Jane Bennett, Influx and Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman – Duke University Press, 2020
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