Jay Johnston: ‘Beyond’ Language? Ecology, Ontology and Aesthetics


1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [. . .] the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other (Foucault 2001: xvi).

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 This chapter seeks to stay in the moment (the ‘event’) of this shattering laughter; the point identified by Michel Foucault in his now infamous Preface to The Order of Things in which familiar systems of knowledge and the order and relations between things in their attendant worldview collapse. This is not an exercise in swapping one order for another: no matter how strange, illogical, disturbing or different. Rather, it is an exploration of the ‘other’ of discourse(s), their often unrecognised, unperceived yet nonetheless affective and impelling conditions. These are emotional, ontological, aesthetic aspects implicit to any discourse, yet also exceeding it. A laughter that ruptures, an experience of awe that delights, a vision that transmogrifies.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The understanding of any such experience is necessarily socio-culturally specific.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 While it is instructive to consider the dominant discourse of wonder, or of the sublime etc., this chapter seeks something less tangible, more difficult. It seeks the moment before absorption into the order of a discourse and the residue of that which accompanies its rendering—within—discourse. Discourse in this context is taken as “an ensemble of verbal and non-verbal practices of large social communities” (Angermuller et. al. 2014: 2). Albeit in this context “social communities” is not exclusive to humans, rather it is inclusive of nonhumans as well.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Many recent dominant ‘turns’ in the Humanities are already exploring the non-linguistic aspects of discourse, including affect theory, New Materialism, New Animism, Aesthetics of Religion, Material Religion. This article will commence with a short overview of these approaches and their ramifications for ‘thinking’ religion/ religious discourses (non-linguistic) in an interdisciplinary context. It will then turn to consider examples where that which remains ‘beyond’ yet implicit can be glimpsed and even utilised within research via methods of critical practice (in the visual arts) and creative engagement. Examples will be analysed from within the domain of ‘nature writing.’ This is a highly fertile field (!)—although one that can only be touched on herein—due to the shared discursive tropes of human–nature engagement found in this discourse and that of religious experience. It is also of especial reference because of the contested term ‘nature’ itself. Historically, discourses of modernity, founded upon a logic of unequal binary oppositions (Lloyd 1993) defined and positioned nature as cultures ‘other.’ Whether romantically celebrated or denigrated (including being feminised) nature was crafted as distinct from culture and an object of disinterested analysis. That is, it was ‘mute’ and spoken about or for. However, many well-known critiques have thoroughly eroded and destabilised any such delineation, especially the work of Donna Haraway which has simultaneously challenged the belief in the pure ontological categories of ‘human,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘machine’ (1991). In parallel with these theoretical critiques artists and writers have produced work that illuminates, and seeks to critically respond to, the complex interrelationships between the human and nonhuman. The foundation of any such practice is the attribution of agency to the nonhuman. Necessarily, this requires critical examination of the attendant non-linguistic discourses utilised to represent this other-than-human agency and its intersubjective affects.

2. Affects, Ontologies, Ecologies

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 If religion is a massing of affects, a core response of bodies in the world prior to ideas, words, thoughts, then it is open to non-linguistic bodies. Animal religion overturns the sentence of solitary confinement imposed on human bodies by our own anthropocentric presuppositions, returning us to other bodies on and in the earth” (Schaefer, 2015: 211).

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 In Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution and Power Donovan O. Schaefer casts religion as a “massing of affects,” and in doing so he has opened out the category to subjectivities other than the human (and well beyond linguistic definitions: a move also central to material and aesthetic approaches to religion). I have explored the ethics of this proposition with regard to the cultivation of perception elsewhere (Johnston 2017). However, in the context of this chapter, it is salient to re-emphasise the non-linguistic operations of affect. As in Foucauldian approaches to discourse, affect is embedded and emerges from “non-linguistic forms of power” (2015: 179).

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Affect theory is suitably diverse in its interpretation and application. In a reductive overview there are two dominant ‘paths’ The first is associated with Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) and his revivification of Henri Bergson’s (1859–1941) work and the second is founded upon analysis and reconsideration of the psychologist Silvan Tomkins’ (1911–1991) work. Both approaches understand affects as non-linguistic ‘forces’: for Deleuze affects are flows of forces (ontological forces) for Tomkins they are akin to emotions (and indeed, there is a continuing debate regarding the distinction between affects and emotions). For followers of both ‘paths’ affects are robust potencies that are not necessarily consciously perceived and are non-linguistic. They are both creative and potentially malleable. These forces are not specific to the human subject: they are considered constitutive of all animals and the multiple worlds in which they reside (Johnston 2017).

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The physical body and its network of relations (forces and flows) is a locus of affect. Indeed, Schaefer argues that affect is the “material” out of which religion is formed and that “Religions build on a body’s available repertoire of affective bodily technologies, bending them, deterritorializing them and reconstituting them in new configurations” (2015: 210). Affects are subject to, and generative of, forms of power and particular affective capacities are physiologically and socio-culturally inculcated in the body. That is, certain affects (and responses to affects) while non-linguistic can nonetheless be cultivated and privileged (consciously or unconsciously) while others can be minimised or ignored. Affect can be generated collectively and amassed through time. They are intimately related with subjective capacity—the limits of what a subject can and cannot do—and recognition.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Affect theory has been extensively explored in the discipline of Cultural Studies, however its application in Religious Studies has to date been more muted. However the Religion, Affect and Emotion Group of the American Academy of Religion has been a prime facilitator of interdisciplinary dialogue.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 In the wake of affect theories emphasis on the networks and productivity (creative and restrictive) of non-linguistic power, theories of other-than-human agency emerged and began to dominate discussion. Indeed, one (diverse) form, New Materialism, has been a strong interdisciplinary discourse for nearly a decade. In Religious Studies, its most marked effect has been the revivification and rethinking of animism, see for example Harvey (2013). In brief, New Materialists ascribe agency to matter that is not derivative from the human as causal agent. Jane Bennett’s proposition of vital matter (2010) has been core to the development of many New Materialist frameworks. As I have argued elsewhere (2016), such concepts of matter (ontological and agential) are not new—in fact they are very ‘old’ concepts of matter—and may be found in bodies of knowledge historically excluded by the Academy: indigenous and esoteric traditions. However Bennett and other New Materialists have successfully opened up a space within the humanities were such ideas can be analyses and debated with due rigour and seriousness. This has allowed an increased presence of differing worldviews and epistemologies in academic ‘space.’

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Core to these arguments is the vexing issue of the apprehension of the other-than-human agency. I have detailed my concerns with Bennett’s call to be “temporarily infected by discredited philosophies of nature risking the ‘taint of superstition, animism, vitalism, anthropomorphism and other premodern attitudes’” (Bennett quoting Mitchell 2005: 149) previously, noting the implied denigration of indigenous and esoteric epistemologies that this statement appears to propose (Johnston 2016: 81–82). This issue of just how one does perceive other-than-human agency remains difficult and challenging and it is just the place where the utilisation (and combination) of a wide range of methods—including creative practice—is most needed.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 In a recent article, Arianne Françoise Conty (2018) has noted the dominance of affective and New Materialist approaches; indeed, these now form a dominant discourse in a number of Humanities disciplines. She writes:

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Subjects and objects, the infatuation of modernity, have gone out of fashion. Scholars today see agency, events, lines of flight and entanglements where they used to see subjects and objects, often leading to an indiscretion between the two that is celebrated as having finally overcome the anthropocentrism responsible for justifying a human subject over and against a world of things” (2018: 73).

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 In particular, the use of “indiscretion” in this quotation caught my eye: as indiscretions are wont to do! At first I mused that it was a slip, and that ‘indistinction’ should take its place. In the realms of intersubjectivity—and especially where concepts of ontological matter are concerned, as I have discussed in relation to subtle matter (Johnston 2008)—just where one ‘subject’ ends and another begins is a troubling matter (but good trouble—in a Haraway sense). The use of the term indiscretion, consciously or unconsciously, evokes issues of morality, it does after all commonly refer to: “a want of discernment or discrimination … a want of judgement in speech or action; injudicious, unguarded or unwary conduct; imprudence” (OED). That is, inappropriate boundaries have been crossed: so perhaps, despite the prevalence and fashionability of concepts of vital or ontological matter within the academy, such ideas continue to cause unease, even alarm.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Conty views New Materialism as the study of the “modern unconscious,” that was distanced and repressed by modernity’s commitment to subject–object distinction and the subject’s superiority as the locus of agency (2018: 74–75). Interestingly, she characterises the movement as seeking to “extend characteristics and values deemed uniquely human to the rest of the world” noting “they disagree on whether certain new distinctions should replace old ones, or whether all forms of agency should be treated equally” (2018: 75). However, in the context New Materialism the term “extend” is not the best choice of term, because the recognition (perception) of other-than-human agency should not be an act of allowing or bestowing upon non-human materialities human forms of agency. Rather it should be the base acknowledgment that such agencies all ready exist, followed by the ethical imperative to explore how to ‘hear’ these agencies: to render them respect and where appropriate representation.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 In esoteric traditions, there are always degrees of perceptive development that are understood to accord with and result in the increased perception of other-than-human agency (see Johnston on ‘Esoteric Aesthetics’ 2017; 2018). So again, the issue tussled over by New Materialists and company with regard to the distinction between different agencies—and indeed their boundaries—is itself an inherently fluid one. It appears that while the subject–object boundary has been thoroughly problematized, the desire to fix borders between subjects (or agencies) remains. Conty notes the re-inscription by Tim Ingold and Eduardo Kohn of an animate/inanimate binary within the vital environment posited by Bennett. The issues of these ‘new’ boundaries, (new dualisms even!), is a crucial one. However, this chapter has a different focus than an in-depth consideration of the new divides. Nonetheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that the moves of the Affect theorists and New Materialists enabled a space within the academy in which other-than-human agencies could be considered seriously (and without the invocation of the ‘spiritual’ word, of which many in the secular academy remain afraid). As such, it has pushed scholarly consideration—once again—to the edge of language. It is to this edge, particularly in relation to Kohn’s work, that this chapter now turns.

3. Non-linguistic Languages and Ecologies

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Non-linguistic aspects of discourse have been a focus of study in many disciplinary areas—including discourse studies itself. Christopher Hart’s examination of the visual basis of linguistic meaning also stresses—with reference to David Machin’s analysis (2013)—the “multimodal turn in discourse studies and critical discourse studies (CDS) with researchers addressing the way knowledge and values are constructed through images as well as language usages” (2016: 335). Hart’s work particularly considers the substantial role that visual media plays in “shaping linguistically communicated meaning” (2016: 336). The analysis of visual media—and their relations of support or subversion to dominant discourses—has been a staple of art historical and theoretical analysis for decades, much analysis developing in the wake of Roland Barthes’ works. Indeed, even within the traditional linguistic/literature field of storytelling analysis itself, attention has turned to consider the non-linguistic aspects of its discourse. Marta Sibierska argues, from a cross-disciplinary perspective but with particular eye to the ramification for evolutionary and narratological theory, that the “human ability to tell stories is not restricted to the verbal medium” (2017: 47).

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Despite the rich and varied research in these areas, this short section is concerned with a move away from ‘text’ per se—even in a multimodal framework—to consider an account developed by Eduardo Kohn of intersubjective relations in an Amazonian forest. His account of ethnographic fieldwork—How Forests Think: Toward and Anthropology Beyond the Human (2013) developed in dialogue with concepts of vital matter which includes other-than-human ontologies but also utilised Charles Pierce’s semiotic theory as a framework for understanding a complex ecosystem.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 The term ‘ecosystem; as Conty has observed, is increasingly employed to designate contemporary analysis of intersubjective relations that undermine “human/nature” and subject/object divides and which also crosses (or troubles) the borders between “human and natural sciences.” She writes:

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Since moral issues can no longer be separated from biological concerns, and politics can no longer be separated from nature, addressing the Anthropocene entails the dissolution of the nature/culture divide, but also of the disciplinary divide between natural and human sciences. Bridging the human and natural sciences, this new discipline must address the earthly (rather than global) complexities of our causally inter-dependent planet with an embodied semiotics of life capable of meeting the needs of the 21st century” (2018: 91).

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Here we see the meeting of two discourses that are usually ‘held’ apart: that of embodiment and that of semiotics. “Embodied semiotics” is not a misnomer, but is integral to Kohn’s work and can also be found in Charles Foster’s experimental activities aimed at experiencing the perceptive worlds of particular animal species (2016). I have previously written about the way in which this cultivation of perception resulted in the development of new embodied narratives of possibility and agency (Johnston 2017: 15). Suffice to note here that discourse and embodiment are not alternatives but radically interrelated aspects of any ecology.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Eduardo Kohn develops concepts of selfhood, embodiment and soul in the context of anthropological study with the Runa, communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Central to his arguments is a concept of living beings being defined by thoughts and an attendant claim “that all thoughts are alive.” This then is foundational to his core claim that “all living beings, and not just humans think” (2013: 72). Kohn understands the forest as animate; its agency is not tied to the human (2013:72). As a living being, it thinks. However, such thought is non-linguistic, yet for Kohn no less involved in a semiotic system. He particularly stresses Peirce’s proposition that “signs stand for something in relation to a ‘somebody’” (2013: 73). According to Kohn this relational semiotic structures the ecosystem:

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 The semiotic quality of life—the fact that the forms that life takes are the products of how living selves represent the world around them—structures the tropical ecosystem (2013: 78).

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Evolution—the developmental adaptation of living things to specific contexts and in specific lived relations over a sustained period of time—is viewed by Kohn as a semiotic relationship (2013: 76). Indeed, from such a perspective it could be understood as producing multiple ecological discourses. Significantly for Kohn it is not just humans who can create representations, but all other living beings as well.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Language and the related discursive regimes that condition so much of our thought and action are not closed. Although we must of course be cautious about the ways in which language (and by extension, certain socially stabilized modes of thought and action) naturalizes categories of thought, we can venture to talk about something like life “itself” without being fully constrained by the language that carries this forth (2013: 90–91).

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 It is here that the semiotic but non-linguistic emerges in Kohn’s thought. He attributes unique “ontological properties” to nonhuman life and argues that their particular perspectives and properties can be known—to a degree—by humans (2013: 91). However emergent meaning making agents are restricted in Kohn’s view to “living beings” and contra New Materialism—of which he is critical—that attribute is not extended to phenomena like snowflakes or rocks. Kohn’s study is an exercise in striving to know these non-linguistic perspectives, which at the same time requires a radical rethinking of the dominant western categories of the human. His practice as an anthropologist is a lived intervention in these discourses.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Similarly, and to close this section, Critical Practice, sometimes referred to as ‘practice-led research’ is an approach taken particularly in the visual arts that aims to generate interventions in dominant discourses and create new, emergent (including non-linguistic) knowledges. It:

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 constitutes the active exploration of critical concepts in practice: a process that draws on phenomenological experience as well as conceptual understanding, a process continually open to question, re-negotiation, re-interpretation and ultimately re-presentation (Adams 2014: 218).

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 This is a process of simultaneous embodied awareness and theoretical reflection. The process of the art production (including performance) is considered integral to the emergence of new knowledge it generates, facilitates and represents it (bit it is no mere illustration). Adams notes that this practice is utilised to “explore multi-sensory understanding;” (2014: 218) therefore it can also be considered to ‘play’ in the realms of the non-linguistic. To close this chapter, this next section takes up this spirit of practice-led research in the exploration of the non-linguistic and examines a work of creative writing; indeed, the turnings are more complex than that. The selected work is the critical examination by a creative writer of the limits of linguistic representation and the potential sites of emergence of the non-linguistic.

4. Words and Woodpigeons

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 In the article, “How Many Words Do You Need to Describe a WoodPigeon?” author Chris Arthur reflects on his writing practice and argues that there is an inherent simplicity in any linguistic presentation of the “natural world.” This may seem obvious, for example ‘platypus’ designates a particular type of monotreme in its entirety and not in any particular specificity. However, it is the relation between language, perception and ethical responsibility that Arthur highlights which is particularly pertinent in this context. He notes:

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 My worry is that the way in which we routinely apply language to that [natural] world may be a contributing factor leading to the mindset that allows us to wreak such damage on our environment. Verbal simplifications, and the superficial perceptions—or rather misperceptions—they foster, undermine the sense of wonder on which respect for nature is built.” (2014: 32).

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Taking the mundane example of “There’s a woodpigeon on the lawn” Arthur contends that the way in which he would usually communicate this occurrence “seemed designed to hide” rather than to elucidate “what was really there” (2014: 33). In response to this realisation Arthur strives to develop a “less blinkered account than that offered by our usual modes of discourse.” To achieve this he proposes four “waves,” each wave, he contends undermined the utility and accuracy of the common-sense statement “There’s a woodpigeon on the lawn.”

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 The first wave is a greater attentiveness to colour. Arthur approaches this task with an artists’ eye (“to sketch a picture”) and reference to ornithological guidebook descriptions. Yet, still he finds these descriptors, for example “green” or “grey-brown lacking; no least because they impose an incorrect stasis (2014: 33):

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 “How differently it appears when standing breast-high amidst grass and daises, and when perched and preening in a nearby tree; when it’s sitting with its feathers fluffed out and when it’s flying, when it’s caught in a burst of sunshine or seen under grey clouds heavy with the imminence of rain” (2014: 33).

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Indeed, each of the nouns and adjectives in this sentence could reasonably be subjected to the same type of scrutiny afforded the woodpigeon: grass, daises, tree, sunshine, grey clouds (what kind of grey?). Arthur’s call is for an increased attentiveness and an attendant creative–struggle to find discourse adequate to it. But even here, in this example, he has chosen to focus on the woodpigeon, leaving all else to “usual modes of discourse” (2014: 33).

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Non-linguistic discourses of attention also need to be interrogated. We are culturally trained to perceive; directed to what is important to focus on and what can be ignored; to chose centres and therefore to create peripheries; to hear a melody more than a bass-line. But what occurs if we redirect our attention from its usual patterns? Indeed, the popular surge of so-called “mindfulness” practices can involve a type of somatic re-training (even if it is in the guise of ‘stress management’). Therefore discourses of perception are physiological: they are embodied. Embodiment is not neutral as Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault have demonstrated. The limitations, capacities and resistance of ‘any’ body is socio-culturally conditioned. Whilst Bourdieu ([1980] 1990: 53) exemplified this via his proposition of habitus—a “system of durable, transposable dispositions … principles which generate and organize practices and representations”—and an examination of cross-cultural and generational difference; more recently Charles Foster (2016) sought to train his senses and body in order to get as close as possible to the experience of a non-human other (see also Johnston 2017). Here of course, the physiology is markedly different, hence the highly different sensorial capacities of badger contra human. Yet, Foster’s project — which included to experience life as a badger as close as possible—demonstrated the large capacity human’s have for altering and extending their perceptive range and capacity. However, of especial note in this context are his remarks regarding (un)conscious limiting of perceptive capacities:

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 And I remembered Jack Swartz, who said that he could see auras around each of us and whose ability to detect light frequencies extended from 335 to 1,700 nanometres, which is 1,000 nanometres beyond the spectrum normally regarded as visible by humans. But I remembered in particular John Adams, the physiologist who tested Schwartz. Astonished at the results, he re-examined his own vision without the conventional presumptions about what humans could do, and found much of the theoretically invisible infra-red spectrum was in fact visible to him (2016: 43).

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 In Foster’s description normative belief about what was physiologically ‘usual’ or possible limited individual capacity. Therefore both the discourses and experience pertaining to the range and capacity of normative sense perception can also be considered as socio-culturally determined, and as such, should be a topic for sustained critical inquiry.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 As I hope the previous discussion has demonstrated, Arthur’s “first wave” opened a broad frame of questioning with regard to attention—its cultivation and focus—and the limits (or not) of particular perceptive capacities. His additional three “waves” build on this foundation. The second “wave” erodes the simplicity of the sentence “There is a woodpigeon on the lawn” which he calls a “dam wall.” Behind this wall, he claims, is a rich multiplicity, a “tonnage of unspoken water that only trickles hints of its existence through the close-fitting blocks of our vocabulary (2014: 34). To exemplify Arthur’s invokes among other things the weight of a pigeon’s skull, the organs of its anatomy, their scent and texture. In short, he enters within (or behind) the feathered surface to take account of a microscopic and interior view. As such, the previous point raised with regard to the focus of attention is even more acute. How can one maintain the equal depth and focus on each aspect of all this stimulus? Choices must be made. Such choices, about upon what to alight—and in what order—are made (albeit mostly unconsciously). Arthur’s does not raise this issue; but he does argue that such consideration pushes perception ‘beyond’ language. Indeed, as the quotation below demonstrates, terms that have historically been employed to denotes (certain types) of religious experience are invoked to articulate the inadequacy of language.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 I picture words streaming towards the bird in jumbled, desperate profusion, scores of sentences formed to try to catch it. Each one is instead deflected, pulled into orbit around something about which a great deal can be said, but in the end it remains mysterious, ineffable, enchanted (2014: 34).

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Here is an acknowledgment of a ‘remainder’ that escapes linguistic denotation. The humble wood pigeon deemed “ineffable” and “enchanted.” But here too, is the well-worn trope of nature mysticism. Developed through nineteenth century Romantic discourses, this ‘nature’ is one of immanent—albeit overwhelming experience of the divine. Its traditions are carried forward in contemporary so-called New Nature Writing (discussed further below). Suffice to note here the seeping residue of that familiar discursive construction of human–nature relations.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 To these conjectures Arthur adds two more corrosive “waves,” both pertaining to time. The first is built upon a lament for the incapacity of words to capture the “quantum of time” at an individual level; the sentences inability to capture the span of the woodpigeon’s being through time (2014: 34) and the second (overall, the fourth “wave”) refers to the erosion brought about by geological time. The latter is an impersonal duration, a “wave of deep time,” evolutionary time that transmogrifies the woodpigeon into a “temporal chasm” (2014: 34).

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 One of the tendrils from that ancient genesis stretches all the way from it to the moment when a woodpigeon landed on the lawn just outside my window (2014: 34).

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 I’ve been playing with Arthur and his woodpigeon to exemplify the simultaneous critical–creative methods that have developed to tune in to non-linguistic discourse. As is evident, this is not a project for the faint hearted, yet it is one—which numerous examples herein have attest—that is implicitly interrelated with the ethical imperative to perceive agencies (ontologies) other than the human.

5. Conclusion

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 “We simultaneously use different means of representation, the most prominent of which are language, gestures, feelings and scenic images. It is especially fruitful to investigate the scenic mode of daydreaming as a central form on non-linguistic thinking” (Lohmer: 2013: 1).

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 ‘Beyond’ is a bad word choice for this context. There is no beyond language, because there is no beyond if language is uncoupled from human spoke n and written systems. Further, ‘beyond’ evokes a linear framework or progression while the relations discussed herein have focused on an immersive ‘present’ in which we—as active agents—have the choice to cultivate our awareness in order to perceive more clearly (but never entirely) and respect other-than-human agencies.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 The creative–critical incursions discussed herein render the subject–object only every partially, problematising attempts to generate cohesive discursive regimes; to pinpoint and encapsulate in language; to situate phenomena concretely in the ‘order of things.’ The chortle of derision for the illogical with which this chapter opened has come to signify our own conceptual limitations. Laughter, not at the bizarreness of an ‘other’ but at one’s own folly. This is a foolishness to be celebrated if at its heart is the acknowledgement of that which elides order and necessarily troubles dominant systems of knowledge and representation.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 The quotation that opens this section gestures to a different beyond, to that which was not considered herein—to a certain extent this consideration has remained squarely in the realm of reason(s)—that is, a vast range of epistemologies that are foundationally non-linguistic. To raise a last shattering laugh: the discourse of the day dreaming woodpigeon remains beyond us all.


50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Adams, Suze. 2014. “Practice as Research: A Fine Art Contextual Study.” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education. 13 (3): 218–226.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Angermuller, Johannes, Dominique Maingueneau and Ruth Wodak. 2014. “The Discourse Studies Reader: An Introduction.” The Discourse Studies Reader: Main Currents in Theory and Analysis. Eds. J. Angermuller, D. Maingueneau and R. Wodak. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. 1–14.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Arthur, Chris. 2014. “How Many Words Do You Need to Describe a Woodpigeon?” Eathlines 9: 32–36.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Bourdieu, Pierre. [1980] 1990. The Logic of Practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Conty, Arianne Françoise. 2018. “The Politics of Nature: New Materialist Responses to the Anthropocene.” Theory, Culture & Society 35 (7–8). 73– 96.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Foster, Charles. 2016. Being a Beast. London: Profile Books.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 Foucault, Michel. [1966] 2001. The Order of Things. English Ed. London: Routledge.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 Haraway, D. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. London: Free Association Books, 1991.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 Harvey, Graham (ed.). 2013. The Handbook of Contemporary Animism. London and New York: Routledge,

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 Hart, Christopher. 2016. “The Visual Basis of Linguistic Meaning and its Implications for Critical Discourse Studies: Integrating Cognitive Linguistic and Multimodal Methods.” Discourse & Society 27 (3): 335–350.

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 Johnston, Jay. Angels of Desire: Esoteric Bodies, Aesthetics and Ethics. London: Equinox Publishing.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 — 2017 “Rewilding Religion: Affect and Animal Dance.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 46 (3-4): 11–16.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 Lloyd, Genevieve. (1993 [1984]). The Man of Reason: “Male” and “Female” in Western Philosophy, London: Routledge.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 Lohmar, Dieter. 2013 [2012]. “Language and Non-Linguistic Thinking.” The Oxfrod Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology. Ed. Dan Zahavi. Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 Machin, David. 2013. “What is Multimodal Critical Discourse Studies? Critical Discourse Studies 10 (4): 347–355.

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 Mitchell, W. J. Thomas. 2005. What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 Schaefer, Donovan O. 2015. Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 Sibierska, Marta. 2017. “Storytelling Without Telling: The Non-Linguistic Nature of Narratives From Evolutionary and Narratological Perspectives.” Language and Communication 54: 47–55.

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