Category Archives: Science and Technology

Theodor Fontane and the Tachyonic Antitelephone

Early in Fontane’s novel Der Stechlin Dubslav and Gundermann are engaged in a discussion of the telegraph. I was revisiting this passage and thinking about it in connection with issues of relativity and causality in Robert Musil’s novel Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.

The conversation begins with Dubslav commenting that the brevity mandated by the form of the telegram has eroded language.

Kürze soll eine Tugend sein, aber sich kurz fassen heißt meistens auch, sich grob fassen. (GBA-EW 17 : 28)

Brevity’s supposed to be a virtue, but saying things briefly usually means saying them coarsely. (CHE 17)

Gundermann, a reactionary bourgeois who makes a living turning Brandenburg’s trees into planks for Berlin’s hard wood floors, seizes on these remarks to take a pot shot at the Social Democrats. The erosion of language is a “Zeichen der Zeit” (“sign of the times”) and “Wasser auf die Mühlen der Sozialdemokratie” (GBA-EW 17 : 28-29) “water on the mills of the social democrats”; CHE 17). Dubslav reverses himself in the face of Gundermann, and balances his criticism of the telegraph with something that he finds more praiseworthy about the technology.

Schließlich ist es doch was Großes, diese Naturwissenschaften, dieser elektrische Strom, tipp, tipp, tipp, und wenn uns daran läge (aber uns liegt nichts daran), so könnten wir den Kaiser von China wissen lassen, daß wir hier versammelt sind und seiner gedacht haben. Und dabei diese merkwürdigen Verschiebungen in Zeit und Stunde. Beinahe komisch. Als Anno siebzig die Pariser Septemberrevolution ausbrach, wußte man’s in Amerika drüben um ein paar Stunden früher, als die Revolution überhaupt da war. (GBA-EW 17 : 29)

When you get right down to it though, it really is a marvelous thing, this science business, this electric current. Tap, tap, tap and if we had a mind to (even though we don’t), why we could let the Emperor of China know we’ve gotten together here and were thinking about him. And then all these odd mix-ups in time and hours. Almost comical. When the September Revolution broke out back in seventy in Paris, they knew about it over there in America a couple of hours before there even was a revolution. (CHE 18)

Dubslav’s complaint about the telegraph was concerned with its effects on language. He speaks in favor of a notion of industrial progress, but his admiration for the sciences and technological innovation is less about technology as such and more about the telegraph’s effect on spacetime. He imagines the telegraph as a tachyonic antitelephone, a hypothetical device capable of sending information faster than light thereby causing a paradox of causality. The compression of space and time with modern technology is something that crops up again and again in the literature of the late nineteenth century, one sees it especially in the way that train travel is described. The experience of the accelerating train in many of Raabe’s texts, for instance, is often a metaphor for the experience of time in modernity. But the paradox of causality Dubslav describes is different. It is not merely that “the time is out of joint,” as Hamlet famously put it, but that it is out of joint to the extent that temporal relations are suddenly reversed.

The connections between global and local that the telegraph makes possible do more than simply establish a parallel between the lake and communication technology, rather the telegraph reproduces technologically the mythic properties ascribed to the lake (i.e. the fact that it responds physically to seismic activity anywhere on the planet). Dubslav’s example of the news of revolution echoes the revolutionary symbolism of the lake. The possibility of sending a telegram to the emperor of China more explicitly articulates the imperial side of the openness to the world that Melusine espouses. The lake, after all, connects to Java, “mit Java telephoniert” (GBA-EW 17 : 64; “has a telephone line direct to Java,” CHE 43). Both raise the specters of German colonial presence in Qingdao and New Guinea. The empire functions here as Edward Said argues it does elsewhere in nineteenth century literature, “as a codified, if only marginally visible, presence in fiction” (63), and I would add, is another important component of the novel’s geographic imagination.1 The telegraph, in short, is a physical manifestation of global networks of domination and a reproduction of the lake’s chthonic global connections.

The tachyonic antitelephone was the most intriguing discovery of this passage. Einstein’s theory of relativity was still eight years away or so when Stechlin appeared in book form. A common (mis)perception of German realism holds that the literature of this time did not rise up to the status of “world literature” that one finds in the “great” novels of England, France, or Russia in the latter half of the nineteenth century, although Fontane is in this regards supposedly the great exception. But Fontane is not the only German author of this period with the sensitivity and perceptiveness to anticipate, say, a tachyonic antitelephone.


1Said also draws the comparison of the presence of empire to the presence of laborers. “To cite another intriguing analogue, imperial possessions are as usefully there, anonymous and collective, as the outcast populations . . . of transient workers, part-time employees, season artisans; their existence always counts, though their names and identities do not, they are profitable without being fully there” (63-64). The analogy might also be applied to the notably marginal – albeit no less significant – absence of the glass workers at Globsow.

Emerging from the Polar Vortex

That this has been a week of astonishing weather is pretty well documented on the news and in social media. I was away visiting family in a famously warmer part of the United States, where temperatures were about 80 degrees (and I brought along two sweaters for whatever reason). The trip back home was hard because winter weather forced me to fly into a different airport, then I faced a long drive back on messy roads going half the speed limit most of the way. Three days later the temperature had climbed to fifty degrees, and the masses of snow began to melt. Then on Monday I watched the temperature plummet in the afternoon to the coldest I have ever experienced (which is not saying much, having spent most of my life in warmer climes). Now my trip to the MLA convention has been delayed because the weather interrupted this week’s travel plans.

The cold weather predictably brought out the usual suspects of global warming denialists, trotting out arguments that are barely worth taking seriously save as case studies in irrational defense mechanisms. What’s interesting is that we living in the middle latitudes can expect more severe cold with global warming. If I may make an institutional plug, two Cornell professors, Charles Greene and Bruce Monger, published on this very phenomenon in 2012.

A warmer Earth increases the melting of sea ice during summer, exposing more dark ocean water to incoming sunlight. This causes increased absorption of solar radiation and excess summertime heating of the ocean — further accelerating the ice melt. The excess heat is released to the atmosphere, especially during the autumn, decreasing the temperature and atmospheric pressure gradients between the Arctic and middle latitudes.

A diminished latitudinal pressure gradient is linked to a weakening of the winds associated with the polar vortex and jet stream. Since the polar vortex normally retains the cold Arctic air masses up above the Arctic Circle, its weakening allows the cold air to invade lower latitudes.

On an only tangentially related note, I was sorting my digital photos from 2014 and came upon this one. Here I am during a camping trip on an island in the Adirondacks. I’ll offer it as a pleasant memory of the warmer months. What I have in my hand is the best cup of coffee I drank in all of 2013!

Morning Coffee

HSBC on the Future

Natural futures, courtesy of HSBC.

HSBC on the Future, Advertisement Spotted in JFK Airport, June 2013

This poster is part of an ad campaign that I spotted recently at JFK airport.  I was being shunted down the jetbridge when I got out my camera, hence the rather poor quality of the photo.  The fish has a barcode on its side, and the ad campaign itself envisions a kind of free-trade neoliberal utopia facilitated by a world saturated by technology, as exemplified by our ichthyic friend here.  You can peruse other selections here.

There’s much one could say about this campaign, and more one should say about HSBC’s astonishing criminal record  (i.e. money laundering for drug cartels).  But I’ll restrain myself and offer this image as a blurry object of contemplation.

Towards a Critique of C.P. Snow

The way in which somTower Bridge nearing completion.  Public Domain image from UK National Archives.e literary critics cite C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures” speech of 1959 is always rather interesting to me.  It’s not uncommon to see humanists interested in developing points of contact between the sciences and the humanities cite Snow’s model as a useful heuristic. It’s remarkable that this particular text gets cited so frequently, because I’m not so certain that we can really get all that much mileage out of it.  The point that I am going to try to make here is that we need to be a bit more critical when we cite this text, lest we end up investing it with an authority that ends up actually obscuring the implications of Snow’s argument.  It’s time to subject this text to a fresh critique that we may be able to move beyond it.

The basic thesis, for those unfamiliar with the speech, is that academia has become polarized between “literary intellectuals” on the one side and scientists on the other, and each side perceives only a distorted image of the other, which fuels a certain mistrust (4)1.  For Snow, it’s a mutual suspicion borne out of mutual ignorance, but the blame does not fall equally on both sides.  Instead the attack is mostly directed against so-called literary intellectuals.  Snow recounts asking a crowd of this persuasion if they knew the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which he claims to be the scientific equivalent of having read Shakespare, only to be greeted with a deafening silence (14-15).  “If we forget the scientific culture, then the rest of western intellectuals have never tried, wanted, or been able to understand the industrial revolution, much less accept it.  Intellectuals, in particular literary intellectuals, are natural Luddites” (22).  Part of Snow’s ethos, then and now, comes from having had a career as a scientist and a novelist.  This street cred as a novelist is probably undeserved, after all, who in 2013 has actually read one of Snow’s novels?

These are all rather provocative claims, and stirred up no small amount of controversy in their day.  Critic F.R. Leavis polemicized against Snow, and he has had other critics, including Stephen Jay Gould and Thomas Pynchon.  Criticisms notwithstanding, it’s not particularly surprising that the two cultures metaphor still gets batted around.  Snow offers a dichotomy that appeals to common sense, but it’s printed and you can cite it, and so if you are looking for ways to raise the stakes of your argument, it’s a handy go-to text.

Of all of the critiques I have encountered of Snow, Thomas Pynchon’s 1984 essay “Is It O.K. to be a Luddite?” is my personal favorite for its perceptiveness and its humor.  Pynchon points out the reductiveness of Snow’s dichotomy given the accessibility of information, and that was in 1984, before any trivial question that popped into ones head on any subject could be answered in the time it takes to type it out.  Although less a critique of Snow and more a defense of Luddism, Snow’s speech is the point of departure for Pynchon.  Still, his characterization of the Snow text seems to me to capture the character of the speech in a way that gets lost whenever the two cultures metaphor turns up in scholarly as well as popular discourse:

Fragmentary echoes of old disputes, of unforgotten offense taken in the course of long-ago high- table chitchat, may have helped form the subtext for Snow’s immoderate, and thus celebrated, assertion, ”If we forget the scientific culture, then the rest of intellectuals have never tried, wanted, or been able to understand the Industrial Revolution.” Such ”intellectuals,” for the most part ”literary,” were supposed, by Lord Snow, to be ”natural Luddites.”

Except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it’s hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual, though it doesn’t sound so bad if you broaden the labeling to, say, ”people who read and think.” Being called a Luddite is another matter. It brings up questions such as, Is there something about reading and thinking that would cause or predispose a person to turn Luddite? Is it O.K. to be a Luddite? And come to think of it, what is a Luddite, anyway?

Needless to say, the answer is that it’s more than okay.  But what Pynchon is getting at in a humorously roundabout way is that Snow’s text – beyond the human element of hurt feelings which is very present – in tossing around the label “Luddite” as a pejorative, casts its imagined opponents as irrational reactionaries unable to appreciate the wonders of the industrial revolution.

This is the real problem that I see obscured when Snow is cited by people who think that we in the humanities should be more receptive to the sciences.  While the argument that we should learn more about science and math when and where we can is a good one and an important one, Snow’s vision is the kind that is grist for the mill of leftist critiques of science.  Because the talk is not really about how unfortunate it is that these two cultures won’t come together in some kumbaya moment, but that the preference for the humanities and particularly the classics in British education has diminished the nation’s status on an international stage.  This at a historical moment when Britain is confronting its perceived diminished status as a global player with the loss of its colonies and the emergence of the United States (which is handling STEM instruction better than Britain, according to Snow) and the Soviet Union.

My basic problems with Snow’s text, then, are these: 1.) His vision is a technocratic one.  He argues for a restrictive kind of positivism that has its place as one way of arriving at knowledge, but by no means has a monopoly on possibilities for knowing the world. That’s why the humanities are important and necessary – we explore all of the questions that you can’t answer with the help of fancy instruments.  2.) It accepts the scientific and industrial revolutions as intrinsically good when that is obviously not the case.  People concerned with the plight of the environment ought to know that all too well.  3.) The speech is a politically compromised document, invested as it is with particularist concerns over the material well being of the British nation.  4.) It proceeds from a false dichotomy, and offers nothing substantial to ground its positions.

In short, before we cite this text we need to think about what it means, both for politics in general and for the survival of our own disciplines.  Speaking of disciplines, it may be my own disciplinary bias, but it always seemed to me that the person whom we ought to be citing if we want to think about the humanities versus science isn’t C.P. Snow, but Robert Musil.  As an engineer who studied with Ernst Mach, he knew what he’s talking about when it comes to empiricism versus more speculative modes of thinking.  One of my favorite sections in The Man Without Qualities reads:

If someone were to discover, for instance, that under hitherto unobserved circumstances stones were able to speak, it would take only a few pages to describe and explain so earth-shattering a phenomenon. On the other hand, one can always write yet another book about positive thinking, and this is far from being of only academic interest, since it involves a method that makes it impossible ever to arrive at a clear resolution of life’s most important questions. Human activities might be graded by the quantity of words required: the more words, the worse their character. All the knowledge that has led our species from wearing animal skins to people flying, complete with proofs, would fill a handful of reference books, but a bookcase the size of the earth would not suffice to hold all the rest, quite apart from the vast discussions that are conducted not with the pen but with the sword and chains. The thought suggests itself that we carry on our human business in a most irrational manner when we do not use those methods by which the exact sciences have forged ahead in such exemplary fashion.(I, 264)3

Everyone here has their shortcomings.  The utopia of essayism is what Musil’s narrator offers where Snow talks about a “third culture,” but the fact that that whole project falls apart by the end of the first book makes me think that it gives us far more opportunities to think about these disciplinary questions in far more interesting ways.

1.  Snow, C.P. The Two Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

2.  Musil, Robert. The Man Without Qualities. Sophie Wilkins, trans. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1995

Environmental and Aesthetic Problems: A False Dualism

Today the New York Times’ reported on a city block sized, three story high pile of petroleum coke in Detroit. The coke is a byproduct of tar sands oil production.  Usually it gets shipped off to China or Latin America for fuel, contributing to the air problem out “over there” where we in the United States don’t have to see it.  But at the moment we have a growing mountain of the stuff in Detroit.  The source of outrage here, I would argue, is not the existence of such a pile but the use of Detroit as a “sacrifice zone,” to borrow Chris Hedges’ term.  If this is how we are going to power our civilization, then would it not be better to keep the ugly byproducts within our field of vision?  Yes, the waste becomes a very real social and environmental problem for the people who ultimately are left to deal with it.  But the reason our waste gets sent somewhere else to spoil the material basis of someone else’s life is so that we wealthy consumers in the global north do not have to be confronted with either the toxicity or the sheer ugliness of things like petroleum coke.  What we have is an empirically quantifiable problem of toxicity, yes, but that is not what the article is really about.  The real issue that dominates the article is the fact that it’s ugly, and we can’t hide the ugliness from view.  In other words, the environmental problem is also an aesthetic problem.

I remember watching the pieces that 60 Minutes did on Chernobyl in 1989 and 1996. The images of the nuclear fuel, which had melted, combined with the sand, and then solidified into a kind of glass flow, were beautiful.  The radiation level on the surface when it was discovered was 10,000 Röntgen per hour.  500 Röntgens in five hours is the lethal level for humans.  Radiation is not something that humans can perceive with their bodily sensory apparatus.  In other words, we have something beautiful but deadly, and if you were to go near it, you would only perceive the deadliness through its physiological effects on your body.  That is an aesthetic problem.

Plant and animal life is slowly re-taking the town of Pripyat, by Chernobyl.  Its social character is slowly vanishing as a second nature gives way to a first.  Luckily we now have the internet to satisfy our desire for the melancholy contemplation of ruination, because in spite of its appearances, the exclusion zone is a dangerous place.  That is an aesthetic problem.

The title of Rachel Carson’s classic book Silent Spring is an allusion to Keats’ poem “La Belle Dame sans Merci.”  We start off, in other words, not with science, but aesthetics.  The book’s opening chapter “A Fable for Tomorrow” is about a town that knows it is poisoned because of the conspicuous absence of birdsong.  That is an aesthetic problem.

There’s a scene in Raabe’s novel Die Akten des Vogelsangs where the two main characters are standing on a hill, a kind of nature park where the people from the town go to relax.  In the novel, “nature” has been compartmentalized on this hill, it is planned and made beautiful.  In the middle is a copy of Canova’s sculpture of Hebe.  What we have is a compounding of aesthetic problems.

Kant observes in his discussion of the mathematical sublime that we can can estimate the magnitude of something (a mountain, a galaxy, etc.) through measurement, but that does not mean that I know the magnitude of the measure.   The metric system in America has the same problem, because when Americans ask how many miles are in x kilometers, they are trying to obtain a sense of the magnitude of the measure.  We haven’t understood the data if we haven’t grasped it through intuition and thus obtained a real understanding of the concept.  Put very basically, the numbers are meaningless if they are not understood aesthetically.  In my example of Chernobyl, I told you how deadly 500 Röntgens in five hours was so that you could have a sense of how much radiation is in 10,000 Röntgens an hour, and only then do you know what a problem that is.

Common sense would have us distinguish between environmental problems and aesthetic problems.  Nobody ever got poisoned by a novel, at least not literally.  But the distinction is illusory, and if we cling to it then we have failed to understand the environmental crises we are confronted with.  Aesthetics in the narrow sense of perception and judgment is how we arrive at a sense that there is a problem in the first place.  Aesthetics in the broader sense of “relating to art” can also help us to conceptualize how we got here and to imagine other possible kinds of relations.

This is the point, in other words, where we who do cultural studies can legitimately enter the conversation on environmental problems.  And we can do so without selling ourselves short simply because we operate in more speculative realms.

Literature and Limnology

There’s an interesting history of studies of German realist texts coming from the natural sciences.  The earliest critical essays on Wilhelm Raabe’s Pfisters Mühle that are worth citing today are a pair of essays that appeared in 1925 by noted German limnologist August Thienemann.  Thienemann’s studies of dams in the first half of the 20th century make him an important figure in the history of ecology in Germany.  While Thienemann discusses the issue of industrial pollution, his interest is more a disciplinary one, that is, how Raabe borrowed from the natural scientists, specifically studies by his acquaintance and fellow member of the Kleiderseller Heinrich Beckurts.1  Still, Thienemann’s discoveries are of no small significance for Raabe scholarship.  Much of the philological background that was included in the notes in the current critical edition, the Braunschweig edition, are from Thienemann.  Bacteriologist Ludwig Popp’s 1959 essay on Pfisters Mühle situates the novel within an environmental history of Braunschweig.  Popp includes some of his own findings on the water quality in the area, taken after the factory that inspired the story had been shut down.2 These were some of the essays Horst Denkler criticized as not being wrong, but as magnifying aspects of the texts without connecting them to the larger narrative structure(85-86).3

Turning to the scholarship on Fontane, I have just finished reading Heinz-Dieter Krausch’s 1968 essay “Die natürliche Umwelt in Fontanes “Stechlin.”  Dichtung und Wirklichkeit.” 4  Krausch was working at the research station on Lake Stechlin, the eponymous body of water in Theodor Fontane’s last finished novel Der Stechlin (available in English as The Stechlin).  Krausch’s essay is all about the physical characteristics of the actual lake and its surroundings.  As interesting as his account is, the result is an essay that falls more on the side of “Wirklichkeit” (reality) and less on the side of “Dichtung” (poetry).  In other words, the essay spends most of its time outside of the text.  For instance, the novel cites the myth of the red hen, which supposedly rises out of the lake’s water when there’s some major seismic event somewhere on the planet.  Krausch suggests that this may be traced back to fishermen on the lake at night whose nets released methane produced by decaying organic matter on the seafloor, which their torches then ignited (345).  A discussion of the symbolic importance of this myth within Fontane’s novel, however, is not supplied.

None of this is to cast aspersions on Thienemann, Popp, Krausch, or any other natural scientist who feels moved to write about literature of engaging in bad critical practice.  I mean to suggest instead that when we in literary studies ask how we might cross disciplinary boundaries to explore our objects of study (i.e. people and places that may have physical equivalents but are, in the final analysis, mediated through language), it is important not to lose sight of the important questions that literary studies exists to explore in the first place.

1. Thienemann, August. “»Pfisters Mühle«. Ein Kapitel Aus Der Geschichte Der Biologischen Wasseranalyse.” Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereins der preußischen Rheinlande und Westfalens 82 (1925): 315-29.

—. “Wilhelm Raabe und die Abwasserbiologie.” Mitteilungen für die Gesellschaft der Freunde Wilhelm Raabes 15 (1925): 124-31.

2. Popp, Ludwig. “»Pfisters Mühle«.  Schlüsselroman zu einem Abwasserprozeß.” Städtehygiene.2 (1959): 21-25.

3. Denkler, Horst. “Die Antwort literarischer Phantasie auf eine der »größeren Fragen der Zeit«: Zu Wilhelm Raabes »Sommerferienheft« Pfisters Mühle.” Neues über Wilhelm Raabe: Zehn Annährungsversuche an einen verkannten Schriftsteller. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1988. 81-102.

4.  Krausch, Heinz-Dieter. “Die natürliche Umwelt in Fontanes “Stechlin.”  Dichtung und Wirklichkeit.”  Fontane-Blätter 1.7 (1968): 345-353.

Scattered Thoughts on Glowing Trees and Other Transgressions

The New York Times website ran an article this morning about a bioengineering scheme to create glowing plants that could replace our current lighting technologies through their bioilluminescence.  Evidently hobby scientists in “communal laboratories” are making use of crowd-sourced fundraising in order to finance projects such as this.  The predictable, and probably justified reaction to this story might be to call to mind the common reading of Frankenstein as a cautionary tale of scientific overreach.  I might add that this reading does not even begin to unlock what is most intriguing about Mary Shelley’s novel, but I don’t care to get into that here.1  Emancipated from the old channels of funding, like Victor Frankenstein the people profiled here are working outside of the structures of institutional knowledge.

What struck me instead was the connection to Singularity University, a Silicon Valley based collective of technophiles in the academic and business sectors.  On a slow news day they can usually be hauled from the pages of Wired magazine onto more general interest domains to air their fantastic predictions of the future.  This is the crowd that you hear telling us that within a generation technology will allow for the transcending of our limited, slowly decaying biological bodies into a state of pure consciousness on a hard drive somewhere, where we will live forever in fear of nothing, except perhaps for the occasional stray kitchen magnet.  It’s a fantasy that doubtless looks more convincing if you happen to be a wealthy white employee of Google living in a gentrified San Francisco neighborhood with a reliable source of electricity.


On a related note, NPR yesterday aired a story about one Corinna Lathan, another who has drifted from academia into the private sector.  Lathan is interested in more thoroughly saturating daily experience with those technologies with which we are already amusing ourselves to death (sensors on clothing that can read our emotional and physical states, glasses that display information about our surroundings, etc.).  In the introduction NPR draws a connection to another vision of technological excess more recent than Mary Shelley’s, the Borg from Star Trek.  As a Star Trek fan myself, I have more than once been drawn into a discussion of the Borg as an allegory for this or that.  It’s a topic that can occupy fans for days.”  I don’t tend to argue much with the “Borg as communist” thesis, although if we wish to go down that road, we should say more specifically that the Borg can be read as reflecting American Cold War ideological anxieties about the society in the “Second World.”  But like so many common sense readings, this one in my view misses what’s really interesting about the Borg.

If we start asking about the difference between the Borg and the set of relations that govern life on the U.S.S. Enterprise, then the apparent differences between the two start to collapse.  If the Borg are an allegory for communism, then surely that is so because they completely level the chain of command that structures Starfleet and that is the subject of so many plots.  But in this they have only put into practice the Federation’s democratic platitudes.  More than that, though, is the relation to technology.  Like the Borg, the people on the Enterprise live in, with, and through technology, and when minute 40 to 45 comes around and it’s time for the thrilling climax, the day can always be saved by pulling a rabbit out of some kind of techno-hat.  The key difference, it seems to me, is the illusion maintained on the Enterprise that the edges of the human body delineate some sort of border, marking off the physical interior as a sovereign space from the inorganic.  The illusion is maintained in spite of the fact that they all eat food from a kind of 3D printer.  Picard’s assimilation is a major moment of trauma in the series, but we already know he was pursuing his career with an artificial heart beating in his chest, and as we learn in the episode “Tapestry,” that piece of equipment signifies a watershed moment in his own subject formation.  Perhaps the real horror of the Borg with their cubic vessels and grotesque bio-technical bodies is simply that they present to the Enterprise an image of itself stripped of the aesthetic layers that support the illusion.

1. Instead I can recommend Paul Outka’s essay “Posthuman/Postnatural: Ecocriticism and the Sublime in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” in LeMenager, Stephanie (ed.) Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Routledge, 2011. 31-48