Colloquium with Eric Gidal: "Bibliostratigraphy: Notes for an Ecocritical Book Studies"

November 2, 2017 - 3:30pm
Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

This talk will consider two experimental art books of the eighteenth century - the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert and Rousseau’s Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse – through a method of biblio-stratigraphy developed in my recent gidalbook on Ossian.  I forward the idea of “bibliostratigraphy” to emphasize both the materiality of the book as a dominant technology of environmental change in the modern era and the consequent significance of the archive as a stratigraphic index of those changes.  While these authors-become-editors are notoriously at odds with each other over questions of historical progress and the function of the arts and sciences, they share an investment in reshaping the material conditions of reading for purposes of cultural reformation.  When such textual experiments in modern subject formation encounter the “geologic” – a somewhat anachronistic term for eighteenth-century mineralogical inquiry – the result is a uniquely sensitive capture of lithic forms.  An ecologically attuned biblio-stratigraphy can help carve away the layers of these volumes and extend our perceptions of geological and environmental histories to the very pages that we turn.