by Alice Goff
“In the last decades of the eighteenth century, Carl Schildbach, an unremarkable man living in Kassel, created a remarkable object: a library consisting of 546 intricate wooden boxes of various sizes styled as books and approximating folio, octavo, and duodecimo formats. Nearly every volume was made of a different species of tree, with 120 genera and 441 species represented. The trees were gathered from the forests and estates of the landgrave, where the uneducated Schildbach lived and was employed as the caretaker of the menagerie. In 1788 Schildbach printed a pamphlet announcing his ‘Holz-Bibliothek nach selbst gewähltem Plan’ or ‘Wood Library According to Self-Determined Plan,’ which had, ‘through inexhaustible skill, practical research, and repeated revision been bought to the state of completion in which it may be found presently.’” Continue reading …
Goff’s essay looks at how Schildbach’s wood library addressed the gap between the materials of nature and the materials of nature’s explanation, which troubled efforts to know and manage the forest in this period.
ALICE GOFF is a graduate student in the history department at the University of California, Berkeley, where her research focuses on the relationships between ideas and objects in the history of museums. She is working on a dissertation about the physical interactions between people and artworks in the first public art museums in German cities from 1779–1830.
by Paul Roquet
“Looking up at the stars,” begins Roquet, “does not demand much in the way of movement: the muscles in the back of the neck contract, the head lifts. But in this simple turn from the interpersonal realm of the Earth’s surface to the expansive spread of the night sky, subjectivity undergoes a quietly radical transformation. Social identity falls away as the human body gazes into the light and darkness of its own distant past. To turn to the stars is to locate the material substrate of the self within the vast expanse of the cosmos.
“In the 1985 adaptation of Miyazawa Kenji’s classic Japanese children’s tale Night on the Galactic Railroad by anime studio Group TAC, this turn to look up at the Milky Way comes to serve as an alternate horizon of self-discovery for a young boy who feels ostracized at school and has difficulty making friends. The film experiments with the emergent anime aesthetics of limited animation, sound, and character design, reworking these styles for a larger cultural turn away from social identities toward what I will call cosmic subjectivity, a form of self-understanding drawn not through social frames, but by reflecting the self against the backdrop of the larger galaxy.”
In the 1980s, Japanese animation shifted its focus away from the social self and toward cosmic subjectivity, the framing of intensely personal emotions within the larger impersonal expanse of the universe. Roquet’s essay examines Night on the Galactic Railroad as a signal moment in this shift, as it emphasizes the interpenetration of the microcosmic and macrocosmic through a range of experiments with “limited” animation, sound design, and character design that would in turn influence the imaginary worlds of later anime.
PAUL ROQUET is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University. He is currently finishing a book on ambient media, therapy culture, and the aesthetics of atmosphere in neoliberal Japan.
Sarah Winter, Professor of English and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut, will present an upcoming talk at UC Berkeley entitled “’Have-his-carcase’: Habeas Writs, (Human) Rights, and Pickwick.”
The event will take place on Monday, December 8 at 5pm in 306 Wheeler Hall. The talk will focus on a pre-circulated paper (to obtain a copy, contact Wendy Xin at firstname.lastname@example.org). The event is sponsored by the Nineteenth Century British Cultural Studies Townsend Center Working Group and the Florence Green Bixby Chair in English.
Sarah Winter’s essay, “Darwin’s Saussure: Biosemiotics and Race in Expressions,” winner of the North American Victorian Studies Association’s Donald Gray Prize for the best article in Victorian studies from 2009, is available in Representations 107 (Summer 2009).