'The Universe of Things': "A wonderfully engaging study of speculative realism"
Steven Shaviro’s new book is a wonderfully engaging study of speculative realism, new materialism, and the ways in which those fields can speak to and be informed by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. While The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) will satisfy even advanced scholars working on “object-oriented ontology” and related issues, it’s also a fantastic introduction for readers who have never heard of “correlationism” or panpsychism, don’t quite understand what all of the recent humanities-wide Whitehead-related fuss is all about, and aren’t sure where to begin. After a helpful introduction that lays out the major terms and stakes of the study, seven chapters each function as stand-alone units (and thus are very assignable in upper-level undergrad or graduate courses) while also progressively building on one another to collectively advance an argument for what Shaviro calls a “speculative aesthetics.” The Universe of Things emphasizes the importance of aesthetics and aesthetic theory to reading and engaging the work of Whitehead, Harman, Meillassoux, Kant, Levinas, Bryant, and others as an ongoing conversation about how we understand, inhabit, and exist as part of a material world. It’s a fabulous (and fabulously clearly written!) work that I will be recommending widely to colleagues and students.
During the course of the interview we talked a bit about the opportunities that electronic and web-based media have brought to life and work in academia.