Time and (Un)doing

Roberdeau, Wood. 2017. 'Time and (Un)doing'. In: Out of Time, Society for Literature, Science and the Arts 31st Annual Conference. Arizona State University, Tempe, United States 9 - 12 November 2017. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This panel explores the speculative remembrance and future unfolding of contemporary fiction in both literature film. We ask in what ways selected cultural case studies have experimented with spatial and temporal modes of observation and expression to convey the often perplexing scale effects of the Anthropocene.

'The Anthropocene and Literary Memory' [Richard Crownshaw]

This paper explores the challenges posed to literary memory by our new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, by mapping the cultural memory work of contemporary fictions. For example, the future imaginaries of Jamieson and Nadzam, Bradley, and Watkins realise a more fully developed Anthropocene, often subject to cognitive dissonance in our own present. These works’ speculative futures offer prospective retrospection: speculative remembrance that narrativizes the complexly unfolding catastrophes of our age, and remembers the ways that the fossil-fuelled socio-economic regimes of modernity – imperilled if not in ruins in these literary imaginaries – interpellate those who have and have not survived their collapse. Despite the centrifugal direction of cultural memory studies of late (from the national to the transnational), this would be a recalibration of the conventional temporal, spatial and humanist scales of remembrance: the epoch can only be identified through the imagination of deep, geological time and previous conditions of species and environmental precarity; anthropogenic planetary change is belated, as in the afterlife and after-effects of radioactive fallout and greenhouse gas emissions, the temporality of which is further complicated by the way these after-effects engender feedback loops in Earth systems; the planetary scale of change takes place across interconnected human and nonhuman dimensions and systems, organic and inorganic matter. In sum, this paper assesses whether fiction can stage such a recalibration.

'Time and Environment in The Survivalist' [Wood Roberdeau]

‘The event of dwelling exceeds the knowing, the thought, and the idea in which, after the event, the subject will want to contain what is incommensurable with a knowing.’

If not within an eventful moment, at what subjective level do we understand an ecological encounter? How might such an encounter be performed or communicated and what does such a possibility suggest for the comprehension of environmental crisis? This paper considers a philosophical triumvirate that addresses the temporal condition of ‘dwelling’ to analyse Stephen Fingleton’s post-apocalyptic film The Survivalist (2015), set in Northern Ireland. Heidegger’s search for an engaged aesthetics, Levinas’s ethical approach to interiority and exteriority, and Derrida’s contextualization and definition of ‘hostipitality’ each inform an argument for how selected scenes deliver a powerful message for thinking ‘end times’ and the Anthropocene. Emphasis is placed on the notion of ‘habit’ or the ‘everyday’ gesture as a constant with which Fingleton interrogates the scale effects of human impact on environment and the question of our animality. The film covers several days over which three protagonists focus their energies on sustenance through cooperation and (mis)trust and therefore on what I refer to as the ‘future-present’. Each day contains key actions, objects and imagery (e.g. of foraging, farming, repairing, hiding) that will be closely considered in terms of experience and sacrifice. These differing sensorial registers become enhanced by the attention directed at their time and space.

‘"Give them some more time": the ends of sacrifice in White God' [Lynn Turner]

Not just one among other slaughtermen, the father figure in Kornél Mundruczó’s 2015 film White God, is an abattoir inspector. It is he who decides what is ‘good to eat’. His judgement is thus firmly aligned with symbolic law above and beyond simple edibility, if there is such a thing. Yet at the film’s concluding scene, in the theatrical space of a courtyard flanked by abattoir buildings in a eugenically inflamed Budapest, he surrenders this power of decision or law making. This surrender is not entirely volitional but is the lesson inspired by the actions of his daughter, the lead human figure in a film otherwise dramatized by dogs. Facing a vast band of dogs, now violently aligned against all humans, the young girl realises her erstwhile exceptional status has run its course: music will no more calm the beasts and ‘fetch’ is a risible game that will no longer play. Lying down on the same plane as the dogs, the girl vacates her human verticality. Observing the scene from the abattoir balcony, her father hesitates. In the face of a panicking worker’s plea for protection, he says no, don't call the police yet. ‘Give them some more time.’ Through the prism of this extraordinary film, this paper will consider the possibility of revolution, the end of sacrifice, and the gift of time.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Panel)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


9 November 2017Completed

Event Location:

Arizona State University, Tempe, United States

Date range:

9 - 12 November 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Mar 2024 15:25

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2024 15:25



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