Influx and Efflux

Writing Up with Walt Whitman

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 33 color illustrations Published: May 2020

Author: Jane Bennett

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy

In influx & efflux Jane Bennett pursues a question that was bracketed in her book Vibrant Matter: how to think about human agency in a world teeming with powerful nonhuman influences? “Influx & efflux”—a phrase borrowed  from Whitman's "Song of Myself"—refers to everyday movements whereby outside influences enter bodies, infuse and confuse their organization, and then exit, themselves having been transformed into something new. How to describe the human efforts involved in that process? What kinds of “I” and “we” can live well and act effectively in a world of so many other lively materialities? Drawing upon Whitman, Thoreau, Caillois, Whitehead, and other poetic writers, Bennett links a nonanthropocentric model of self to a radically egalitarian pluralism and also to a syntax and style of writing appropriate to the entangled world in which we live. The book tries to enact the uncanny process by which we “write up” influences that pervade, enable, and disrupt us.


“Jane Bennett has always been interested in reading the ecological from a political point of view and articulating an ecological politics. But this book will be a new moment in how we think about ecology and democracy. For it explains to us not only the possibility of ‘ecological democracy’ but also why a truly democratic personality must be ecological: open and attentive, susceptible to otherness, and welcoming influences. Influx & efflux is a wonderful achievement.” — Branka Arsic, author of Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau

“In this remarkable book Jane Bennett shows us just why a capacious sense of influence matters so much to our efforts to shape the circumstances we find ourselves in. Generous, surprising, and beautifully illustrated, influx & efflux resounds as a compelling affirmation of the value of drawing diverse elements and agencies into new lines of thinking and feeling. This book does nothing less than shift the tone and terms of political theory, offering us a vital poetic vocabulary for making more of the world's participation in the political and ecological stances we take.” — Derek P. McCormack, author of Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment

"Arguing for an aspirational rather than a polemical Whitman, Bennett charts a body of work generous, egalitarian, and democratic 'wherein the forces of nonhuman agencies and the ubiquity of stupendous, ethereal influences are acknowledged' (p. 116). Ultimately, she concludes that Whitman’s 'I is creative in that it alters and inflects what is taken in, taken on, taken up' (p. 117). Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty." — J. N. Barron, Choice


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jane Bennett is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University and author of, most recently, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Prologue.Influx and efflux  ix
1. Position and Disposition  1
2. Circuits of Sympathy  27
3. Solar Judgment  46
Refrain. The Alchemy of Affects  63
4. Bad Influence  75
5. Thoreau Experiments with Natural Influences  92
Epilogue. A Peculiar Efficacy  113
Notes  119
Bibliography  173
Index  189
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0830-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0779-1