BA, MA, PhD (Trent)
Dissertation: "Re-membering" a Disappearing Coast: A Diffractive Reading of Lyme Regis between Persuasion and the Anthropocene"
Michael Epp (Supervisor), Suzanne Bailey, Evelien Geerts (Birmingham U.K.)
External Examiner: Christine Daigle (Brock)
Internal Examiner: Kelly McGuire
Chair: Liam Mitchell
Crutzen and Stoermer’s (2000) announcement of the Anthropocene draws attention to the agentic nature of the nonhuman world as it appears to be striking back against human intervention through an environmental crisis that is threatening humans and nonhumans alike. Their narrative reveals complex relationalities where humans are now revealed to be inseparable from the nonhuman world and both the material and discursive nature of their practices (historical, social, economic, and political) prove to be central to (re)shaping the earth, causing climate change, species extinctions as well as racism, sexism, and slavery. Rising sea levels is an important aspect of climate change that threatens major coastal places with disappearance. My dissertation offers a new approach that uses Karen Barad’s (2003; 2007; 2017) agential realism and diffractive methodology to study a place called Lyme Regis – a town in west Dorset, England, threatened with disappearance as a result of rising sea levels caused by climate change – as an agential phenomenon shaped by complex multilayered material-discursive practices (political, economic, scientific, and social).
Whereas current research on Barad’s philosophy mainly focuses on discussions about the theory: explaining, critiquing, or defending (Gandorfer 2021; Lettow 2017; Graham 2016; Segal 2014; Geerts 2013; 2016; 2021; van der Tuin 2011; Alaimo and Hekman 2008; Rouse 2004 and more ), my project is the first ethico-political study of a place, Lyme, that applies Barad’s agential realist perspective by engaging the activism of Barad’s concept of “re-membering.” The processual nature of the concept is particularly relevant today since its nonlinear understanding of time allows me to see how past violent material and discursive practices (racism, sexism, and slavery) at Lyme unfolds in the present troubled time of the Anthropocene. This process of re-membering that I undertake in this study involves concurrently examining the overlapping historical, economic, scientific, literary, and geological intra-acting practices through a method that Barad describes as diffractive reading. I rethink these practices in their relation to material practices and illuminate multiple layers of meaning and relationalities that constitute Lyme as an agential phenomenon, unsettling boundaries between humans and nonhumans, epistemology and ontology, material and discursive practices as well as boundaries between scientific, historical, cultural, and literary aspects of life.
Therefore, within the context of the Anthropocene, chapter one rethinks how the scientific discourse (re)shapes nature and demonstrates how prioritizing the needs of human over nonhuman inhabitants in the name of saving Lyme could entail the destruction of both. Chapter two rethinks the dehumanizing and marginalizing effect of the scientific discourse by illuminating the agentic role of Mary Anning and Saartjie Baartman in the apparatus of scientific knowledge production that earned Lyme its heritage status. Finally, chapter three rethinks the entangled nature of scientific and literary practices, arguing for an agential realist account of the sublime that celebrates Lyme as a place of transformative human-nonhuman kinship based on Austen’s elaborate depiction in Persuasion (1817). This reading shows science and literature as material-discursive practices operating along the unsettled boundaries between the novel and everyday life, allowing us to rethink Austen’s writing as a process in constant flux.
My research interests are interdisciplinary, focusing on Romantic, Victorian, and World literature, Posthumanism, agential realism philosophy, diffraction, as well as the Anthropocene discourses. My Ph.D. dissertation: “‘Re-membering’ a Disappearing Coast: Lyme Regis between Persuasion and the Anthropocene” (completed Oct. 2023) is a diffractive reading of Lyme Regis within the context of the Anthropocene. I unsettle Lyme’s heritage identity by illuminating and integrating the embodied violence of capitalism, racism, sexism, and slavery involved in the making of such identity. I presented my research at a variety of conferences including the North American Victorian Studies Association (NAVSA), the Association of Philosophy and Literature (APL), the International Conference on Romanticism (ICR), the European International Studies Association (EISA) among others.
Chandler, David and Shahira Hathout. “Rethinking Hope and Resilience in the Anthropocene: An Interview with David Chandler.” World Future Review, vol. 15, no. 1, 2023, pp. 93-98.
Hathout, Shahira, (forthcoming), “Toward a Posthumanist Sublime in Jane Austen’s Persuasion: Lyme Regis in the Anthropocene,” is forthcoming in Interconnections: Journal of Posthumanism. Winter 2024.