- Théorèmes de la nature by Jean-Patrice Courtois
The result of a dialogue between the language on nature and the langage poème of Jean-Patrice Courtois, Théorèmes de la nature presents an original and compelling reflection on our understanding of the natural world and the place humanity occupies in it. In a twenty-first century that has begun with all the signs of a generalized epistemological instability, Courtois's work is a new starting point for a renovation of our thinking about and within the natural world. These last twenty years have proved to be extremely paradoxical, as it is difficult to find an epoch in global history in which scientific and empirical discourses have pervaded and inflected our comprehension of reality and nature and our relation to them to a greater extent, while the widespread, ambiguous concept of "alternative facts," or "alternative reality"—successor to all the "post-" approaches of the twentieth century and in relation to the globalized dissemination of virtual reality, and its even more unpredictable practice—shakes the foundation of every scientific, factual discourse, eroding the possibility of a knowledge based on observation. In this unprecedented historical situation, the issues of ecology and the impact of human beings on nature have become crucial and particularly controversial. (In 2015, we read the first papal encyclical entirely focused on ecology, and we witnessed the ratification of the Paris Agreement by almost two hundred countries, followed by the controversial and globally broadcasted exit of the USA from it in 2017, to give only a few examples). In this context, the 141 prose poems collected in Théorèmes de la nature acquire a special relevance, given their attempt to reconfigure our position in relation to science and nature.
On the back cover of the book, we read that the description of the natural world "suppose de faire une place à une large écologie. Donc trouver comment [End Page 1123] entrer dans le document." If ecology implies the interaction among organisms in general ("la Terre n'est pas un lieu unique la Terre est le lieu des liens" ), these "théorèmes stricts" point especially to the ecological relation between men and nature. This is posited from the very first poem: "L'eau et l'eau des yeux qui voient sont la même maintenant après l'eau des yeux sera la morte […] La vision de la vaincue liquide apparaît mal connue à l'exception de la certitude qui énonce qu'elle sera en avant par chimie simple" (7). This first theorem puts at the forefront the connection between mankind and the natural world, but from the outset, the relation is not the typical unidirectional one in which human beings define and describe nature from an external, neutral standpoint. Human beings are relationally included in the observation, and appear to be at a disadvantage with respect to nature, because only the "eau des yeux" is going to die. The human subject is displaced, decentered, and, objectively, is contextualized in a "large écologie" of which it is not only a part, but from which it is derived: "Le théorème de l'océan dans le tout océan c'est eau plus plancton plus lumière. Les autres vivants du pluriel sans somme en découlent" (39). This radical transformation of perspective that relativizes the authority of humanity over nature–including its superiority over animals ("Tuer les vivants non humains jusqu'au bout du tout des présents ne changera pas notre très violente inaptitude animale. Il va être difficile d'imiter les animaux" )—appears to be the premise on which the search for a different access to the "document"—to perceptual, objective, scientific data, in short, to reality—is carried out.
However, it would be an error to go through the 141 prose poems looking for a defined, scholastic-like conceptual framework on ecology. Instead, Courtois's work ventures to create the condition of possibility for a language capable of a new kind of sustainable relationship with the existing ("l'eau...