In 2007, a Russian submarine planted a titanium flag on the seabed under the North Pole, laying the groundwork for Russia’s claim to Arctic oil and gas resources. Blum’s essay explores the prehistory of Russia’s polar land grab in terms of the influential (if satirized) early-nineteenth-century theories of John Cleves Symmes, who believed the earth was hollow and accessible through openings at the poles. In discussing an early-nineteenth-century hollow-earth theorist and his influence on hollow-earth fictions—beginning with the narrative Symzonia (1820)—the essay considers the unexplored possibilities that the Arctic and Antarctic regions offer to hemispheric and transnational conversations, as well as to more recent calls to reorganize critical thinking from a planetary perspective. Blum explores the difference in resources, both material and critical, presented by polar spaces. By resources she refers both to the ecological substance of the polar regions, in their remove from predictable routes and terms of exchange; and to the imaginative and literary outcomes of polar exploration, which themselves did not follow recognizable circuits. Not just another geopolitical space, the polar regions suggest the ecological and critical potential of a nonproprietary, speculative attitude toward resources.
Hester Blum; John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration. American Literature 1 June 2012; 84 (2): 243–271. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1587341
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