Volume 76, Issue 2 | June 2015

Special Issue: Inevitability

Author Title
Ryan Vu and Sharif Youssef Our Obstinate Future
Author Title
Kevin Pask "Moving Centers": Climate Change, Critical Method, and the Historical Novel  
Humanities scholars have been giving renewed attention to capitalism’s externalizations upon our environment. The anthropocene is a speculative epochal shift proposed by geologists to mark the accumulated effect of human industry on the planet’s future. The anthropocene adds a layer of geological time to human history, challenging traditional theories of historical change. Drawing on this notion, Dipesh Chakrabarty outlines three theories of history. History 1 and 2 refer to liberalism and its postcolonial and postmodern critique, respectively. History 3, or post-anthropocene history, marks the horizon of historical consciousness. This article proposes "History 4°" to synthesize History 1-3 into a new totality in which the historical present is defined as internal to an imminent catastrophe. History 4° poses a challenge to the historical novel: somehow it must reveal the intimate causal linkages between human and nonhuman across time, while remaining within the bounds of literary realism. David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is read as a contemporary historical novel adequate to this task. The character Sonmi–451's encounter with a natural landscape ravaged by human industry encapsulates the increasing indistinction between human and nonhuman worlds. The novel's structure rejects linearity as its protagonists are linked to one another and themselves over all of human history.
Vivasvan Soni Judging, Inevitably: Aesthetic Judgment and Novelistic Form in Fielding's Joseph Andrews  
Fielding’s novels are often thought to have inaugurated a tradition of sociological observation in the novel, and they are also concerned with cultivating a practice of judgment in readers. Yet there is a puzzle here. The nascent tradition of social theory that informs Fielding’s account (Hobbes, Mandeville) is dominated by a sense of inevitability, whereas judgment is about the things that can be otherwise. I argue, through a close reading of Joseph Andrews, that Fielding does not deploy uncritically the methods and assumptions of a nascent social theory. Rather, he shows that those methods and assumptions hold only under very specific conditions, namely the advent of a commercial modernity which renders judgment all but obsolete. Refusing the sentimental (Richardsonian) and aesthetic (Shaftesburian) responses to this social theory as also complicit in the elision of judgment, Fielding works to transform the emerging novel into a narrative and aesthetic form capable of restoring our capacity for judgment.
Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud Capitalism's Wishful Thinking  
This essay relates the stereotype of Muslim fatalism to the ascendant ideal of economic autonomy. I detail how the magical Orientalism that saturates Balzac’s Peau de chagrin (1831), seemingly at odds with its author’s reputation for sociological realism, serves to indict the capitalist ambitions ushered in by France’s bourgeois July Monarchy. Balzac’s ironic Orientalization of Paris demystifies the Bildungsroman’s typically self-made protagonist by foregrounding how the probabilistic attribution of causal force to the human will resembles predestinarian belief in divine determination. The Eastern wish-fulfilling skin of Balzac’s title at once hyperbolizes the liberal fantasy of world-changing power and skeptically suggests that all aspirations to agency entail a leap of faith.
Mark Miller Sin and Structure in Piers Plowman: On the Medieval Split Subject  
The inevitable emerges in this issue as a name for the troubled intersection of agency and structural necessity. The most prominent medieval name for that intersection is sin. Far from grounding the medieval subject in a set of theological norms that give it stable coordinates for desire and action, sin indicates the subject’s splitting by the norms that organize it. This essay reads the formal experimentations of Piers Plowman as an exploration of the medieval split subject. The poem repeatedly encounters the demands of political, ethical, economic, and spiritual life, and repeatedly problematizes all of its terms for representing the subject's responsibility to those demands. The death drive offers a way of describing the trajectory of desire beyond anything representable, which finds its most direct expression in the poem’s apocalyptic energies. But Piers Plowman treats even the apocalypse as an anticlimactic avoidance of the bind of desire. If desire drives beyond any terms in which its target can be represented, what compels Langland is finally the unrelenting character of the demands to which the subject can never be adequate.
Eleanor Courtemanche Satire and the "Inevitability Effect": The Structure of Utopian Fiction from Looking Backward to Portlandia  
In the late nineteenth century, the literary genre of utopia enjoyed a boom inspired by the success of Edward Bellamy’s 1888 Looking Backward, 2000-1887. These stories, including novels by William Morris and H. G. Wells, often featured a utopian "cicerone" didactically explaining how disordered nineteenth-century societies were transformed into superior future worlds. Because this Marx-inspired utopian didacticism fell quickly out of fashion and was parodied ruthlessly by twentieth-century dystopias, it’s hard to imagine how the form could be revived. However, the TV show Portlandia, which began airing in 2011, avoids the future-oriented "inevitability effect" of the fin-de-siècle utopias by returning to an earlier moment in the utopian genre: the satire of a society located somewhere on the surface of the earth. Portlandia presents a lightly-fictionalized version of Portland, Oregon, as a happy, inclusive, and prosperous town where inhabitants are free to pursue individual visions. Its "cringe comedy" satire of the self-involved inhabitants complicates, but does not substantially undermine, its depiction of a peaceful alternative to the militarized American imagination of the 2000s.
Christian Thorne In Saecula Saeculorum: On How Stories End  
Narratologists have often professed a distaste for stories that end unambiguously. The emphatic ending is thought to be simplistic and politically retrograde. It is also thought to be more common in traditional and commercial narrative forms (the folk tale, the realist novel, the feature film) and accordingly less common in modernist and experimental fiction. None of these claims will survive scrutiny. A re&ndashreading of Roland Barthes’s S/Z (1970) should reveal the many shortcuts a narratologist has to take in order to celebrate open endings as liberating and also disclose some of the ideological purposes to which this celebration has been put.
Richard Epstein Inevitability in Law and Literature: A Strained Relationship

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