David Coombs Responds

I have to admit I’m not sure what Darwin would have thought of exoplanets (although when in doubt about how Darwin felt about something, nauseated is always a reliable bet), but Devin M. Garofalo’s review suggests to me that The Age of Analogy is drifting into the orbit of imperialism and postcolonial studies in an interesting way. Motored by its own formal analogy with the earth, the search for exoplanets Garofalo describes in her lovely piece seem strikingly like an interplanetary colonization scheme—an In Darkest England and the Way Out with rockets. The relationship between imperialism in its recent European or North American forms and the looming possibility of humans colonizing other planets practically begs to be examined through the kind of harmonic comparativism that The Age of Analogy sets forth for us. As in Mary Mullen’s piece, Garofalo is in some ways thinking about the unfinished history of imperialism by using concepts from The Age of Analogy, and this made me wonder what conclusions the book might have arrived at had it taken up this problem more explicitly. I can see why Devin Griffiths might not have wanted to retread some of the powerful recent accounts of Darwin’s relationship to the empire (Cannon Schmitt’s Darwin and the Memory of the Human, for example), particularly if they don’t fit squarely within his main area of concern here. Still, the fact that Garofalo could use Griffiths’ book to scale up questions about imperialism to the galaxy suggests that The Age of Analogy could suggestively point towards some new ways of conceptualizing the history of the empire and its disconcertingly possible futures.

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