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Welcome to ENG 653

by on January 14, 2013

This course will investigate the emerging field of speculative realism with attention paid to object-oriented ontology. Speculative realism developed over the last decade, though especially in the last four years. In their introduction to The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, a collection including contributions from most of the major figures in the speculative realist movement, the editors (Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman) note that while the contributors represent a variety of views and approaches, they share a common goal of speculating about reality beyond the context of thought or a human-centric focus.

This activity of ‘speculation’ may be cause for concern amongst some readers, for it might suggest a return to pre-critical philosophy, with its dogmatic belief in the powers of pure reason. The speculative turn, however, is not an outright rejection of these critical advances; instead, it comes from a recognition of their inherent limitations. Speculation in this sense aims at something ‘beyond’ the critical and linguistic turns… In the face of the ecological crisis, the forward march of neuroscience, the increasingly splintered interpretations of basic physics, and the ongoing breach of the divide between human and machine, there is a growing sense that previous philosophies are incapable of confronting these events. (3)

Speculative realism in its various forms is now being actively employed as a method across the humanities. Literary scholars such as Eileen Joy and Jeffrey Cohen have begun to examine the idea of an object-oriented literary criticism and the implications it might have for existing methods. What does it mean to treat “fictions” as real and material? To put Batman and vampires on equal ontological footing with zebras, paper clips, and highways? What does an object-oriented approach bring to the investigation of texts as material objects? How might we theorize the minimal, rhetorical-communicative relations among objects? We will read essays from The Speculative Turn, as well as works by Harman, Latour, DeLanda, Ian Bogost, Quentin Meillassoux, and others.  The object-oriented ontologists also have an active online community, so we will take the opportunity to interact directly with some of these authors.


Extensive students will write response papers and do an in-class presentation. Intensive students will also complete a final project either taking up a speculative realist methodology to investigate a subject of interest to them or investigating a particular concept or issue from our readings.


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