‘The Abstract Globe in One’s Head’: Robert Schomburgk, Wilson Harris, and the Ecology of Modernism

Michael Niblett

in The Caribbean

Published by Liverpool University Press

Published in print July 2016 | ISBN: 9781781382950
Published online January 2017 | e-ISBN: 9781781384022 | DOI:

Series: Postcolonialism Across the Disciplines LUP

‘The Abstract Globe in One’s Head’: Robert Schomburgk, Wilson Harris, and the Ecology of Modernism

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In this chapter, Michael Niblett examines the work of the nineteenth-century Anglicized Prussian explorer Robert Schomburgk alongside Wilson Harris’s 1965 novel The Eye of the Scarecrow. Arguing for an understanding of modernism as representing a certain kind of response to capitalist modernization, the essay suggests that the representational strategies deployed by both Schomburgk and Harris can be read in relation to the ecological revolutions through which such modernization occurs. Schomburgk’s scientific surveys and natural histories were directly implicated in the effort to reorganize human and extra-human nature in the interests of reviving capital accumulation in the mid-nineteenth century. The Eye of the Scarecrow, meanwhile, responds to the convulsions associated with the post-1945 ecological revolution, both in its global dimensions and in its localized unfolding in Guyana. But the novel’s strange abstractions also represent the means by which Harris critiques the given universe of social practice and inter-subjective relations.

Keywords: world-ecology; world literature; Guyana; modernism; Wilson Harris; Robert Schomburgk; ecological revolutions; abstraction; surveying

Chapter.  8655 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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