Current Projects

Planetary Idealism: The Technics of Nature in German Romanticism

Caspar David Friedrich. “The Great Enclosure,” 1831.

Planetary Idealism: The Technics of Nature in German Romanticism investigates an explosion of thought experiments concerning the possibility of perpetual motion in German romanticism and idealism. While Immanuel Kant employs the mode of reciprocity to draw analogies between biological life’s complexity, the formation of political community, and the structure of aesthetic experience, romantic theorizations of the perpetuum mobile by Novalis, Hegel, and others stem from reflections on the overlooked status of technical media in these biological, political, and aesthetic operations explored by Kant’s philosophy. Appearing at first glance as a mere absurdity, the perpetuum mobile is mobilized by post-Kantian philosophy and poetry to articulate the essential role played by technical media in creating a poetics and political ecology for the start of the Anthropocene.

*A preview of this monograph, “Novalis and Simondon: Notes for a Mechanology,” is forthcoming in SubStance in Spring 2024.

Negentropy and the Future of the Digital (with Mark Hansen)

Negentropy and the Future of the Digital brings together some of the world’s leading scholars in media history, computation studies, and cultural theory to reflect on the impact and legacy of Bernard Stiegler’s work in a variety of fields, ranging from media and film studies, the history of science, to cultural and political theory. Since the 1994 publication of Technics and Time 1: the Fault of Epimetheus, Stiegler has emerged as one of the most prominent and certainly one of the most prolific scholars of media and technology. Stiegler’s writings have come to span over two dozen volumes, many of which have been translated into multiple languages, including German, Polish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese. His books include Technics and Time 3: Kant and Cinema, which analyzes the history of cinema and the making of industrial modes of perception, the two-volume series Automatic Society, which reflects on the impact of digital automation on human labor and traditional knowledge production, and the Symbolic Misery series, which analyzes the impact of new technology in transforming the relationship between politics, new media, and the phenomenology of perception over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In some of the last volumes that appeared in English, such as The Age of Disruption and The Negenthropocene, Stiegler began exploring the role played by digital capital in the current state of ecological and political crisis around the globe. This concern for the future of the planet led Stiegler to organize the “Friends of the Greta Thunberg Generation” Institute at the Centre Pompidou and write The Lesson of Greta Thunberg, his final solo monograph.

*This edited volume is currently under review at Edinburgh University Press.

Planetary Thinking in the Age of Goethe (with Daniel Carranza)

“If Hegel were alive to plumb the depths of our sense of the present,” writes Dipesh Chakrabarty at the outset of The Climate of History of in a Planetary Age, “he would notice […] an awareness of the planet and of its geobiological history.” In recent years, critical discourse in the humanities has embraced what Amy Elias and Christian Morary have called a ‘planetary turn,’ appearing at the intersection of ecological, cosmological, and poetic concerns. While contributions to this mode of thinking have focused largely on the present, a number of theorists have directly turned to the Goethezeit in order to excavate the complex entanglement of environmental, technological, and postcolonial issues evoked by this new planetary awareness. Was not the “awareness of the planet” to which Chakrabarty refers already apparent in Karoline von Günderrode’s poetics, for example, or in the travel writings of Alexander von Humboldt and Goethe’s Weltliteratur? In the Facing Gaia lectures, Bruno Latour traces the ecological and cosmological contours of planetary thinking back to the curved perspective of Caspar David Friedrich’s 1832 Der große Gehege, drawing on the work of art historian Joseph Leo Koerner. While seeking an alternative to the apocalyptic analysis of technology and environment in the West, the philosopher Yuk Hui turns not just to Chinese philosophy and landscape art, but to German idealism and Kant’s cosmopolitics, highlighting the need to take seriously the plurality of technological operations and cosmological attitudes that constitute culture.

This special journal issue constellates diverse contributions that trace the incipient contours of planetary thinking in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, focusing on its poetic, scientific, ecological, and political concerns.