Wesleyan University

Cary Wolfe "Ecological Poetics, or, Wallace Stevens' Birds" 09/08/2014


Birds comprise one of the most storied figural sites in Anglo-American poetry-and particuarly in Romatic genealogy that runs from Keats nightingale, Shelley's skylark, and Poe's raven to the birds that appear centrally in many of Wallace Steven's most important poems. Drawing primarily on the work of Niklas Luhmann and Jacques Derrida, this talk will explore how in the bird topos of Stevens, the lines of animal studies and posthumanisim cross in a way that subordinates the problem of the animal other to a more radically inhuman or ahuman otherness that is not limited to animal and human bodies, but in fact (if we believe Luhmann and Derrida) "traverses the life/death relation" (to use Deridda's phrase). And this, in tandem with Derrida's speculations on Heidegger and Defoe in The Beast and the Sovereign, enables us to understand the peculiar quality of Stevens' "ecological" poetics.

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