Friday, June 05, 2009

Manuel de Landa, Deleuze, Latour...

by J J Cohen

Readers of ITM who also enjoy the philosophical ruminations of Gilles Deleuze will want to watch this video, kindly sent my way by Mike Smith as a way of thinking about objectal agency in Gil Harris's Untimely Matter. I've been a fan of De Landa since I taught his A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History in a graduate seminar on "Hybridity and Complex Systems" in 2002. I've recently returned to his work as a way of thinking about Mandeville as well: more on that later in the summer. Warning: watching this video will make you desire to grow a pony tail.

Speaking of returns, reading Michel Serres and Gil Harris recently have brought me back to a fellow traveler of De Landa's, Bruno Latour. He and I go way back to 1999 (warning: following this link will remind you of how garish web pages were a decade ago; wear sunglasses before clicking) when I taught my first serious course on temporality. I know We Have Never Been Modern is the text most frequently cited by us medievalists, but let me put in a plug here for the amazing second half of The Pasteurization of France as well as the experimental, over the top, odd and wonderful Aramis, or the Love of Technology. These latter two books showed me that scholarship should be practiced not only as a rigorous discipline but also as a form of art. Aramis especially is a book I find myself returning to frequently.

4 comments:

kvond said...

I don't know if you (or others) know of the EGS trove, but it is a trove, nearly 700 videos:

http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=egsvideo&view=videos

Viator said...

I'm afraid that the breathtakingly incisive insights I would ordinarily contribute were occluded by the fact that all I could think of was
this:

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Very funny indeed, Viator! And thank you for the link, kvond.

Eileen Joy said...

Thanks to both Jeffrey and Mike for the video of De Landa talking about Deleuze's unique contributions to Western philosophy. Most compelling for me was De Landa's explanation of Deleuze as a "realist" who believed the world has an expressivity all its own that stands outside of human perception, and I liked this line especially especially [where De Landa is explaining how Deleuze might explain his own 'realism']:

"I believe that the world not only exists independently of our minds, but the world has an expressivity that is nonhuman and that [it] is crucial for artists to resonate with that nonhuman expressivity, whether it's a geological expressivity of the mountains, whether it is the dramatic, ever-changing skyscapes that out atmosphere offers [us] every day, . . . whether it's the expressivity of animals, like birdsongs, or territorial animals with their callers and their nests . . . ."

There is such resonance here, not only with the issue of objectal agency in Gil's book, but also with Graham Harman et alia's "speculative realisms," with Karl's work on animals, with JJC's geological reading of Mandeville's "Travels," with Dan R.'s paper at the ASSC grad. student conference on the space of exile in the Old English "Christ and Satan" [which can be read on his weblog "wraetlic"], and with all of us who are, right now [I think] trying to wrestle with the nonhuman & post/human and everything in between in relation to issues of subjectivity, writing/art, ethics, time/history, etc. And doesn't this also all queerly [or otherwise] resonate with Ethan Knapp's call at Kalamazoo this year for medievalists to return to the early Heidigger and to the question of phenomenology?

Which is all just to say that some very interesting convergences are afoot, in my mind, between medieval studies, phenomenology, object relations, sensation/affect, and the question of the human. Now, if anyone would like to throw in a little microbiology, we could really get down with all this.