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Abstract

The starting point for this thesis is that there is something urgently and fundamentally inexpressible at the heart of the climate change era. I have chosen to write about a global tragedy using Chicago. This is a choice made because this city and its landscapes have in my estimation have a kind of proposition of vanishment. It contains and has contained things which disappear both from the physical world and the recalling powers of history, poetry, or depiction. As such, I believe they have something to say about the enigmatic qualities of the Anthropocene which have been heretofore missed. How to respond to the unwritable aspects of the Anthropocene is an open question this project wrestles with, knowledgeable of the fact that such an enterprise cannot necessarily succeed, but rather must try to fail usefully. For this reason, I have chosen to depart from a traditional scholarly paper in several key ways. The first is that I draw heavily on literary conventions found in creative nonfiction materials—above all drawing from the interrogative practices of W.G. Sebald, whose approach took landscapes and texts as a richly layered web of conceptual interrelations and historical affinities. The fact that this strategy takes as an a priori the fact that the inexpressible can located and described through the probing of these indirect and often esoteric connections makes such a method an ideal model for the work I am seeking to do. This brings me to my second departure from the traditional model of a scholarly work. Namely, I refrain in the final analysis from offering up a direct answer to the questions my attention is focused upon. In this, my intention is not neutrality. Rather, I am intensely concerned with experimenting with a kind of historiographical practice similar to what Sebald and other scholars of tragedy—namely the Holocaust and the Second World War—accomplishes when applied to the dimensions of climate change which seem to similarly resist traditional historical or descriptive approaches. Sebald died in a car crash in 2001, before climate change had entered the cultural mainstream to the degree it has today. My suspicion is that it would have been a subject that not only would have caught his attention, but that the world would have benefiting from the application of his approach. As such, my goal in this project is to attempt to carry forward the work he left unfinished, and attempt to write out, by way of indirect approach, a morally attentive and scholarly robust writing of the unwritten. As an object to be read, I will venture this project requires a shift of mentality from the research mindset. Rather, I would suggest a reading with a flexible and open mind, allowing above all your own further associations with your personal resonances with the Chicago landscape and your own internal bibliography. The project's path in my writing it has been a process of wandering, and I hope that in reading it, you too may find ample space for perambulation through the dusty archives and lonely ruins of unspeakable age. All images are secondary photographs taken by the author. They depict images which are either out of print or public domain.

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