The Ruins of Experience: Scotland's "Romantick" Highlands and the Birth of the Modern Witness

The Ruins of Experience: Scotland's "Romantick" Highlands and the Birth of the Modern Witness

The Ruins of Experience: Scotland's "Romantick" Highlands and the Birth of the Modern Witness

The Ruins of Experience: Scotland's "Romantick" Highlands and the Birth of the Modern Witness

Excerpt

Phantoms pervade late modernity. Archival remnants, con-/hyper-/textual traces, and blinking technologies with their storehouses of undigested information represent but few of the spirits haunting our material world. This makes for a conflicted arrangement, to be sure. For one thing, specters do not reside easily amidst an ethos of skeptical disenchantment which remains our legacy–in some ways, our embattled ideal –from the Enlightenment. For another, it seems inherently contradictory to accord spirit substance, or to acknowledge” [h]aunting [as] a constituent element of modern social life.” Nevertheless, a world of “post-”s (e.g., postmodernism, postindustrialism, poststructuralism) is a world of ghosts.

Can ghosts have ghosts of their own? Do some specters come into being only when we make ourselves critically self-conscious of others? This book contends that they do, and that experience is one such ghost. Like Poe’s purloined letter, experience hides in plain sight, becoming more evanescent the longer we stare at it. Seemingly a universal category (doesn’t everyone have experiences?), experience has been both requisite and inadequate to knowledge since the Enlightenment. in our world of modern objectivity–or, as I will engage it over the course of this book, our world of “evidence”–experience plays the part of the dubious witness, functioning as knowledge under erasure. Even to pretend to summon experience, to purport to “know” it, is to displace it all over again.

Experience, in short, is one of modernity’s great phantoms, silently haunting models of being, doing, and knowing. But how do we undertake an investigation of experience–how do we come to understand experience objectively, as it were–without causing it to fade once again, phantasmatically, from view? in chasing this rainbow, I return to one of the quintessential sites of modern spectrality, the romantic Scottish Highlands. I do so somewhat anachronistically, for “romance” has been on the wane in scholarship on the Highlands for at least the past twenty . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.