Claire Colebrook on the Promise of the Anthropocene

“What is the Political?: Paul de Man and the Promise of the Anthropocene
The geological concept of the anthropocene is at once the most literal and the most sublime of notions: on the
one hand it is now posited that there will be inscription and readability after humans have ceased to exist as readers, and that this inscription occurs at a level beyond the purview of lived time and space. On the other hand, imagining such inscription is speculative and chastening, and has already generated a series of recuperative cultural productions that turn this diminution of the human species into an elevation. We imagine that faced with the threat of erasure we can recreate a new and more human world (as in dreams of geoengineering, or in cinematic fantasies such as Interstellar or Elysium in which we fi nd our own time and space once again). Paul de Man’s reading of the sublime of the sublime diagnoses these two tendencies of spectacle and banal literalism and generates—Colebrook argues—a new conception of the promise of the anthropocene.”

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