This article investigates waymaking, the use of language to dedicate space to the traffic of animals, goods, fuel, waste, and people. It argues that the rhetorical creation of traversable clearances anticipates and services the formation of infrastructure. Through a close reading of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), I show how literary critics can analyze the words that create the emptiness that allows conduits to happen and claim this emptiness as an analytical object in itself. By tracing modern conceptions of infrastructure as assemblage, occasion, and patterning to the fray of early modern waymaking, I claim that criticism can supplement social-scientific research by casting as poetic event and autopoietic phenomenon the human practice of reserving space for utilities.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor