Jameson, serendipity and the Anthropocene unconscious of Joseph Conrad

lord_jim-leadSo there I was rereading Jameson’s The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act for the first time in twenty-odd years to help me firm up my theorisation of the Anthropocene unconscious, and Fred only blooming goes and quotes, albeit for different reasons, this passage from Conrad’s Lord Jim, which I have not read in thirty years:

Above the mass of sleepers, a faint and patient sigh at times floated, the exhalation of a troubled dream; and short metallic clangs bursting out suddenly in the depths of the ship, the harsh scrape of a shovel, the violent slam of a furnace-door, exploded brutally, as if the men handling the mysterious things below had their breasts full of fierce anger: while the slim high hull of the steamer went on evenly ahead, without a sway of her bare masts, cleaving continuously the great calm of the waters under the inaccessible serenity of the sky.

Next up, if I can sort out the clips, the Anthropocene unconscious of Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe. (No, I am not joking.)

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Lowry’s Anthropocene Unconscious: or, Loving Lowry, part 2

Part one.

It has always been there, always been part of my love of Lowry, but only now has it become clear. Our context summons it, gives it voice.

The world that is being made over into a mire, a midden, clogged with the filth unleashed by capital’s emancipation of sunlight captured long ago, its unleashing of carbon compressed and incarcerated far beneath the surface.

river-scene-industrial-landscape-1935

(c) Ms Carol Ann Lowry/DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(In passing, I love the tiny splash of red, the bus coming down the hill; I also love the outrage of several Salford councillors when the city spent 54 guineas on the first of the seascapes below because there was nothing in the picture, not even a boat.)

But Lowry, for all his matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs, also painted the world without us. A world desired, a world restored, in which we are a memory at most – a mark on the land, a residual trace of that which has passed, as in this impish female nude called ‘The Landmark’.

landmark

Such towers outlast us, move off into abstraction as we recede from being.

And beneath them, sometimes, there is the sea.

Lowry often spoke of the sea in relation to loneliness, but his seascapes move beyond that particular personal psychological sensibility. They are images of the world in which human categories, our separations of it all into distinct things, no longer hold.

Reification revoked.

(c) Ms Carol Ann Lowry/DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Lowry, Laurence Stephen, 1887-1976; Seascape

Our spectrality, our deathliness, always there in the portraits and figures, attenuates, fades, disperses.

The tide rises.

We are gone.