Al Coppola

John Jay College, CUNY

2023 to 2024
Albert M. Greenfield Research Fellow

Enlightenment Visibilities

Enlightenment Visibilities explores the prehistory and current manifestations of a range of strategies and technologies, first innovated in the long eighteenth century, that bring previously unimaginable or imperceptible phenomena into the domain of knowledge. The book is structured by two sections: “Visibilities” focuses on technologies of perception that remade the perceiving self, with chapters on the quantified body, which explores the role of quantification in physiology from Newtonian iatromechanical medicine to the Fitbit, along with the ontological legacies of eighteenth-century microscopy, from Wilson’s pocket microscope to the Oculus Rift. The “Enlightenment” section explores the operationalization of these formerly imperceptible objects of knowledge, with chapters here on the rage for mathesis triggered by Newton’s calculus and its return in the guise of Complexity Science in the era of Big Data. A final chapter offers an analysis of the long history of the Enlightenment genre of “system” in order to better understand what the enthusiasm of post-1720s England can teach us about our distinctly quantified modernity.