The Desert in Modern Literature and Philosophy

Wasteland Aesthetics

Aidan Tynan

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Shows how philosophers from Nietzsche to Deleuze have used the figure of the desert to theorise space and place
  • Uses the figure of the desert to provide an aesthetic theory of modernity
  • Rethinks and challenges key assumptions of ecocriticism
  • Offers readings of the most significant literary deserts using an innovative and rigorous theoretical framework
  • Provides an original account of the Anthropocene from a cultural perspective
  • Read an interview between Aiden Tynan and Crosscurrents series editor Christopher Watkin

Aidan Tynan provocatively rethinks some of the core assumptions of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. Showing the significance of deserts and wastelands in literature since the Romantics, he argues that the desert has served to articulate anxieties over the cultural significance of space in the Anthropocene.

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Introduction
1. Desert Desire
2. Desert Immanence
3. Desert Refrains
4. Desert Islands
5. Desert Polemologies
Conclusion: Beyond the Carbon Imaginary.
This is a fantastic book, one that challenges and indeed moves the reader on virtually every page. It is worth reading for this alone—the sense one has, while reading it, of being in the presence of a brilliant mind moving from one original, well-crafted idea to the next. [...] Tynan’s achievement is nonetheless considerable: the book is an important contribution not only to the humanities but also to broader debates around how we might avoid the worst of the catastrophic ecological scenarios that are already at play.
Cory Stockwell, symplokē
What does it mean for environmental criticism when the environments that form the touchstone of that criticism are disappearing? Tynan answers this by deploying the idea of the desert, through which he explores our ontological condition in the Anthropocene. This is a compelling argument, in an erudite and intelligent book.
Adeline Johns-Putra, Reader in English Literature, University of Surrey
Reading Aidan Tynan’s The Desert in Modern Literature and Philosophy: Wasteland Asthetics, one is tempted to rewrite Deleuze’s statement that "The plane of Immanence is entirely made up of light’ as ‘The plane of Immanence is made up entirely out of sand’. Photondust. Tynan’s Deleuzian, and to a lesser degree Heideggerian deserts are twofold spaces, at once arid and invigorating. Are our libidinal oases fata morganas in the zero-intensity dunes of the schizophrenic body, or are the deserts’ ungrounding sands fata morganas that shimmer through the wasted Ballardian spaces of capital? In beautiful, intricate superpositions of philosophy and literature, Tynan assembles an extended desert koan, in which both propositions are equally true. If I were to be stranded in a desert, or find myself lying on a deserted, terminal beach (that normally benign, heterotopic microdesert) I would hope to have Tynan’s book by my side as an indispensable philosophic meditation, conceptual tool-box and literary treasure-trove, as well as, of course, a to provide a little patch of shade.
Hanjo Berressem, University of Cologne
Aidan Tynan Senior Lecturer in English literature at Cardiff University. He is the author of Deleuze’s Literary Clinic: Criticism and the Politics of Symptoms (Edinburgh, 2012). He had co-edited two volumes: Credo Credit Crisis: Speculations on Faith and Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) and Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Literature (Bloomsbury, 2015).

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