Steven Swarbrick talks about poetic engagement with nature in the work of early modern poets Edmund Spenser, Walter Ralegh, Andrew Marvell, and John Milton. Here language is influenced not by the manifest and the conscious, but the unconscious or void, as understood in Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. This work is the basis for his hope for a reorganization of thought in contemporary ecocriticism around a politics of degrowth instead of additive policies that serve to greenwash capitalist economies.
Steven Swarbrick is an assistant professor of English at Baruch College, City University of New York. His research interests include early modern literature, contemporary continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, the environmental humanities, and sexuality and film studies. He is the author of The Environmental Unconscious: Ecological Poetics from Spenser to Milton (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) and co-author, with Jean-Thomas Tremblay, of Negative Life: The Cinema of Extinction (Northwestern University Press, under contract). He is currently working on two books: Unknowing Sex: Shakespeare against the Historicists and Destituent Ecology: Libidinal Politics for the Environmental Left.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
Anna Kornbluh talks about presentism, the anachronistic historical practice of studying the past with contemporary frames of understanding. While some orthodoxies might consider it to be tantamount to historical heresy, presentism can be a powerful tool in building histories of anti-establishment struggles, such as women’s and workers’ rights movements. The conversation also focuses on the work of the V21 Collective, a research collective that Anna organizes, which applies presentist methods to Victorianist scholarship.
Anna Kornbluh is Professor of English and Director of Graduate Studies at University of Illinois, Chicago. Her research and teaching focus on the novel, film, and critical theory, especially marxism, psychoanalysis, structuralism, and formalism. She is the author of The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space (University of Chicago 2019), Marxist Film Theory and Fight Club (Bloomsbury “Film Theory in Practice” series, 2019), and Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form (Fordham UP 2014). Her current research concerns impersonality, objectivity, mediation, and abstraction as residual faculties of the literary in privatized urgent times. She is the founding facilitator of two scholarly cooperatives: V21 Collective and InterCcECT.
Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: ‘Past has not Passed’ by James Blackshaw
Marquis Bey talks about the radical and abolitionist project of Black Trans Feminism. Rather than an identity formation, it is a politics and modality of being that vitiates the limits of subjectivity. Black Trans Feminism finds joy in irreverence, just like we try to do on High Theory.
You can recalibrate your understanding of the subject by reading Marquis’s forthcoming book Black Trans Feminism, published by Duke University Press. Released next week! On February 25th.
In the episode Marquis references a wonderful quote from Saidiya Hartman, that “A Black revolution makes everyone freer than they actually want to be.” It’s a hard quote to find, but it appears in Frank Wilderson’s interview with C.S. Soong, “Blacks and the Master/Slave Relation” in Afropessimism: An Introduction (Racked & Dispatched, 2017).
Marquis is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and English at Northwestern University. They also serve as Faculty Affiliate and Advisory Board Member in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Advisory Board Faculty Member in Critical Theory.
This week’s image was provided by Marquis.
Music used in promotional material: ‘Semiacoustic’ by Pk Jazz Collective
Olga Verlato and Antara Chakrabarti, contributing editors at Borderlines, talk about the concept of theory from the south, which critiques the notion that theory originating from the global north exhausts the possibilities of critical theoretical understanding.
Olga Verlato is a PhD candidate at New York University in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, and a Contributing Editor for the Middle East at Borderlines. She works on the modern history of Egypt and the Mediterranean, focusing on the impact of multilingual practices and language ideologies on politics, society, and culture.
Antara Chakrabarti is a Doctoral Student in the Sociocultural track of the Dept. of Anthropology in Columbia University. Her research strives to ethnographically and historically understand the intersections of environment, mobilities, and infrastructures in contemporary South Asia. She is a Contributing Editor for South Asia at Borderlines.
Borderlines is a student-run, open-access site mentored by the editors of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (CSSAAME). It seeks to rethink ideas of region and area studies by exploring different categories and histories within and across borderlines that have constructed areas of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Antara and Olga also interview Saronik about High Theory in this episode, about its origins and the work that it does. Find the full transcript of the episode at Borderlines.
Image: “Binoculars” © 2021 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: ‘Early Rising’ by Dlay