Deconstruction in the Anthropocene

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Oxford Literary Review (Dec. 2012)
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Oxford Literary Review vol. 34.2 (December 2012), call for papers.

Deconstruction in the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene is a term first coined by the atmospheric scientist Paul J. Crutzen as the suggested name for that geological epoch in which humanity plays a crucial if often incalculable role in the planet's ecology and geology:

'The term Anthropocene ... suggests that the Earth has now left its natural geological epoch, the present interglacial state called the Holocene. Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature and are pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita.' (Will Steffen, Paul J. Crutzen and John R. McNeill, 'The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?' Ambio 38 (2007), 614-21, 614).

As with the planet's ecology and geology, the kinds of cultural shift associated with the Anthropocene are only slowly being realized in their depth and pervasiveness. What is described in terms of the new power of the human species is, ironically, often experienced as an incalculable and even worldwide 'revolt' of things, as nonhuman events provoke an obscurely tendentious readability —drought, flooding, disease, accompanied by changed, damaged or exterminated plant and animal ecologies.

This issue of OLR concerns what may be called the deconstructive force of the environmental crisis, especially those elements of it which have non-localizable causes and effects, such as climate change and over-population. Modes of thinking and practice that may once have seemed justified, internally coherent, self-evident or progressive now need to be reassessed in terms of hidden exclusions, disguised costs, or as offering a merely imaginary closure.

OLR is particularly interested in papers that take up the challenge of the Anthropocene in relation to the following questions. In what ways does thinking currently associated with deconstruction and the work of Jacques Derrida now take on new force, re-interpret itself or become anachronistic? Does thinking through the challenges of the Anthropocene tally with a turn to a more thing- or object -oriented ontology, the need to acknowledge the separate incalculable agency of the nonhuman, that "All reality is politics, but not all politics is human" (Graham Harman)?

OLR 34.2 will be open to papers on these questions, maximum length c. 6,000 words.
For more on the OLR see

Deadline for initial expressions of interest or brief abstracts, end July 2011. Date for final submissions, June 2012. End of editing process, September, 2012.

Contact Timothy Clark, English Studies, University of Durham, UK, DH1 3JT.


OLR, founded in the 1970s, is Britain's longest-running journal of literary theory. It is concerned especially with the history and development of deconstructive thinking in all areas of intellectual, cultural and political life.