Sunday, October 15, 2017

Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times

by J J Cohen

ITM readers may be interested in this new book, Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times, just out from Penn State Press. Edited by Tobias Menely and Jesse Oak Taylor, this collection provides something missing from most meditations on the Anthropocene, the era during which human impress is readable on the geologic record: historical depth. Well, it provides a whole lot more than that -- every essay in this collection is really wonderful -- but Anthropocene Reading includes a medievalist (yours truly) and an early modernist (Steve Mentz). Plus it's blurbed by Jan A. Zalasiewicz, my favorite palaeobiologist/geologist. Contributing to this collection was such a pleasure: the editors were so good at forming a sense of community around the project and challenging their contributors to be at once lucid and inventive.

My essay is called "Anarky." (with a period like that) and offers a meditation on what stratigraphic reading could mean in action; what an archival unconformity might look like; how periodization is a spiral not a series of linear segments; and why the voice of Noah's wife matters as continues to cross the centuries. Riffing on the Chester Play of Noah's Flood, the essay is interrupted several times by Noah's wife "own" voice as she chooses drowning as a way of making things-to-be-lost endure.

If you are interested in the book enough to want to purchase a copy for yourself, you can reduce the price by 30% with the code TMJT17 when ordered through And no, the press doesn't pay me for saying that. Books just want to be read.

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