On Deep History and the Sublime: A Brief Introduction

Rita Cachao and Martyn Woodward


This seminar will introduce the concept of deep history as the driving concept for the next seminar series. As a consequence the seminar will take the form of an open dialogue in which the concept, instigated by Martyn and Rita, will open the floor for reflection by the research group in terms of their own thinking and projects.

The emergence of deep history is shaping a contemporary concern with the human, and artifacts, beyond a reliance upon the documentary evidence of the written word, which has formed a somewhat materialist history as constituted and driven by persons and things. Conventionally, within History, there is a reliance upon documentary written evidence, which is a syndrome of an epistemological framework in which the human controls, works upon and constructs nature. A deep history attempts to re-instate a history that accounts for a ‘pre-history’ of the written word through the traces of human consciousness left within human made artifacts, which themselves become containers for meanings and social relations (Shryock and Smail, 2011, p. 220). Shryock and Smail insist that artifacts such as fossils, tools, pictures, household items, ecological change and genetic variation, just as the written word, contain traces of human kinship relations and exchanges.

A deep history thus attempts to recognize that the human is a part of, and does not exists upon, nature. However, the making of history through a Deep History perspective can be extended to comprise a symbiotic treatment of the material and immaterial -(im)material- dimensions of human experience, which would necessarily implicate a discussion of the sublime both as a descriptive category for the limits of knowledge and its potentialities as a working concept in the making.


Reading for seminar:

Hoffmann, R. and Whyte, I. B. (2011) Beyond the Finite, the Sublime in Art and Science. New York: Oxford University Press

Punt, M. (2012) Science, History and the Sublime

Shyrock, A., Smail , A.L, (2010) Deep History (Introduction)

Woodward, M. (2012) Artifacts, Entanglements & Deep History: A Reflection on the Sublime in Art and Science