Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Idea of Stratification



The picture above is a geological section that was published in Gideon Mantell's Wonders of Geology in 1838. It is a highly schematised (one might say synthesised) represenation of the stratigraphy of England going all the way back to the Cambrian. Each layer has its own characteristic colour and texture. The vertical feature that cuts up through most of the other layers is a basaltic dyke, an enlarged fracture filled with volcanic material. We know that the dyke emplacement is early Tertiary in age because the Tertiary deposits lie on top of the dyke and are not cut by it.

The 'idea of stratificiation' is a recent subject of the re-posit weblog of the sculptor Richard Aumonier in which he talks about a book called 'A Thousand Plateaus' by the French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. He was put in mind of this by my post comparing geology and literature.

"Through the brilliantly maverick character of Professor Challenger, borrowed from Conan-Doyle, Deleuze and Guattari deliver the third section of Mille Plateaux as a deranged lecture: The Geology of Morals. (Parapraxis of Genealogy of Morals by Nietzche?). The flavor of Challenger's lecture is a confusion of biology and geology. The idea of stratification is developed as a philosophical abstraction, a general theory of double articulation, symbolized by the lobster. Sedimentation and becoming stone for instance, involves a double articulation, a structuring. The organic strata also structures itself through double articulations. God is a lobster. Yes, the Heteradelph is a crustacean. The material itself, as D&G subtly indicate, is completely unpalatable. Reading Mille Plateaux is hilarious, frustrating, astounding, exhilerating..."

The second link comes from Joe Milutis' very enjoyable "New Jersey as an Impossible Object' blog, where he has posted a series of fascinating interviews with poet Lytle Shaw about William Carlos Williams' book Paterson. Lytle interprets the geological heterogeneity of mixed sand and shale beds in the drill-section presented in Williams long poem Paterson as a representation of the 'buried heterogeneity under American life', a reminder from Williams of the underlying resource available to an America that has a tendency to neglect the 'utopian possibility of lost pasts'.

4 comments:

rsaum said...

Jonathan
am flattered to be quoted. This is an area of intense interest to me and your writing is inspiring. Mille Plateaux is mad and bad, read it but ****** don't quote it! I must read Paterson, sounds fascinating.
Richard

Lucy said...

'God is a lobster' hmm, there's one to ponder.
BTW I found that image of the great used drill bit lying on the deck that looked somehow heroic has stayed with me persistently.

rsaum said...

Life is this competition of surfaces. As any drill bit knows.

Jonathan said...

Thank you Lucy and Richard.

I suppose the thing about the drill bit is that it has a given 'life'. Whether it gets used harshly or lightly will ordain the length of that life. Hence the metaphorical aptness.

And I suppose God is a lobster because lobsters know the true meaning of suffering and, one might hope, redemption (apart from being double articulated that is.)