Sustainability, subject and necessity in Yann Martel’s Life of
and the speculative real. I then turn to considering Life of Pi’s emphasis
on a human-centred stance, alongside its apparent recalibrating of the
subject horizon as a sustainable world is engendered.
Sustainability and the human project
A number of sustainability’s tensions and paradoxes and their nuances
have been teased out across the essays in this collection. This final essay
considers sustainability from the perspective of opacity itself. That is, it
addresses the issue that sustainability is premised upon projected notions
that are variously indistinct or
reconstruction. To put it rather tersely, MerleauPonty’s phenomenology does not believe there is anything beyond
Plato’s cave and its shadowplay. He does occasionally entertain
concepts such as a ‘primordial silence’, but only so as to set up a
notional final backdrop against which the apparent silence of ‘pure
thought’ may be revealed as a thoroughly linguistic hubbub (‘bruissant de paroles’) of ready-made phrases that form the ‘fond obscur’
Read with a certain bias of attention, then, phenomenology’s
account of our relation to this factitious nothing, which
Ahmed, S. (2014c). ‘Practical phenomenology’, Feministkilljoys.com (4 June),
https://feministkilljoys.com/2014/06/04/practical-phenomenology/ (accessed 3
Ahmed, S. (2014d). ‘Hard’, Feministkilljoys.com (10 June), https://feministkilljoys.
com/2014/06/10/hard/ (accessed 3 September 2018).
Ahmed, S. (2014e). ‘Fragility’, Feministkilljoys.com (14 June), https://feministkilljoys.
com/2014/06/14/fragility/ (accessed 3 September 2018).
Ahmed, S. (2017). Living a Feminist Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Braidotti, R. (2006
descriptive imperatives and a retrieval of conceptuality could be sharpened. Heidegger is suspicious of a conceptuality which sets itself up in opposition to an already given order,
and rather supposes that what there is must be conjured into revealing itself to an
attentive composing thinking.41 The virtue of Husserl’s phenomenology as far as
Heidegger is concerned is that it oﬀers this possibility of revealing what is not already
given, instead extracting what there is from its concealment in everyday taken-forgranted relations. Heidegger and Adorno thus share a suspicion
perceptible objects. Edmund Husserl, for instance, in his landmark
study of phenomenology, argued that objects are things that can be handled,
displayed and most importantly seen.27 Yet sensation as a historical phenomenon included a more complex approach to materiality than Husserl allows.
For example, a fifteenth-century English censer highlighted in the Victoria and
Albert Museum’s ‘Making Sense of an Object’ series is, literally, defined by
its olfactory use.28 Though it is implied by its name, its scent, frankincense,
rarely accompanies its display; even if it did
The paradoxes of sustainability and Michel Houellebecq’s The
Possibility of an Island
.eurozine.com/the-sustainability-of-democracy/ Accessed 17 March 2017.
Braidotti, Rosi 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity.
Christian, David 2014 . Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Connolly, Kate 2013. ‘Wurst Policy Ever? German “Veggie Day” Plan Leaves Greens
Trailing’, Guardian 13 September. www.theguardian.com/world/germanelections-blog-2013/2013/sep/13/german-election-wurst-policy-veggie-daygreens. Accessed 21 February 2017.
De Mul, Jos 2014. ‘The Possibility of an Island: Michel Houellebecq’s Tragic
Humanism’, Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology
. Instead of disappearing or
becoming nothing more than the heritage of a bygone age, art, in Hegel’s slightly
strange formulation, ‘points beyond itself ’.
Hegel’s description of the meaning of art’s ‘pointing beyond itself ’ that follows the
occurrence of the phrase in the ‘Introduction’ to the Aesthetics repeats his argument
in the Phenomenology which states that Spirit simply moves beyond art to dialectical
reason and philosophy. Thus, Hegel states quite simply that, although one ‘may well
hope that art will always rise higher and come to perfection . . . the form of
Beckett see also Thomson, Chapter 4 above.
10 Pierre Thevenaz, What Is Phenomenology?, trans. J. M. Edie, C.
Courtney and P. Brockelman (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1962), p. 57.
11 H. G. Maule, ‘Industrial environment’, in A. H. Bowley et al. (eds),
Psychology: The Study of Man’s Mind (London: Odhams Press, 1949),
p. 259. Rose Adders, The Bored @ Work Doodle Book (London: Carlton,
12 E. H. Gombrich, ‘Pleasures of boredom’, in The Uses of Images (London:
Phaidon, 1999), pp. 212–25. For another excellent example see David
Maclagan, ‘Solitude and communication
his ‘Darmstadt Lecture’ given in 1984, Feldman
describes his work in terms of two aspects that he sees as characteristic of art in the twentieth century: ‘One is change, variation.
I prefer the word change. The other is reiteration, repetition. I
prefer the word reiteration’.35 Feldman’s destabilisation of the grid
structure which provided the impetus for his composition can be
understood in terms of Derrida’s notion of a difference that is necessarily contained within repetition. Writing on form and meaning
in the context of Husserlian phenomenology, Derrida argues
ourselves’, and yet also insist that ‘reading Beowulf , even after all these years is not like talking to an old friend’.
And yet, even though the poem offers itself up to questions of old friends very naturally, intimacy is rarely articulated openly as a guiding critical framework.
Many times when intimacy is invoked in places where we would expect to see it – in queer theory, affect studies, and theories of sensation or phenomenology – it functions metaphorically as a descriptor of a certain kind