Next Article in Journal
Baba Yaga, Monsters of the Week, and Pop Culture’s Formation of Wonder and Families through Monstrosity
Next Article in Special Issue
Extracting the Past from the Present: Exotic Prizes, Empty Wilderness, and Commercial Conquest in Two Oil Company Advertisements, 1925–2012
Previous Article in Journal / Special Issue
The Arts of Energy: Between Hoping for the Stars and Despairing in the Detritus
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Humanities 2016, 5(2), 39; doi:10.3390/h5020039

The Birth of Homo Colossus: Energy Consumption and Pre-Familiarization in Joel Barlow’s Vision of Columbus

Department of Modern Languages, Briar Cliff University, 3303 Rebecca Street, Sioux City, Iowa 51104, USA
Academic Editor: Adam Sweeting
Received: 14 January 2016 / Revised: 25 May 2016 / Accepted: 28 May 2016 / Published: 3 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Energy Use and the Humanities)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [244 KB, uploaded 3 June 2016]

Abstract

Although Raymond De Young points out the current response to energy descent he terms localization “is not globalization in reverse”, the writers of modernity’s energy ramp-up used many of the same techniques De Young proposes for adapting to the downslope of M. King Hubbert’s fossil-fuels peak. Among these is pre-familiarization, the construction of mental models that “help people to feel at home in a place they have not yet inhabited.” Long before William Catton’s depiction of the West’s outsized energy user as Homo colossus, for example, Joel Barlow provided early national Americans with a reflection of themselves as gigantic consumers of the continent’s bounty in his 1787 Vision of Columbus. In the epic poem, Barlow puts in place foundational elements of the myth of progress that will develop with an increasingly extravagant energy consumption: a refutation of the classical republican model of history as cyclical; a conflation of the process of resource extraction with that of production; a characterization of this “production” as the natural trait of the knowledgeable, moral Western subject; the pairing of this characterization with a racialized discourse; and an assertion of climate melioration that anticipates by two centuries the counter-arguments of anthropogenic climate-change denialists. The poem invites its reader to inhabit the skin of a lofty and distanced observer of natural life, drawing on the earlier century’s infatuation with the prospect view, to help the reader become “pre-familiarized” with an idea of him- or herself fitting an economic model of endless growth. In the work, therefore, might be found not only the blueprints for an as-yet inchoate Anthropocene, but also the design of a new humanity to go along with it. View Full-Text
Keywords: Joel Barlow; Vision of Columbus; early American republic; energy consumption; pre-familiarization; race; climate change; economic growth; localization; historiography Joel Barlow; Vision of Columbus; early American republic; energy consumption; pre-familiarization; race; climate change; economic growth; localization; historiography
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

Scifeed alert for new publications

Never miss any articles matching your research from any publisher
  • Get alerts for new papers matching your research
  • Find out the new papers from selected authors
  • Updated daily for 49'000+ journals and 6000+ publishers
  • Define your Scifeed now

SciFeed Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Pangborn, M. The Birth of Homo Colossus: Energy Consumption and Pre-Familiarization in Joel Barlow’s Vision of Columbus. Humanities 2016, 5, 39.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics

1

Comments

[Return to top]
Humanities EISSN 2076-0787 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top