Richard Scott Bakker: "Writing After the Death of Meaning"

This seminar concerns writing in the disenchanted reality of scientific modernity. Are humans the last ancient delusion? We are proud to welcome Canadian fantasy author Richard Scott Bakker to Aarhus for a discussion on this subject.

2015.05.21 | Jakob Gaardbo Nielsen

Date Tue 02 Jun
Time 14:15 17:00
Location Aarhus University, Langelandsgade 139 DK-8000, Building 1584, room 124

Canadian fantasy author Richard Scott Bakker visits Aarhus University for a seminar on the struggles and limits of writing in the new reality of disenchanting scientific analysis and in light of the complete dismantlement of traditional humanism.

Bakker (b. 1967) has published several noted and voluminous novels in various genres, combining elements of fantasy, science fiction and thriller in what he himself calls "complicated worlds filled with complicated characters - places deep enough for archaeological digs and people as moody and hard-to-figure as your family and friends.". He has produced two trilogies under the generic title The Second ApocalypseThe Prince of Nothing (2004-2006) and The Aspect-Emperor (2009-), the final novel in the latter being still in work. These works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is also noted for the critically acclaimed thriller, Neuropath (2008).

Bakker also visited Aarhus University in 2010.

Abstract: Writing After the Death of Meaning

  • For centuries now, science has been making the invisible visible, thus revolutionizing our understanding of and power over different traditional domains of knowledge. Fairly all the speculative phantoms have been exorcised from the world, 'disenchanted,' and now, at long last, the insatiable institution has begun making the human visible for what it is. Are we the last ancient delusion? Is the great, wheezing heap of humanism more an artifact of ignorance than insight? We have ample reason to think so, and as the cognitive sciences creep ever deeper into our biological convolutions, the 'worst case scenario' only looms darker on the horizon. To be a writer in this age is to stand astride this paradox, to trade in communicative modes at once anchored to our deepest notions of authenticity and in the process of being dismantled or worse, simulated. If writing is a process of making visible, communicating some recognizable humanity, how does it proceed in an age where everything is illuminated and inhuman? All revolutions require experimentation, but all too often experimentation devolves into closed circuits of socially inert production and consumption. The present revolution, I will argue, requires cultural tools we do not yet possess (or know how to use), and a sensibility that existing cultural elites can only regard as anathema. Writing in the 21st century requires abandoning our speculative past, and seeing 'literature' as praxis in a time of unprecedented crisis, as 'cultural triage.' Most importantly, writing after the death of meaning means communicating to what we in fact are, and not to the innumerable conceits of obsolescent tradition.