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August 9, 2007

Speculation

I was going to post this as another comment on "Talking of Horses," but after reading Jessie's last comment on “Prospecti,? it seems also relevant there, so I thought I’d just make it a new entry. In my paper (for the gothic conference in June) on Poe's implicit racism and its connection to the developments of photography and cinema, I argued against one critic's view that Poe equates "reason" and "whiteness." Agreeing with other critics (such as Maurice Lee), I think that Poe's philosophy and politics do not claim to be "rational," exactly, but, rather, "speculative." The word speculate, or speculation, is interesting to me for its various meanings (see OED), having to do with vision, observation, viewing, spectacle, entertainment, theorizing, conjecture, gambling, risking, and profiting (note that horse-racing encapsulates all of these). "Speculation" brings together the interests and claims of racism, science, cinema, and capitalism, but with a different approach than what Tom Gunning has called Euro-Americans' "gnostic impulse," which I understand as the belief that it's possible to know reality, to find truth, and to recognize and identify objects as familiar. To connect to Jessie's project, maybe ethnic selves at the turn and in the early part of the 20th c are produced out of a philosophy and/or politics of speculation in which Poe and the cinema are also engaged.