Tyler Austin Harper
Tyler Austin Harper is an assistant professor of environmental studies at Bates College. He is a literary scholar working at the intersection of environmental studies, philosophy, and the history of science. His current book project, provisionally entitled “The Paranoid Animal: Human Extinction Before the Bomb,” examines how British literary figures, scientists, and social theorists engaged with the concept of human extinction prior to the nuclear age. Specifically, his work argues that the period between 1800 and 1945 witnessed a shift from fatalistic visions of the end of humanity—dominant during the Romantic Era and influenced by theories of geological catastrophism—toward a new, post-Darwinian conception of human extinction in which threats to the species were reimagined as risks that could be mitigated by technological intervention. He is especially interested in how a growing awareness of the human race’s existential precarity became imbricated with the problem of meaninglessness, leading to increasingly nihilistic cultural imaginations of nature in general, and the planetary in particular, during this period.