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Issue Details: First known date: 2021... 2021 The Cybernetic Wheatbelt : John Kinsella’s Divine Comedy
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'John Kinsella’s poetry returns again and again to the landscape of the Western Australian wheatbelt. The wheatbelt is a region that was suddenly and violently re-made by capital in the service of cereal and fibre production during the course of the twentieth century. Despite this radical repurposing of land and the wholesale eradication of an ancient biome, the new farming zone quickly took on the halo of a natural landscape within state and nationalist ideologies. Against the backdrop of this event, Kinsella’s wheatbelt can be viewed as a comprehensive deconstruction of the forces that have led the wheatbelt to where it is now and which still provide the material conditions of its existence. In this essay, Kinsella’s Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography (2008) is considered as exemplary of his wheatbelt poetry. The essay explores the basic conceits that animate Kinsella’s poetics of critique. It argues that Kinsella’s poetry offers a strategic intervention into the claims of “capitalist realism,” which is Mark Fisher’s term for the foreclosure of alternatives to profit-driven patterns of production and consumption. Capitalist realism, in the context of the wheatbelt, asserts that whether we like it or not, one cannot argue against the basic entitlement that productive imperatives (and its agents) have to use land as they see fit. This essay attempts to detail the kinds of ways that Kinsella’s poetry tries to fracture this claim to common sense that capitalist production monopolises. What it finds, somewhat counter-intuitively, is that Kinsella’s poetry draws together two things which are traditionally regarded as antinomies – the machine and the organism. In this respect, Kinsella’s poetry is distinctly different from conventional ecopoetry, which tends to uphold the distinction between an authentic nature and a corrupting technology. Kinsella’s Divine Comedy makes use of the tripartite layering of Dante’s eschatology to evolve new topologies of being in the wheatbelt, and indeed, being in the world. Further still, the essay makes the claim that Kinsella delivers us a “cybernetic wheatbelt,” which refigures nature as a communicative machine.' (Publication summary)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Angelaki The Kinsellaverse : The Writing World of John Kinsella vol. 26 no. 2 Nicholas Birns (editor), Tony Hughes-d'Aeth (editor), 2021 21492030 2021 periodical issue criticism

    'Criticism on the work of John Kinsella is made particularly lively by the fact that Kinsella himself practices so much criticism, and self-criticism, in his poetry, fiction, and essays. This can make it, though, harder as well as easier for the critic to operate, to gain a foothold or angle of vision, to trace without trying to rival the primary author’s creativity, ingenuity, and verve. Also posing a daunting hurdle is the sheer stamina Kinsella has as an author; that he produces so much in so many different genres that, while always remaining in a coherent field of meaning, is consistently original and diverse.' (Nicholas Birns, A Type of House-Paint for All Weathers, introduction)

    'The extraordinary literary output of John Kinsella has thus far exceeded the capacity of criticism to deal with it. This special issue of Angelaki is an attempt to close the gap, but as the guest editors we are only too aware of how we must still fall short. This issue draws on a range of scholars who have followed Kinsella’s work, often over many years. While John Kinsella was born and grew up in the southwest of Western Australia, his reach has extended globally, particularly through the anglophone centres of Britain and the United States, but increasingly through other parts of the world including continental Europe and China. We will not attempt to catalogue Kinsella’s works here since, with Kinsella, such lists are almost immediately out of date. But more importantly, the totalising gesture of doing so runs against the basic ethos of Kinsella’s project. Despite its epic scale, Kinsella’s work always exists as an intervention and not an edifice. It has a negative capability, akin to the sublime and serial grandeur of paintings of the Last Judgement in Christian eschatology or the sprawling tableaux of medieval tapestry. But if his work is a tapestry, then Kinsella presents his images from the other side, as an assemblage of knots and ends. In this issue, we as critics have occasionally presumed to flip the work around and offer an image in more conventional terms, but readers will know that this procedure is something that must always remain critically contingent. (Tony Hughes-d'Aeth, The KinsellaVerse : The Writing World of John Kinsella, introduction)

    pg. 43-54
Last amended 9 Apr 2021 14:36:48
43-54 The Cybernetic Wheatbelt : John Kinsella’s Divine Comedysmall AustLit logo Angelaki
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