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Para-Academia & Theory Fiction v3

Organizing Committee:


Para-Academia & Theory Fiction | Session 4: Complicitous Continuums: The Horrors of the Cosmicist Earth, facilitated by Ben Woodard, co-produced by the Hollow Earth Society  

Saturday, September 17 at 1:00pm at Observatory [You must enter through the blue front doors on Union Street. Push buzzer #1E.] 

This course will explore the Geo-philosophical earth as theory-fictional node for explaining a cosmicism/universalism in which the outside is continuously advancing upon all purportedly firm grounds and solid bodies. Weirdness, as in the weird of weird fiction and the darkness of dark romanticism and the crumble of the gothic, will be explored as the intrusion of the non-local upon the local, arguing that all stability is in fact subject to continuous degradation, shift, and collapse. 

The first half of the course will be a lecture and the second will be a discussion. To help in facilitating discussion please write a 1-2 page response to any/all of the readings with the relation of the geological to thinking in mind. 

Required Reading:

“The Festival” by HP Lovecraft 
“A Bit of the Dark World” by Fritz Leiber
“The Metamorphosis of the Earth,” by Clark Ashton Smith 

Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani. In particular these selections: 
Machines are Digging 41-68 
Telluro-Magnetic Conspiracy Towards the Sun I Solar Rattle 145-153 
Telluro-Magnetic Conspiracy Towards the Sun II The Core 161-166

Suggested Reading:

“The Last Feast of the Harlequin” by Thomas Ligotti 
“Solar Inferno and The Earthbound Abyss” – Reza Negarestani 
“Triebkrieg” by Reza Negarestani 
“Drafting the Inhuman” by Reza Negarestani in The Speculative Turn 

Further Suggested Reading: 
Edgar Huntly by William Brockden Brown 
Collapse v VI ed. Robin Mackay 

Ben Woodard is a PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario. His work focuses on the concept of Nature in German Idealism, philosophies of becoming, contemporary philosophy, as well as in Weird and Speculative fiction. In addition to On an Ungrounded Earth, his book Slime Dynamics: Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life is forthcoming from Zer0 books. He blogs at Speculative Heresy and Naught Thought.


Original description of series:

Blogs, Speculative Medievalisms, Collapse, Cyclonopedia, Lovecraft, print-on-demand: the idea of "para-academia" has arisen in recent years as an addendum and an ultimatum to established disciplines, genres, styles and ways of writing and thinking.

"Theory fiction" clouds the line between the supposed rigor of academia and the autodidactic solipsism of (the ever-increasing amount of) intellectuals without institutional backing, producing creative works that defy easy dismissal or marketable digestion.

This class would operate much along the lines of a creative writing workshop, alternating between reading an eclectic barrage of texts inspiring 'para/academia' and 'theory fiction', and sharing of written material at an intersection of theory/philosophy/fiction. Indeed, (respectful) critique and feedback would be welcome; we will all agree to be the sacrificial victim ripe for decapitation, and yet none of us will agree to be the executioner.


Past sessions:

Session 1: Nicola Masciandaro on Commentary 
Thursday, May 19, 8:00pm 
Observatory at Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street, Brooklyn

Questioning the concept of the 'marginal', this session will consider commentary as a para-academic and theory-fictional mode of thinking and writing. Specific topics to be discussed include: geometrics of commentarial thought, contemplation vs. speculation, hidden writing and acontextual scholarship, philological eros, destructive reading. A theoretical introduction will be followed by open discussion of the texts and dialogue about the futures of commentary. 


Giorgio Agamben, "Project for a Review." (also available on AAAAARG) 
Anna Kłosowksa and Nicola Masciandaro. Beyond the Sphere: A Dialogic Commentary on the Ultimate Sonetto of Dante's Vita Nuova. (also available on AAAAARG)

Further reading/listening:

Nicola Masciandaro. “Becoming Spice: Commentary as Geophilosophy.” Collapse VI: Geo/Philosophy (2010): 20-56. 
Nicola Masciandaro and Reza Negarestani. "Black Metal Commentary." Hideous Gnosis. 257-66. 
"The Future of Commentary." A roundtable discussion with David Greetham, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Avital Ronell, Jesus Rodriguez Velasco. MP3 here:

Session 2: Wythe Marschall on Bataille/Lovecraft 
Tuesday, June 21, 8:00pm 
Observatory at Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street, Brooklyn

The second session of this series will consider links between two highly disparate authors whose work during the 1920s and 30s concerned, among other things, the unspeakable, the limits of philosophy, heterology (study of extreme "Otherness"), and cosmic terror.

Though they were on different planets politically, French anti-philosopher Georges Bataille and American horror luminary Howard Phillips Lovecraft shared a common concern for the foundation of a new, materialist mythology that can see beyond Reason, reconnect man to the world of things (and shit, and horrible creatures), and speak to the unutterable terror of being alive—of being trapped on a ball of mud circling a much larger ball of fire.  (The realization of this terror produces "gnostic vertigo.")

Following a brief investigation of each writer, we will search for the moment of gnostic vertigo in both fiction and philosophy.  Organized around short texts, the class will allow for open discussions on key themes (a new materialist mythology, aporia/unspeakable-ness, the limits of philosophy, Other-ness in extremis).

We will also share brief essays of our crafting in the heterological tradition of Bataille.  That's right! You have a writing assignment (optional but recommended) to complete before class: Please write a 1–2 page essay on a single heterological theme.  Bataille wrote short, powerful meditations on the eye, the big toe, human sacrifice in Aztec culture, Dali's paintings, cave paintings, Van Gogh's sacrificed ear, the solar anus (the sun, the anus, things you "can't" look at), and other taboo/totally "Other" elements.  Please pick some heterogeneous element and investigate it totally from the standpoint of science/materialism/use value/economics (work), society/history (taboo), mythology (archetype, literature), and religion/the unconscious (dream).

Examples include Bataille's "Eye" and "Rotten Sun" in the course packet.  Random thematic suggestions for potential Lovecraftian crossovers include tentacles, jellyfish, sponges, clay/mud, pillar cities/weird architectures, whispers/rasps, and the like.

Wythe Marschall is a writer and artist.  He works in advertising during the week and teaches writing at Brooklyn College on the weekend.  With illustrator Ethan Gould, Wythe is the founder of the Hollow Earth Society, a pacifist army, conceptual art movement, and para-academic educational network.


**Texts available as a PDF for download here

Primary texts:

H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu, 1928 
Georges Bataille, "The Pineal Eye," in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939

Supplementary texts:

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Volume 1: Consumption, 1967 
Georges Bataille, Selections from Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 
Georges Bataille, Conclusion from Theory of Religion, 1973

Extra supplementary texts:

Georges Bataille, "The Cruel Practice of Art," 1949 
Georges Bataille, "The Use Value of D.A.F. de Sade, 1930 
Georges Bataille, "The Story of the Eye," 1928

Session 3: Nabokov, Coincidence and Otherwordliness, facilitated by Steve Aubrey 
Tuesday, August 23 at 8:00pm at Observatory 

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1977) is perhaps most famous for Lolita and Pale Fire, novels of startling linguistic and literary playfulness. But as his wife, Vera, wrote in a foreword to a collection of his poetry in 1979, the true watermark of Nabokov's work is the concept of "potustoronnost" or otherwordliness. Though much of Nabokov's work may seem straight-forward and realist, lurking underneath his fiction is an entire pantheon of ghosts, shades, demons and devils that comprise the true world of Nabokov's writings. 


Please read the following short stories by Nabokov: "Signs and Symbols" and "The Vane Sisters". They can be found here


In his famous letter to Katharine A. White, the chief editor of The New Yorker, while explaining the intricate riddle‐like structure of "The Vane Sisters," which had been rejected by the magazine, Nabokov mentioned that some of his stories are composed according to the same system "wherein a second (main) story is woven into, or placed behind, the superficial semitransparent one." This second story was frequently mystical or supernatural making his stories a collaboration between this world and the next. 

Try and write your own text (story, poem, dialogue) where the real and supernatural worlds collaborate. 

Stephen Aubrey descends from hardy New England stock. He is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, dramaturg, lecturer, storyteller and recovering medievalist. His writing has appeared in Publishing Genius, Commonweal, The Brooklyn Review, Pomp & Circumstance, Forté and The Outlet. He inexplicably holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Hollow Earth Society and is an instructor of English at Brooklyn College. 

He is also a co-founder and the resident dramaturg and playwright of The Assembly Theater Company. His plays have been produced at The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, The Flea Theater, The Collapsable Hole, The Brick Theater, Symphony Space, the Abingdon Theater Complex, UNDER St Marks, The Philly Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where his original play, We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, was nominated for a 2006 Fringe First Award. 

He has an MFA from Brooklyn College where he received the Himan Brown Prize and the Ross Feld Writing Award and a BA with Honors from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. 

He is—for the record—not a Christian singer-songwriter. He does, however, hold the dubious distinction of having coined the word “playlistism” in 2003.



  • Steve Aubrey, Ben Woodard


solidk's picture

Hello Para-Academics,

Session 4 with Ben Woodard takes place tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 17) at 1:00pm at Observatory, 543 Union Street (at Nevins) in Brooklyn.

Take the R train to Union Street or the F or G train to Carroll Street.

Also, VERY IMPORTANT, please remember to enter through the blue front doors on Union Street. Push buzzer #1E.

See you there,


arcanacoelestia's picture

So then the session on the 17th *is* at Observatory? Fantastic, will definitely be there!

solidk's picture

The RSVP area contains the final information.

arcanacoelestia's picture

Please clarify -- will the Saturday 17 September class be 1 p.m. at Observatory or 1 p.m. at 155 Freeman? (Description says one venue, comments say another.)

solidk's picture

Thanks for checking in, JoeyBCannizzaro. Steve will be providing his class description and readings very shortly. I just met with him last night and he's put together a nice selection of texts.

What is the recommended reading material for the Nabokov class?

solidk's picture

We are excited to announce that we have two upcoming sessions in August and September. On Tuesday, August 23 at Observatory, Steve Aubrey will be facilitating a session on the secret paranormality of Vladimir Nabokov and on Saturday, September 17 at 155 Freeman, Ben Woodard will be facilitating a session on Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. More details to come. Go to to RSVP.

solidk's picture

Nick Land is great suggestion especially after our class on Bataille. Thanks, Thomas!

If we can’t find a facilitator, we could always do a class that is more of a group discussion rather than a lecture. Anyone else have ideas?

Class suggestion: I've started to dive into Nick Land and think it would be wonderful if someone ran a session on his para-academic work. I'd do it myself but I'm new to it, don't know enough yet, but I'd be very interested in hearing someone else open his world up a bit more.

solidk's picture

The audio recordings from all completed sessions of Para-Academia & Theory Fiction can now be found on our Tumblr:



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