In conversation: John Peters on ‘marvelous clouds’ and rethinking nature and media

May 2, 2017

From cultural references to the sky, to works of art and poetry, weather is a topic that people can’t seem to stop talking — and writing — about.

John Durham Peters, professor of English and of film and media studies, who joined the Yale faculty this semester, teaches a freshman seminar on “Literature, Media, and Weather.” The central theme of the class, he tells his students, is “why we want to tell stories about weather and yet why weather keeps interrupting them. We know that weather has to have meaning, and yet it’s always defying our efforts to find it. Despite our best attempts, weather will always elude us.”

Peters is also the author of the 2015 book “The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media,” which explores the history of clouds and media in an attempt to rethink the similarities between nature and media. “It is a book that tries to rethink digital media. In an age in which we routinely talk about online storage as the ‘cloud,’ I thought it would be interesting to try to give a longer history of how we got there.”

In the book, the new faculty member compares the natural elements to media. “When you think about the ocean, fire, or the sky, it is clear that nature as we know it nowadays is deeply an interaction with human technology. It is hard to tell where media end and nature begins,” says Peters.

Peters talked to YaleNews about how nature interacts with human technology, the relationship between God and Google, and why writing is the “magic key.”

Read the full article by Bess Connolly Martell in Yale News

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