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The ecological thought—mission statement

Hi Everyone.

Very kindly, Ron asked me to post a synopsis of my doings here. Writing it was very helpful.

I'm quite jazzed from having just come out of a theory class where I was teaching Althusser, so you may recognize some things Lacanian in here. But I hope I've made the language fairly obvious.

It was one of those happy classes when you allow yourself to think, hey, this critique thing might just be possible...

If you still want to find out more, go to my blog Ecology without Nature.

Here we go:

The ecological thought—mission statement
Timothy Morton

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Romantic Natural History

As Tim Morton and I have noted in our early posts for the new Romantic Circles blog (and as Tim argues so persuasively in Ecology Without Nature), we now need to rethink our uses of the word “nature” and its cognates, perhaps to the point where the very concept vanishes, not because it has “ended” (as Bill McKibben proposed in 1989) but because it now provides only a vague idea that is neither accurate nor useful. Likewise, the replacement of anthropocentrism with ecocentrism in the world we now inhabit becomes a necessity one we accept the fact that Heideggerian “building,” “dwelling,” and “thinking” (Bauen Wohnen Denken, 1951) keep us firmly planted in the nonhuman world even when we speak and write as humans. I prefer to think of us as “roosting” rather than dwelling, an idea I will take up in a subsequent post. But in recent years, these reflections have led me to create a hypertext resource, Romantic Natural History: see

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Animals in poetry

Tim Morton’s blog entries on Coleridge’s Rime have me thinking about animals and representation. Does an animal depiction in a fable or allegory retain some trace of its animal referent-sign’s animality? Or, put differently, can animals be used in such a way that their animal nature is eradicated and they become fable as such? Can their materiality, that sublime ‘other side’ of the metaphorical equation, be supplanted by cultural reference—reference toward a human moral, political dispute, event, and so on? What then of Akira Lippit’s intriguing Freudian notion of “animetaphor”:

The animal world opens up behind the dreamwork, establishing a kind of originary

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The ecological thought, part fourth

We hailed it in God's name.

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1.66)

We made it! And, as you probably guessed, we're going to look at the various significances of “hailing,” not to mention “in God's name.” This means getting busy with Heidegger and Lévinas.

Note that the Albatross is still an “it.” (See my previous posts for analysis.)

On the shelf above my computer a printout from the Oxford English Dictionary has been sitting since February 2005. It's a printout concerning the word “Hello.” Yes, I've been meaning to think this through for three and a half years! Thank you, Romantic Circles!

Here's the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary: “An exclamation to call attention; also expressing some degree of surprise, as on meeting any one unexpectedly.”

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The ecological thought—an infinite interlude

Cantor set

I've been writing a bit about infinity, so I thought it might be good to take a step aside and look at this some more.

Imagine a line. Now remove the middle third. You have two shorter lines with an equal-sized space between them. Now remove the middle thirds of the two lines you have left. Keep going!

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The ecological thought, part third

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had ben a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1.63–66)

Greetings all. Thanks so much to Ash Nichols for his comment on my previous, concerning the ways Romantic poetry can get its natural history wrong. I'm going to have to think about this one before I reply to it, so stand by. But I think my paradoxical reading (below) might go some way towards addressing the last couple of remarks—that the traditional reading of the shooting of the albatross has to do with disrupting some kind of natural continuum. Ash very reasonably wonders why this is any worse than, say, shooting a turkey for Thanksgiving.

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The ecological thought, part second

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1.63–66)

Hi again. So here we have the fateful bird, emerging from the ice and fog, from the intense, oppressive atmosphere of sheer existence. Lévinas calls this “the element.” One is immersed in it.

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