The essays collected here examine instances of making/unmaking in Nature and, more extensively, in artistic production. The introductory chapter situates the phenomenon in a wide interdisciplinary context and then focuses upon creativity and its undoing in scientific and aesthetic theories. Emphasised throughout are not only the antagonisms but the relationships between the material realm of Nature and the endeavours of human performativity and textuality. Scientists like Darwin are often perceived as performative poets too, and since the Romantic period valuable analogies have been observed between the workings of Nature and textual performances. Theories of “literary Darwinism” have emerged to which the author subscribes only in part. More than evolution, the argument concerns the necessary undoing and violence of the struggle for survival in which Art performs an important role.
The principal works under investigation were produced in the century and a half between 1819 (Keats’s odes and Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor) and 1969 (Kundera’s Life Is Elsewhere). They are by eighteen different artists, of whom sixteen are writers and two, Janácek and Vaughan Williams, are musicians. The analyses of the nine novels of Henrietta Jenkin, published between 1858 and 1874, constitute the only published critical account of the achievement of this talented woman. The concluding considerations about the impending extinction of artistic genres and of the “sixth extinction” that may involve the human species itself project the argument into the present with reference to novels by Houellebecq.