Speculative Aesthetics

2010 - 2011

Co-conveners: N. Katherine Hayles (Literature) and Priscilla Wald (English)

Download working group flyer (with Spring 2011 meeting dates)
The Speculative Aesthetics Working Group will meet monthly to discuss an emerging philosophical movement called "speculative realism," which has become increasingly popular in the early years of the twenty-first century. Contemporary philosophers such as Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Ray Brassier have sought to explore dimensions of the radically nonhuman through critiques of Kantian philosophy.  

The working group will examine the central texts of speculative realism through the question, “What kinds of aesthetics and materialities can speculative realism generate?”  In addition to the works of the speculative realist philosophers, we will read works that gesture toward this question of speculative aesthetics: Reza Negarestani’s post-horror fiction; Steven Shaviro’s work on philosophers Deleuze, Whitehead, and Kant; Ian Bogost’s object-oriented “alien phenomenology”; China Mieville’s "New Weird" fiction; and Dominic Fox’s theorization of dejection and dysphoria.  

The working group will approach the question of speculative aesthetics from multiple disciplinary perspectives – historical, philosophical, literary, and artistic – seeking less to answer the question but rather to experiment with and speculate on the question of the aesthetic possibilities generated by speculative realism.  
Contact: zachary [dot] blas [at] duke [dot] edu (Zach Blas) and jennifer [dot] rhee [at] duke [dot] edu (Jenny Rhee)
Fall 2010 meeting dates & readings
(all meetings are 6:30-8:30pm)  

Sept 13 - Introduction
Room 225, Friedl Building
  • Mark Fisher, "Speculative Realism," Frieze Magazine (May 2009)
  • Ray Brassier, Graham Harmon, Iain Hamilton Grant, Quentin Meillassoux, "Speculative Realism," Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development Vol. III (2007), pp. 307-21, 334-45, 367-88, 408-35.
  • Dominic Fox, Cold World: The Aesthetics of Dejection and the Politics of Militant Dysphoria (Zero Books, 2009), pp. 1-14, 43-5, 57-70.
  • Nathan Brown, "Cold, Glacial, Generic," Militant Dysphoria event, Goldsmiths College
  • Reza Negarestani, "Solar Inferno and the Earthbound Abyss," Our Sun (Istituto Svizzero di Roma & Mousse Publishing, 2010)
Oct 18 - Quentin Meillassoux
Room 225, Friedl Building
  • Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (Continuum, 2008)
  • Peter Hallward, "Anything is Possible," Radical Philosophy Issue 152 (November / December 2008), pp. 51 - 7
  • Nathan Brown, "On After Finitude: A Response to Peter Hallward," Speculative Heresy Blog (November 2008)
  • Alberto Toscano, "Against Speculation, or, A Critique of the Critique of Critique," Speculative Realism/Speculative Materialism UWE Bristol Conference Presentation, Infinite Thought Blog (April 2009)
Nov 22 - Graham Harman
Room 126, Friedl Building
  • Graham Harman, "On Vicarious Causation," Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development Vol. II (2007)
  • Graham Harman, "Introduction," "Metaphor," "Some Implications," Guerrilla Metaphysics (Open Court, 2005), pp. 1-6, 101-124, 235-256.
  • Graham Harman, "Asymmetrical Causation: Influence without Recompense," Parallax Vol 16 No 1 (2010)

   Further Reading:

  • Graham Harman, "Quentin Meillassoux: A New French Philosopher," Philosophy Today Vol 51, 1 (Spring 2007)
  • Mark Fisher, "Clearing the Air," Frieze Magazine (February 2008)
  • Graham Harman, "Aesthetics as First Philosophy: Levinas and the Non-Human," Naked Punch Issue 9 (Summer/Fall 2007)
Dec 6 - Ray Brassier & Iain Hamilton Grant
Room 225, Friedl Building
  • Ray Brassier, "The Enigma of Realism," Nihil Unbound (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 49 - 94.
  • Ray Brassier and Bram Ieven, "Against an Aesthetics of Noise," nY (May 2009)
  • Iain Hamilton Grant, "The Chemistry of Darkness," Pli 9 (2000)
Spring 2011 meeting dates & readings
(all meetings are 6:30-8:30pm) 
Jan 19 - Objects, Relations, Worlds
Room 102, Friedl Building
  • Steven Shaviro, "Without Criteria," Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (MIT Press, 2009), pp. 1-16.
  • Ian Bogost, "Alien Phenomenology," Alien Phenomenology (2010) ***please email us for a copy of this text***
  • Tim Morton, "Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-oriented Ontology," Qui Parle (2011)
  • Bill Brown,"Thing Theory," Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 1, Things. (Autumn, 2001), pp. 1-22.
Suggested by Steven Shaviro:
Feb 7 - Reza Negarestani: Horror and Theology
Room 126, Friedl Building
  • Reza Negarestani, "Incognitum Hactenus," "Bacterial Archeology: Nether, Sub-Soil, and Xeno-Chemical Insiders," "Tellurian Insurgencies: Xerodrome, Solar Tempests and Earth-Sun Axes," "Uncharted Regions: Catalytic Spaces," "Polytics: Complicity and Shizotrategies for Openness and Insurgency," "Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (re.press, 2008), pp. ix - xx, 9 - 72, 145 - 177, 181 - 191, 195 - 221 ***we recommend reading the entire book***
Further Reading:
  • Quentin Meillassoux, "Spectral Dilemma," Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development Vol. IV (2008), pp. 261 - 275
  • Reza Negarestani, "Instrumental Spectrality and Meillassoux’s Catoptric Controversies" (2009)
Feb 28 - Not Human
Room 126, Friedl Building
  • Eugene Thacker, "Preface," "Life and the Living (On Aristotelian Biohorror)," and "Logic and Life (On Kantian Teratology): Section 5.3 Spectral Life and Speculative Realism," After Life (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. ix - xvi, 1 - 24, 249 - 257
  • China Miéville, The Tain
March 21 - Feminist & Queer Theory
Room 126, Friedl Building
***Michael O'Rourke will join us via Skype for a portion of the meeting***
  • Elizabeth Grosz, "The Future of Feminist Theory: Dreams for New Knowledges" (unpublished)
  • Michael O'Rourke & Noreen Giffney, "TwO (Theory without Organs)," Post-Queer Politics (Ashgate: Surrey, 2009), pp. ix - xiii
  • Michael O'Rourke, "'Girls Welcome!!!' Speculative Realism, Object Oriented Ontology and Queer Theory" (to be published in Speculations Volume 2)
  • Patricia Clough, "Feminist Theory and Philosophy: Bodies, Science, and Technology" (unpublished)

Further Reading:

  • David Ruffolo, "Post-Queer Mappings," Post-Queer Politics (Ashgate: Surrey, 2009), pp. 1 - 38
  • Patricia Clough, "A Dream of Falling: Philosophy and Family Violence" (unpublished)
Apr 11 - Capitalism and the Political
Room 126, Friedl Building
  • Nick Land, "Machinic Desire," Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007 (forthcoming, Urbanomic, 2011)
  • Nick Land, "Organization is Suppression," Wired UK #3.02 (February 1997)
  • Reza Negarestani, "Drafting the Inhuman: Conjectures on Capitalism and Organic Necrocracy," The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (re.press: Melbourne, 2011), pp. 182 - 201

Further Reading:

  • Accelerationism Event, Goldsmiths College, University of London (September 14, 2010)
Apr 28 - Special Meeting with Alexander Galloway on François Laruelle
Room 115, Friedl Building
  • Francois Laruelle, "The Truth According to Hermes: Theorems on the Secret and Communication" Parrhesia Number 9, 2010, pp. 18 - 22, translated by Alexander Galloway