Week 4 Blog Post

My sincere apologies for the late post!

As with the previous posts I will invoke Luke’s fantastic greeting: “Lords and Ladies, learned and lewed, and all those who reject or object to those stated binaries!”

As Luke and Allan are discussing The Treatise of the Astrolabe and Equatorie of the Planetis I thought I would (attempt) to tackle the Barad reading. I found “Agential Realism: How Material-Discursive Practices Matter” to be an extremely interesting, and difficult, read. One of my main struggles throughout the reading was pondering how this reading would apply to the Medieval texts we are currently reading. We have a collection of highly technical Middle English texts that describe, in precise detail, the relationships between matter. The tools described (the astrolabe, the shippe, the equatorie) all allow understanding of the “phenomena” between and across material interactions. These objects take light (the astrolabe etymology “star-taker hints at this) and convert that light into specific data about location and movement through space-time. Barad seems to suggest that the interactions between matter (the astrolabe and the light from a distant star) are a discourse entirely separate from the human observer, and this is logically correct. I wonder what the medieval thinker would make of this though?

As I read through the Barad article I was struck by the multiple references to “becoming”. Natalie’s questions in the last blog post had me pondering the matter of nature as a “becoming”. If we think of these concepts as they relate to the tools described in the readings, we can see how accurate Barad’s ideas are. We can think of the linkages (the phenomena) between materials as a becoming: the human and astrolabe forming a hybrid, a cyborg. Not only that, but this hybrid matter also incorporates that which it observes through the action of receiving, or taking the light. I know this goes against Barad’s discussions of de-anthropomorphism, but I myself have a hard time getting away from that. I also wonder if the medieval thinker would grasp those concepts easily, or would find them impossible to integrate into their understanding. On a basic level, the writings we are reading DO illustrate “phenomena” between matter that is not anthropomorphized, but given that those interactions are illustrated for a human purpose we are once again back in the realm of the human. Can we really understand these ideas in any other way? Maybe others in the seminar have found Barad’s writing easier to grasp then I have.

I will leave you with an image that kept springing to my mind over the last week, and a couple links showing phenomena that we are reading about. The image I have had is of the Shippe, immobile, sailing through the cosmos on a sea of light that moves around it while it remains fixed in space. This would be the perception of the observer, the anthropomorphized understanding of cosmic phenomena.

Discourse of the Solar System

The discourse of the Solar System within the galaxy