Amateur Attractions: Insects, Instinct, Descriptive Love

Willy Smart

Reviewed by David L. Hays

04 Jan 2020

The genus name giv­en to pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lars, Thaume­topoea, is derived from the Greek thau­matóeis—mean­ing won­der­ful, mar­velous, strange — and poiéō—mean­ing to make, to pro­duce, to write poet­ry, to write as a poet. And so the pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lar, as the author of her own lines, might be con­sid­ered a poet: the line of cater­pil­lars as a line of verse, wrig­gling toward some pine nee­dles. Of course, the cater­pil­lar is not a medi­um-bound crea­ture. She’ll soon change into a but­ter­fly — in oth­er words, into a painter.

Appro­pri­ate that the cater­pil­lar’s lit­er­ary offer­ings are min­i­mal and con­crete, inso­far as insects are imag­ined as beings in a kind of extreme prox­im­i­ty to their mate­r­i­al envi­ron­ments — which is to say they are forms of life that edge against the inan­i­mate. And edg­ing does seem to be hav­ing a moment, doesn’t it? The term Anthro­pocene was pop­u­lar­ized in the year 2000, the same year as the pub­li­ca­tion of Extend­ed Mas­sive Orgasm, the first book whol­ly devot­ed to that practice.

But if the cater­pil­lar is a poet, where does that leave the ento­mol­o­gist? She looks now a bit less of a sci­en­tist than a lit­er­ary crit­ic. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture rarely includes non­hu­man lit­er­a­ture, but this depart­men­tal unground­ed­ness is felic­i­tous for Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re, the great 19th-cen­tu­ry observ­er of insects and cham­pi­on of instinct. Fab­re’s biog­ra­phy is often cast in a myth­ic light: born to peas­ants in south­ern France, he ris­es on the hot air of auto­di­dac­tism to a school­teacher posi­tion from which, after sev­er­al decades, he is fired for admit­ting women to his plant phys­i­ol­o­gy class­es. Bailed out of ruin by his friend John Stu­art Mill, at age 50 he man­ages to pur­chase an unfarmable plot of land on which he writes the ten-vol­ume set of insect obser­va­tions for which he is known today. In his final years, he is lion­ized: his books begin to sell, a stat­ue is erect­ed in the town square, he is vis­it­ed by the pres­i­dent of France and is nom­i­nat­ed for a Nobel Prize. Vic­tor Hugo describes Fab­re as the insects’ Homer,” an epi­thet that neat­ly sums up this mythologization. 

But to be the insects’ Homer is to write not just of but also to and for the insects. And indeed, it is to these first read­ers that Fab­re appeals when he jus­ti­fies his style: Come here, one and all of you — you, the sting-bear­ers, and you, the wing-cased armor-clads — take up my defense and bear wit­ness in my favour. Tell of the inti­mate terms on which I live with you, of the patience with which I observe you, of the care with which I record your actions. […] And then, my dear insects, if you can­not con­vince those good peo­ple, because you do not car­ry the weight of tedi­um, I, in my turn, will say to them: You rip up the ani­mal and I study it alive; you turn it into an object of hor­ror and pity, where­as I cause it to be loved; you labour in a tor­ture-cham­ber and dis­sect­ing-room, I make my obser­va­tions under the blue sky to the song of the Cicadas.’”1

To write in order to cause one’s objects to be loved. Not to be bet­ter under­stood or bet­ter rep­re­sent­ed, but to be loved. While Fab­re’s tone is gen­er­al­ly more ten­der than lurid, his extend­ed mus­ings on silken cater­pil­lar nests, wasp lar­vae, and dung bee­tles share a descrip­tive excess with erot­ic fic­tion, that oth­er form of lit­er­a­ture that instructs its read­ers in the ways of love. So Fab­re is cel­e­brat­ed as a lit­er­ary hero rather than a sci­en­tif­ic one — safer to read this inci­ta­tion to love as a styl­is­tic extrav­a­gance than a real call for arthro­podean love. I am not try­ing to sug­gest that sci­en­tists are not in love; of course they are. But Fab­re is so upfront about his sen­su­al ori­en­ta­tion to his stud­ies that I feel more per­mit­ted to push into this love, to read him for his erotics as well as his poet­ics. And I guess I have already done that in a way, hav­ing read him almost exclu­sive­ly in the bed­room. Maybe the larg­er point is that some­thing is erot­ic not for its con­tent but for where it is seen. What else is the incog­ni­to win­dow for than to ren­der what­ev­er fol­lows erot­ic? Though we nev­er real­ly get to clear the cache of our psy­chic his­to­ry, do we. Love always involves an over-esti­ma­tion of its object, Freud reminds us — which does­n’t have to be heard cyn­i­cal­ly: how nice to be gen­er­ous in our esti­ma­tions! And with this over­es­ti­ma­tion, the loved object enjoys a cer­tain amount of free­dom from crit­i­cism.”2 So it is that writ­ing like Fab­re’s, moti­vat­ed by love, can­not be tak­en seri­ous­ly: it lacks crit­i­cal­i­ty. In its stead, pure­ly or mere­ly descrip­tive writing.

Descrip­tion is often con­trast­ed with nar­ra­tive, most famous­ly per­haps in Georg Lukác­s’s 1936 essay in which he derides descrip­tion as bour­geois super­fi­cial­i­ty.3 Even in more gen­er­ous crit­i­cal eval­u­a­tions, descrip­tion is under­stood as mere­ly func­tion­al — a need­ed smoke break out­side the buzz of nar­ra­tive action. But is it pos­si­ble that this dynam­ic is back­wards? Though I might like to stay on the edge for a while, even­tu­al­ly I do want to come down. In oth­er words, I lie in the ham­mock not so I can work hard­er after­ward but because I like to be lulled.

Noth­ing hap­pens in a descrip­tion, which means that, in describ­ing, I come clos­er to being noth­ing, or to seem­ing like noth­ing. Writ­ing on Car­avag­gio, the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry art crit­ic Gio­van­ni Pietro Bel­lori acknowl­edged the painter’s descrip­tive pow­ers — but that’s not praise: this descrip­tive­ness pro­duces a work that is tru­ly with­out action.”4 Brrr. The mind is refrig­er­at­ed by inter­rup­tion,” writes Samuel John­son, reflect­ing on descrip­tive paus­es in nar­ra­tive.5 As chil­dren, a friend and I froze grasshop­pers and then revived them. Around the same time, I caught grasshop­pers to feed to a pet lizard. As I fer­ried the insects across the field, the grasshop­pers shit into their palmed enclo­sure. I have a strong aver­sion to all of this now — and did then, too — which I think is not based on a sense of ten­der­ness for the life of the insects, though I def­i­nite­ly get no plea­sure from their death, as I think my friend might have got­ten, but is instead col­ored by a feel­ing of shame. Do I iden­ti­fy with the grasshop­pers? Maybe. Would I like to refrig­er­ate my mind? Def­i­nite­ly. But in any case, there’s some sex­u­al shade to the whole dynam­ic that I still find uncom­fort­able. In oth­er words, exciting.

The Amer­i­can psy­cho­an­a­lyst Harold Sear­les relates a sto­ry about one of his patients: Often­times she plucked at her scalp, and in so doing spoke, on one occa­sion, about bugs; this, togeth­er with her speak­ing of her­self on anoth­er occa­sion as being bugs,” sug­gest­ed that she expe­ri­enced her psy­chosis as a mat­ter of, quite lit­er­al­ly, hav­ing bugs in her head, and her scalp pluck­ing seemed an effort to, as it were, get the crazy ideas out.”6 The bug here sounds like the sur­veil­lant kind — the bug involved in the bug­ging of a room — but also the wrig­gling kind: the bug as a par­tic­u­lar­ly inces­sant form of thought, the ear worm. The bug that besets us is at once too still and too motile. Accord­ing to the US Depart­ment of Com­merce, A bug is a device placed in an office, home, hotel room, or oth­er area to mon­i­tor con­ver­sa­tions (or oth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tions) and trans­mit them out of that area […].”7 The hotel bug is unmov­ing and so it is descrip­tive: it is imi­ta­tive of its sur­round­ings. And while the Depart­ment of Com­merce does­n’t pro­vide species or genus lev­el iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for these dan­ger­ous bugs, this is a rec­og­niz­able enough func­tion in oth­er species: the per­ceived pre­dom­i­nance of mim­ic­ry in insects indeed seems to be one of the basic touch­stones of human fas­ci­na­tion with insects. 

But on the oth­er hand, the bug is exact­ly that which is not unmov­ing: the bur­row­ing and inces­sant ear worm. The poet­ry of earth is ceas­ing nev­er,” writes Keats about the song of grasshop­pers. Out­side the city, under a blue sky, I weed around a row of pea shoots and along the way dis­turb hun­dreds of cen­tipedes that clutch and curl out of the pock­ets my fin­gers press into the soil. They are almost gross,” I say. My co-weed­er agrees. Or they would be if they were inside,” she offers. Inside a house I think she means, but also inside a head; yes, gross there, too. I trans­port insects I find in my home to the out­side. I don’t want to kill them; I just want to get them out, like Sear­les’s patient scratch­ing her head. 

In all this, the fan­ta­sy of bugs pulls both ways: on one side, the bug as an imi­ta­tive, descrip­tive, and hence frozen crea­ture; on the oth­er, the bug as an emblem of cease­less motion and energy. 

Of course, to slow down, to become refrig­er­at­ed, does not mean to become pas­sive. Descrip­tion is slow, or else it is slow­ing, maybe; but not inert. Descrip­tion should not be con­fused with def­i­n­i­tion,” writes the poet Lyn Hejin­ian, it is not defin­i­tive but trans­for­ma­tive.”8 Fab­re writes, he says, in order to cause his insects to be loved — which is cer­tain­ly not a pas­sive pro­gram! Two decades after Fab­re’s death, the eclec­tic the­o­rist Roger Cail­lois argued in a short essay that insect mim­ic­ry should be seen not as a defen­sive strat­e­gy but as a dan­ger­ous lux­u­ry,” not a with­draw­al from the world but, on the con­trary, an exten­sion into it.9 Cail­lois laid out a spread of empir­i­cal evi­dence for his claim — for instance, the reg­u­lar pres­ence of mim­ic­k­ing species in the diges­tive tracts of preda­tors (who, after all, hunt by scent as much as sight), the occur­rence of poi­so­nous species mim­ic­k­ing non-poi­so­nous species and of cater­pil­lars who look so much like leaves that they reg­u­lar­ly bite into each oth­er — but the over­all sense of Cail­lois’s argu­ment rides more on a psy­chic than a bio­log­i­cal cur­rent: in Cail­lois’s eyes, mim­ic­ry is evi­dence of a basic dri­ve to return to an inan­i­mate state, an instinct of let­ting go.” This line of thought is a lit­tle deathy, though, so I’ll pull back to descrip­tion, which now looks less pas­sive — descrip­tion, like mim­ic­ry, not as an idle record­ing of the world but an exten­sion into it. Or, framed more sub­tly, tak­ing some­thing in always also entails a trans­for­ma­tion of that thing. Or, in oth­er words, by describ­ing the thing we might cause it to be loved. 

What is the nature of descrip­tive love? For Fab­re, it is a bit hard to make out. Despite his ten­der­ness and patience, he assumes a posi­tion of mas­tery in regard to insects. He is all too famil­iar, he writes, with the abysmal stu­pid­i­ty of insects,” with the lack of any gleam of intel­li­gence in their benight­ed minds.” As a whole, his exper­i­ments are designed to test, and then con­firm, his faith in the fix­i­ty of instinct. So this love is not a post-human vari­ety that sweats for under­mined bound­aries. But nei­ther is its plea­sure based in the mas­tery itself. That insects might suf­fer by Fabre’s designs is not a think­able thought in his strong the­o­ry of instinct. He does love his insects, but it is their instinct he loves them for.

I am want­i­ng to write about the appeal of instinct, about its affor­dances in fan­ta­sy, but the word­ing is a bit tricky — I can’t say what the idea of instinct rep­re­sents because its appeal is part­ly in its being non-rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al. Instinct offers a way of being in the world that is not about think­ing. Fab­re writes of the glim­mer of rea­son and the abyss of stu­pid­i­ty — instinct, then, is dark, but it isn’t clear that this light of intel­li­gence is worth enter­ing. Or, in oth­er words, it’s far from clear that insects are any worse off for their instinc­tu­al pre­de­ter­mi­na­tion. The insec­t’s body, it is imag­ined, is per­fect­ly adapt­ed to its activ­i­ty in the world — so per­fect­ly primed that there is lit­tle dis­tinc­tion between the insect and its envi­ron­ment. The fan­ta­sy is thus in part about prox­im­i­ty, which, tak­en to its lim­it, flips into co-inci­dence, into a fan­ta­sy of becom­ing one’s envi­ron­ment. Or, more sim­ply, the fan­ta­sy of mim­ic­ry.10

Sev­er­al decades after his first essay on the sub­ject, Cail­lois cir­cled back to mim­ic­ry in a book-length study in which he put a bit more pres­sure on his claim that mim­ic­ry is not defen­sive but a lux­u­ry. If this is so, he argued, we can see in insect mim­ic­ry evi­dence of an autonomous aes­thet­ic force in the world of biol­o­gy in gen­er­al.”11 But­ter­flies are intro­vert­ed painters,” he wrote.12 Or, in oth­er words, my descrip­tion of the cater­pil­lar, if writ­ten beau­ti­ful­ly, is dri­ven by the same force that orga­nizes the stripes and spots on the cater­pil­lar’s back. This sounds a bit roman­tic, and maybe it is, but this lux­u­ry isn’t inno­cent. Such a pret­ty cater­pil­lar!” I point out as we weed the rows of car­rots. Yes, but destruc­tive,” says my co-weed­er. A toma­to horn worm,” he explains as he crush­es it.

Of course, but­ter­fly paint­ing dif­fers from human paint­ing. Still, there’s a seem­ing dis­so­nance between aes­thet­ics and instinct — if the but­ter­fly is a painter and the cater­pil­lar a poet, doesn’t that imply a sort of selec­tiv­i­ty that would be pro­scribed by instinct? Maybe, but not so much if aes­thet­ic activ­i­ty — paint­ing, describ­ing, play­ing, wrig­gling — is imag­ined as a com­pul­sion or dri­ve rather than an exer­cise of free choice. Which is not to say it’s nec­es­sar­i­ly func­tion­al or adap­tive. And nei­ther is it to say that fix­i­ty is a trap. Or, if it is a trap, it is one that I’d like to be trapped in. One of those clever and beau­ti­ful traps which ento­mol­o­gists so often describe.

I keep turn­ing back to the word envi­ron­ment. I want to edge against my envi­ron­ment, too. But what is this envi­ron­ment made up of? Hope­ful­ly, it is made up of my friends. I want to be close to my friends. Frag­ments of a man­u­script found in an anthill are record­ed in a 1974 sto­ry by Ursu­la Le Guin.13 Com­ment­ing on the dif­fi­cul­ty of trans­la­tion pre­sent­ed by those texts, which the sto­ry frames as mes­sages, their human dis­cov­er­er notes that No known dialect of Ant employs any ver­bal per­son except the third per­son sin­gu­lar and plur­al and the first per­son plur­al.” Did Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re want to become an insect? Per­haps, but only as a means to be with these friends. Of course, friend is not an inno­cent cat­e­go­ry, either. After we fin­ish weed­ing the car­rots, the friend who runs the farm informs us that the cater­pil­lar I had found beau­ti­ful and that my co-weed­er had crushed was, in fact, not a horn­worm but a monarch cater­pil­lar, one of those insects marked most unam­bigu­ous­ly as a friend.

One of Fab­re’s most infa­mous stud­ies is of pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lars. After care­ful­ly form­ing the pro­ces­sion into a loop, he watch­es for a full week as the cater­pil­lars com­plete orbit after orbit around the rim of a flow­er­pot before final­ly break­ing off. He reads and records their rep­e­ti­tion, as unable to bring him­self out of the loop as they are. It’s a good poem, con­tin­u­al­ly return­ing to its begin­ning but nev­er quite the same. Secu­ri­ty and seduc­tion at once. The lib­er­at­ing acci­dent,” Fab­re calls it when the loop final­ly does break. An acci­dent, or, said dif­fer­ent­ly, that which we wish would­n’t hap­pen. If only we could stay in the beau­ti­ful loop for­ev­er, free of thought and free of any fan­ta­sy but this one of good friends and pleas­ing form.


By David L. Hays

Begin by describ­ing,” my under­grad­u­ate advi­sor, Mir­ka Beneš, coun­seled when I won­dered how to start a research project. In describ­ing, you dis­cov­er what you don’t know, and the issues become appar­ent.” Describ­ing was also a way of get­ting close to the mat­ter at hand in order to test my inter­est in it. But find­ing a top­ic for the project came about in a very dif­fer­ent way. Mir­ka arrived at our meet­ing with a huge stack of books, each rich­ly illus­trat­ed. As I turned pages one by one, she offered remarks about what we saw. We kept up this rhythm for over an hour. Then, sud­den­ly, lin­ger­ing curios­i­ty about an unusu­al image caused me to turn a page back. I had many ques­tions, which I spoke aloud, and Mir­ka declared, I think you’ve found it.”

Read­ing Smart’s essay, Ama­teur Attrac­tions,” brings me back to that moment, now sev­er­al decades ago, when an impulse to go back and con­sid­er some­thing more close­ly led me to work I loved and still love. Per­haps I shouldn’t admit to that sort of attach­ment. As Smart observes, cit­ing Freud, Love always involves an over-esti­ma­tion of its object […]. And with this over­es­ti­ma­tion, the loved object enjoys a cer­tain amount of free­dom from crit­i­cism.’” But didn’t I go about it in the schol­ar­ly way, dis­cov­er­ing source doc­u­ments, com­par­ing sec­ondary sources, and foot­not­ing exten­sive­ly? The meth­ods of mod­ern schol­ar­ship are meant to struc­ture crit­i­cal” dis­tance between sub­jects and objects. Yet, in my expe­ri­ence, they seemed to do the oppo­site, cul­ti­vat­ing a sense of close­ness to that which they nom­i­nal­ly set apart. It’s as if you were there,” Mir­ka once remarked, as if you know it because you lived it.”

In his stud­ies of insects, Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re (18231915) got close like that. In his best-known exper­i­ment, he watched and described a ring of pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lars seem­ing to rim each oth­er while cir­cling the rim of a large palm-tree pot.14 In Fabre’s esti­mate, the crea­tures com­plet­ed 335 rota­tions over the course of sev­en full days, cov­er­ing a dis­tance of 453 meters — with­out get­ting any­where. But their motion was stop-and-go, like sex­u­al edg­ing, and the cater­pil­lars walked only half of the total time, being oth­er­wise too tired or cold to pro­ceed. While they rest­ed at night, Fab­re rest­ed, too. 

Fabre’s obser­va­tions con­firmed his sense that the intel­li­gence of the pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lars was very lim­it­ed. Yet, as Smart notes, he reads and records their rep­e­ti­tion, as unable to bring him­self out of the loop as they are. It’s a good poem, con­tin­u­al­ly return­ing to its begin­ning but nev­er quite the same. Secu­ri­ty and seduc­tion at once.” I think of Dante’s Infer­no—anoth­er good poem — in which lovers are blown around in cir­cles.15 Trapped in that lit­er­ary ring, think­ing is remem­ber­ing is feel­ing is tor­ment. It’s a kind of edg­ing with­out end: becom­ing one with envi­ron­ment, per­pet­u­al descrip­tion — the nar­ra­tives are all in the past — with no hope of a lib­er­at­ing acci­dent,” a default­er,” some rev­o­lu­tion­ary,”16 that is, a redeemer. Or was that Dante’s role? A lit­er­ary sav­ior, caus­ing his objects to be loved? Vic­tor Hugo called Fab­re the insects’ Homer,” though nei­ther knew their lan­guage. But to me, Fab­re was more the insects’ Dante. Var­i­ous­ly sym­pa­thet­ic and judg­men­tal, and edg­ing into ter­ri­to­ry that was a lit­tle deathy,” he found him­self lost in a dark for­est mid­way through life, a forced retire­ment that led him to close study of insects.

I look for images of Fab­re. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, giv­en when he lived and that celebri­ty came lat­er in his life, the pho­tographs I find show him only as an elder­ly per­son. But his appear­ance seems strange, even unset­tling, to me. I assume he is alive, but he looks des­ic­cat­ed and stuffed like a mum­my or — how could this be missed? — an insect spec­i­men: an old grasshop­per at Dey­rolle, wrapped in human cloth­ing and posed as if sit­ting erect in a chair. Clothes make the man,” they say. I think of J. J. Grandville’s many strange draw­ings of insects fig­ured as if humans,17 images Fab­re despised, and I remem­ber a child­hood book in which insects do human things, includ­ing treat­ing oth­er insects like animals.” 

As Smart notes, Fabre’s exper­i­ments were designed to test, and then con­firm, his faith in the fix­i­ty of insects” — mean­ing, the degree to which their actions were guid­ed by instinct. Yet, Fab­re did not think of them as machines.18 He rec­og­nized their sen­si­tiv­i­ty to cir­cum­stances (for exam­ple, cold, hunger, and fatigue), and he parsed insect men­tal­i­ty” into two domains, instinct and dis­cern­ment, insist­ing that those not be con­fused.19 In Fabre’s view, instinct is unchang­ing (“Time adds noth­ing to it and takes noth­ing from it.”20), but it is also the uncon­scious impulse that pre­sides over the most won­der­ful part of what the crea­ture achieves.”21 In con­trast, dis­cern­ment is the fac­ul­ty through which insects assess prox­i­mate con­di­tions and nav­i­gate con­tin­gency, so it is how they know time:

No two moments in time are iden­ti­cal; though the back­ground remain the same, the details change; the unex­pect­ed ris­es on every side. In this bewil­der­ing con­fu­sion, a guide is need­ed to seek, accept, refuse and select; to show pref­er­ence for this and indif­fer­ence to that; to turn to account, in short, any­thing use­ful that occa­sion may offer. This guide the insect undoubt­ed­ly pos­sess­es, to a very man­i­fest degree. It is the sec­ond province of its men­tal­i­ty. Here it is con­scious and capa­ble of improve­ment by expe­ri­ence. I dare not speak of this rudi­men­ta­ry fac­ul­ty as intel­li­gence, which is too exalt­ed a title: I will call it DIS­CERN­MENT. The insect, in exer­cis­ing its high­est gifts, dis­cerns, dif­fer­en­ti­ates between one thing and anoth­er, with­in the sphere of its busi­ness, of course; and that is about all.22

And that is about all. Evi­dent­ly, the sphere of one insect’s busi­ness did not seem like much to Fab­re, though he under­stood well, and described thought­ful­ly, the col­lec­tive pow­er of social insects.23 In our own moment, the sphere of humans’ busi­ness has come to coin­cide with that of the nat­ur­al world, as a new geo­log­i­cal epoch, the Anthro­pocene, acknowl­edges how social humans have impact­ed the envi­ron­ment at glob­al scale. But insects have been impact­ful at that scale for eons. 

Look­ing again at the pho­tos of Fab­re, I guess that he was a child­less bach­e­lor, lov­ing insects — and caus­ing them to be loved — in place of love that nev­er came his way. But then I read that he mar­ried twice and had many chil­dren. I also read that he was a great teacher. 

Smart imag­ines edg­ing against envi­ron­ment like a cater­pil­lar in Fabre’s cir­cu­lar exper­i­ment: If only we could stay in the beau­ti­ful loop for­ev­er, free of thought and free of any fan­ta­sy but this one of good friends and pleas­ing form.” Instinct and dis­cern­ment. But I’d like to try it in a dif­fer­ent way, by get­ting thought out of my head and dis­trib­ut­ing it both through­out and beyond my body. For the mod­ern mind, such a move is lit­er­al­ly hard to grasp, as crit­i­cal dis­tance col­laps­es into close­ness and, even more, coin­ci­dence or same­ness. Into my head comes a phrase, extend­ed mas­sive organ­ism. I won­der if I have coined it, but a Google search shows four results, three of which point to a blog­ger who used it a decade ago to describe wild vio­lets invad­ing their yard.



Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re, The Insect World of J. Hen­ri Fab­re, ed. Edwin Way Teale, trans. Alexan­der Teix­eira de Mat­tos (Boston, MA: Bea­con Press, 1991), 3 – 4.


Sig­mund Freud, Group Psy­chol­o­gy and the Analy­sis of the Ego, trans. James Stra­chey (New York, NY: Ban­tam Books, 1960), 73.


Georg Lukács, Writer and Crit­ic and Oth­er Essays, ed. and trans. Arthur D. Kahn (New York, NY: The Mer­lin Press, 1970).


Svet­lana Alpers, Describe or Nar­rate? A Prob­lem in Real­is­tic Rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” New Lit­er­ary His­to­ry 8: 1 (1976): 16.


Cyn­thia Sund­berg Wall, The Prose of Things: Trans­for­ma­tions of Descrip­tion in the Eigh­teenth Cen­tu­ry (Chica­go, IL: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2006), 27.


Harold F. Sear­les, The Non­hu­man Envi­ron­ment in Nor­mal Devel­op­ment and in Schiz­o­phre­nia (New York, NY: Inter­na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ties Press, 1960), 148 – 149.


U.S. Depart­ment of Com­merce Office of Secu­ri­ty West­ern Region Secu­ri­ty Office, Bugs and Oth­er Eaves­drop­ping Devices” (Novem­ber 2011): https://​www​.wrc​.noaa​.gov/​w​r​s​o​/​s​e​c​u​r​i​t​y​_​g​u​i​d​e​/​i​n​t​r​o​-​17.htm


Lyn Hejin­ian, The Lan­guage of Inquiry (Berke­ley, CA: Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2000), 138.


Roger Cail­lois, Mim­ic­ry and Leg­endary Psy­chas­the­nia” (1935), in The Edge of Sur­re­al­ism: A Roger Cail­lois Read­er, ed. Clau­dine Frank, trans. Clau­dine Frank and Camille Nash (Durham, NC: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003), 97.


In Mim­ic­ry and Leg­endary Psy­chas­the­nia,” Cail­lois argued that the mim­ic­k­ing insect is try­ing not to hide from or deceive its preda­tors but instead to become its environment.


Roger Cail­lois, The Mask of Medusa, trans. George Ordish (New York, NY: Clark­son N. Pot­ter, 1964), 41.


Ibid., 38.


Ursu­la K. Le Guin, The Author of the Aca­cia Seeds and Oth­er Extracts from the Jour­nal of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Therolin­guis­tics,” in The Com­pass Rose: A Col­lec­tion of Twen­ty Short Sto­ries (New York, NY: Harp­er & Row, 1982), 3 – 14.


See Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re, The Life of the Cater­pil­lar, trans. Alexan­der Teix­eira de Mat­tos (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, And Com­pa­ny, 1916), ch. III: The Pine Pro­ces­sion­ary: The Pro­ces­sion, 58 – 89.


See Can­to V, describ­ing the Sec­ond Cir­cle of Hell.


These terms are all from Fab­re, The Life of the Cater­pil­lar, 81 – 82.


See, for exam­ple, J. J. Grandville (pseu­do­nym of Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard), Scènes de la vie privée et publique des ani­maux [Scenes of the Pri­vate and Pub­lic Life of Ani­mals], ed., P. J. Stahl (Paris, France: J. Het­zel et Paulin, 1842).


See, for exam­ple, Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re, Bram­ble-Bees and Oth­ers, trans. Alexan­der Teix­eira de Mat­tos (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, And Com­pa­ny, 1915), ch. VI: Instinct and Dis­cern­ment, 192 – 193: Just like mill-stones unable to cease revolv­ing though there be no corn left to grind, let them once be giv­en the com­pelling pow­er and they will con­tin­ue to per­form their task despite its futil­i­ty. Are they then machines? Far be it from me to think any­thing so foolish.”


Ibid., 195.


Ibid., 194.


Ibid., 193.


Ibid., 194 – 195.


See, for exam­ple, Jean-Hen­ri Fab­re, Social Life in the Insect World, trans. Bernard Miall (New York, NY: Cen­tu­ry, 1912).


Willy Smart is an artist and writer whose work pro­pos­es expand­ed modes and objects of read­ing and record­ing — stones, insects, ponds, sur­faces, hor­mones, spores, clouds. They have pre­sent­ed visu­al and per­for­ma­tive work at the Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art Chica­go, Bas Fish­er Invi­ta­tion­al (Mia­mi), the Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Arts in Glas­gow, the Car­pen­ter Cen­ter for the Visu­al Arts in Cam­bridge, MA, and oth­er promi­nent venues. Pub­li­ca­tions include a nov­el forth­com­ing from Meek­ling Press and essays pub­lished by MIEL press, Bad at Sports, the World Forum for Acoustic Ecol­o­gy, and Dilet­tante Jour­nal, among oth­ers. Willy directs the con­cep­tu­al record label Fake Music (fake​mu​sic​.org) as well as a per­son­al web­site (willysmart​.com). Email: smart.​willy@​gmail.​com

David L. Hays is co-edi­tor of Forty-Five, co-direc­tor of the gallery Space p11, found­ing prin­ci­pal of Ana­log Media Lab, and Asso­ciate Head of the Depart­ment of Land­scape Archi­tec­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign. Trained in archi­tec­ture and his­to­ry of art, his schol­ar­ly research explores con­tem­po­rary land­scape the­o­ry and prac­tice, the his­to­ry of gar­den and land­scape design in ear­ly mod­ern Europe, inter­faces between archi­tec­ture and land­scape, and ped­a­go­gies of his­to­ry and design. Hays is the edi­tor of Land­scape with­in Archi­tec­ture (2004) and (Non-)Essential Knowl­edge for (New) Archi­tec­ture (2013), both by 306090/​Princeton Archi­tec­tur­al Press. His essays have appeared in a wide range of jour­nals — includ­ing Har­vard Design Mag­a­zine, Eigh­teenth-Cen­tu­ry Stud­ies, Poly­sèmes, The Sens­es and Soci­ety (Oxford), Matéri­cos Per­iferi­cos (Rosario, Argenti­na), Tek­ton (Mum­bai), and Land­scape Archi­tec­ture Chi­na (Bei­jing) — and as chap­ters in numer­ous books. As a design­er, Hays’s work explores the pro­duc­tion of envi­ron­men­tal­ly respon­sive objects using low-cost, low-tech mate­ri­als. With par­tic­u­lar inter­ests in dynam­ic sys­tems, envi­ron­men­tal phe­nom­e­na, and craft, his process cross­es lat­er­al think­ing and intu­ition with ground­ed exper­i­ment. Email: dlhays@​forty-​five.​com