Excerpt from Jacques Khalip, “The Ruin of Things”
(Romantic Circles, September 2011)
In The Ruined Cottage, Armytage hews an imaginary path through disaster: he perceives the intangible things of his littered environment as figures of reasoning that do not cease to generate unnatural visualizations and understandings. Here, ruins are less triumphalist memorials than wasted terrains that deviate from the normative circulations of sentimental value which the poem has traditionally been thought to sustain at a premium…Rem Koolhaas has imagined such scorched scenes as “Junkspace”—aesthetically residual stuff, the “apotheosis, or meltdown” of modernization’s enlightened programs of construction: “If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, Junk-Space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet” (175). This postmodern proliferation of immanent spaces, which Koolhaas diagnoses as one of the designs of late capitalism, homogenizes and conglomerates things that are readily discarded or treated as underway to being remaindered: “Continuity is the essence of Junkspace; it exploits any invention that enables expansion, deploys the infrastructure of seamlessness: escalator, air-conditioning, sprinkler, fire shutter, hot-air curtain. . .” (175). Risking anachronism, this architectural “stuff” leaks out of The Ruined Cottage’s own continuities of accumulation and regress, progress and memorialization, which are treated as leftover and exposed to exploitation … if Romanticism has often been read as synonymous with discourses of humanism, personhood, and community, how should we read Wordsworth’s insistence that we must attend to the waste, to things in their various states of destruction?