Sunday, 1 October 2017

gravel and fire

Of course not without antecedents and followers in the same tradition and I guess that were are all standing on the shoulders of trolls, Public Domain Review introduces us to the land-developer turned politician (both of dodgy success) finally turned dystopian author and advocate for the Catastrophism trope of history began enjoying far greater reach and influence, master of disaster Ignatius Loyola Donnelly, who was more or less single-handedly responsible for the triad of the most irresponsible, intractable themes in pseudoscience and pseudohistory that were still made to entertain today. The Minnesota congressmen published his signature volume in 1882, Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, whose theories propelled the allegorical ideal Republic of Plato into a rather more literal interpretation of a lost continent and an advanced civilisation that ring the edges of our collective thoughts. Though the flooding of the Mediterranean took a mere instance in geological terms and perhaps the earliest ancestors of modern humans might have been witness to a time when the sea was a dry valley, the change certainly was not overnight nor generational. Most academics do not ascribe to the theory that change is driven by cataclysmic events over the gradual progression of nature, but by dint of the monomyth of a Great Flood—though I imagine that any flood can be privileged in the imagination of those who experienced it—and the fact that the City of Troy was being excavated and was not just a story after all, it all proved too tantalising and Donnelly was able to channel the populist movement in science and was also credited with giving rise to Mayan studies and mysticism through various citations of contemporary exhibitions.
No Ancient Aliens quite yet but we’re seeing what a fertile ground Donnelly is creating in the imagination of his readership. Encouraged by the reception of his first work, he followed on a year later with Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel that held that a near-collision with a comet was incident to history’s accidents, including the extinction of the woolly mammoth and the romancing of Norse mythology, and while somewhat resonant in other fields, if the Earth were subject to such formative, disruptive events, life would have never had the plateau of stability needed to develop into complex beings. Moreover, Donnelly’s writings were fraught with all sorts of fanciful racial ideas that some people will always latch on to as validating. Under a pseudonym, he also published a series of anti-globalist speculative fiction novels, Caesar’s Column, set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of America in 1980, informed by the Haymarket riots that had recently transpired in Chicago. Though we are all living with the legacy of Donnelly’s influence and appeal and many others championed these ideas, Donnelly was discredited in his own lifetime and never published again after a book tour in England where he tried to foist on the public his theory that Francis Bacon was the author of the canon of work attributed to William Shakespeare. The Britons were having none of that and shut him down.