s the biologist Tom Ray was able to demonstrate that evolution by natural selection had occurred in Tierra, his Artificial Life virtual world. In 1997 two other ALife scientists, Mark Bedau and Norman Packard, found a means to compare evolutionary activity in artificial evolving systems against evolutionary activity in the biosphere; not surprisingly, these measurements pointed to apparently inherent limits to such artificial, self-enclosed systems. Pursuing parallel paths, other scientists have explored further possibilities with open systems. These attempts to mimic forms of natural computation are ultimately concerned with evolving adaptive software in a dynamically changing environment. As such, they stand in stark contrast to the development of commercial software, which posits a static and controlled environment requiring only proprietary agreements (i.e. laws) and periodic updates. The Internet itself is a dynamic “small worlds” network, growing like a quasi-organic structure, and stimulating the need for increasingly sophisticated adaptive software agents. In this complex software ecology, emergent Artificial life forms become not only more likely but necessary.
Robert Markley, Department of English, Unit for Criticism and Theory, University of Illinois, “Archives of the Posthuman: ‘The Prisoner’ and the Cybernetic Imagination” In 2005 the British music and movie magazine Uncut asked rockers, actors, and musicians to pick the 100 Rock and Movie Icons (songs, movies, and even books) that changed their world. The winner was Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” but the top television show, at number 10, was “The Prisoner,” the experimental BBC series that ran in 1968 and 1969. In this paper, I argue that “The Prisoner” appropriates a 1960s vision of cybernetics to explore an emerging posthumanity that defies and deconstructs the values and assumptions of modernist psychology, politics, and identity. Trapped in and by the surreal atmosphere of The Village, Number Six confronts repeatedly the problems that emerge later in the 20th century as “theory”: the diffusion and inaccessibility of authority, the outmodedness of individual liberty, the threats of dehumanization, and the terror of a panoptical and immersive environment. As part of my current project, The Archives of the Posthuman, this paper explores the always belated quality of the cyborg as well as the belated quality of the “free man” (Number Six’s defiant assertion of self-identity) to which it is ostensibly opposed.
V12. The Politics of Posthuman Becomings–(ch. J. White)
Jennifer Rose White, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, “The Untimely Eruption of Evolutionary Memory in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms” Many Native American novels stage a temporal conflict between native sacred time, usually expressed as timelessness or cyclicity, and the linear, teleological time of the so-called Western world expressed in Judeo-Christian millennialism, capitalism, and philosophies of history. Chicksaw novelist Linda Hogan seems to write in the same vein, yet her use of evolutionary memory in Solar Storms represents a radical departure. What does it mean to remember being fish in the context of debates on ethnic identity, human identity, and environmentalism? In answering these questions, this paper will critically examine whether evolutionary memory proposes a more environmentally-based alternative to existing race-based temporal cultures. I will consider what work evolutionary memory does and does not do in the novel, and what the implications are for the novel’s ethnic and environmental projects. I will argue that Hogan’s evolutionary memory represents the recuperation of a misunderstood, misused discourse to engineer a new kind of pastoral impulse based on an ongoing natural law rather than an idealized past time or place.
Maria Aline Ferreira, Departamento de Linguas e Culturas, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal, “New Myths of Creation: Evolution and Its Discontents in Atwood and Houellebecq” In a cluster of recent novels the question of the evolution of the human species takes centre stage, a question which is inextricably linked with the notion of human identity and how it might be dramatically changed if human beings were to undergo significant alterations. In this scenario the concept of human identity is radically questioned and problematized. These issues constitute the nodal points in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) and Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island (2005). In the former, Crake, a scientist, takes evolution into his own hands, creating new (human) beings, as do the scientists in Houellebecq’s novel. In both, new myths of creation are explicitly crafted to account for these new primal scenes of origin which, like Darwin’s, defy the notion of the Fall. In both, as well, women are elided from the scene of creation of the new beings, although they reappear in the mythical origin scenes. I will engage with Habermas’s reflections on the dangers to human identity of certain biotechnological developments, Sloterdijk’s disquisitions on humanity’s geneticized future, as well as recent work on enhancement technologies and posthuman becomings.
Deboleena Roy, Department of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University, “Should Feminists Clone? And If So, How? Feminist Practices and ‘Re-directed’ Evolution” Most in vitro directed evolution processes involve a molecular engineering technology referred to as subcloning. As a feminist biologist, I would like to conduct an experiment in “re-directed” evolution by transposing feminist theories of embodied materiality into the actual biological objects of the natural sciences. I suggest that by ‘becoming molecular,’ feminist scientists will better be able to deal with anxiety-producing dilemmas in the lab and in their everyday scientific research activities. Furthermore, by using the molecular biology technique of subcloning as a trope for this feminist practice, I attempt to make sense out of my own anxiety-producing dilemma “Should Feminists Clone?” For somewhere in the movements between Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed, a bacterial clone synthesizing proinsulin, lesbian science fiction, stem cells, PCR machines, Superman and designer kittens, I believe that subcloning can emerge as a new feminist practice in the natural sciences, allowing the feminist scientist to address her dilemmas and continue to contribute to the creation of new scientific knowledges.
Laura Shackelford, Indiana University, Bloomington, “Capturing ‘The Life Aquatic’: Evolutionary Logics Taken By and Taking Away Postmodernism” Theoretical engagements with evolutionary logics in feminism, new media, and philosophy frequently assume that recursive, dynamic evolutionary processes and models disarticulate humanism’s instrumental prosthetics (its efforts to differentiate absolutely between nature and culture, subject and object, user and tool). This overlooks the ways in which postmodernism itself involves a re-articulation of these relations in dynamic, processual, fluid, “flexible” terms that facilitate (not forestall) global capitalism’s deterritorializations and other features of an emergent, yet also instrumental (post)humanism. Drawing on Wes Anderson’s film, “The Life Aquatic by Steve Zissou,” I will consider competing engagements with ‘the life aquatic’–a phrase that alternately evokes the fluidity and openness to change attributed to evolutionary processes and postmodernism’s capture/branding of these processual logics. Differentiating between these readings and renderings of virtuality/materiality/futurity (and their interrelations) in the film and in recent theoretical work (Grosz, Massumi, Hitchcock), the paper will explore the potential and limits to such processes of “becoming aquatic.”