Past Events

Allison Dushane (University of Arizona), “Autonomous Life”
April 20, 2012, 2pm-4pm

This presentation puts Romantic-era literature and science into conversation with contemporary critical perspectives on the problem of life in order to consider the possibilities and limits of vitalism for rethinking the relationship between human and non-human forms of agency. I begin with a consideration of vitalist matter theories advanced by figures such as Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley and John Thelwall, who stress the latent and dynamic potential of matter. These vitalist models take the organism as their reference point, stressing the activities of self-articulation, self-maintenance, and self-enclosure that are central to conceptions of the autonomous modern subject. I then move to a reading of Mary Shelley’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Last Man, which imagines life beyond the borders of the organism through its extended meditations on sense, potentiality, and the event. I argue that The Last Man—and by extension, Romanticism—offers a critique of the autonomous self through aesthetic instantiations of non-human, inorganic, autonomous life.

“Nature Shakespearianized: Shakespeare, Coleridge, and Poetic Faith,” featuring Richard McCoy, Alan Vardy and Anne McCarthy
March 16, 2012, 2pm-4pm

The turn to religion in Shakespeare studies has become a stampede, inspiring wanton speculation about the playwright’s religious beliefs and readings of the plays as covert religious propaganda with “sacramental” and “godly” aims. Shakespeare’s plays often require great leaps of faith in magic, ghosts, witches and even gods onstage. Yet despite their aura of the supernatural, what they demand is more aptly described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as “the willing suspension of disbelief, . . . which constitutes poetic faith.” Coleridge’s idea of plays as “willing illusions” that sustain a “semblance of truth” helps show how Shakespeare’s plays enable us to mind “true things by what their mockeries be.”

Colin Jager (Rutgers University), “Justified Sinners and Religious Minorities: Scott, Hogg, Benjamin”
March 9, 2012, 4pm-6pm

Through readings of novels by James Hogg and Walter Scott, my talk argues that religious “fanaticism” is a byproduct of asymmetrical warfare. Hogg’s “solution” to religiously-motivated violence, I propose, replaces Scott-style uneven development with a tentative and shadowy practice of living together.

Robert Miles (University of Victoria), “The Secular Jane Austen: A Test Case of Modern Misreading”
November 11, 2011, 2pm-4pm

Modern historians of ‘secularization’ have successfully made the case that we labour under a form of historical delusion, insofar as we imagine the Enlightenment as the Whiggish conquest of atheistical rationalists hell bent on making the world safe for capitalistic technocracy. Instead, they have helped us see how the process of secularization went hand in hand with the spread of religion; how the Great Awakening and economic take-off coincide; and how, rather than opposing one another, what we think of as ‘secularization’, and religion, worked together, albeit in a complex and at times contradictory fashion. Despite the importance of this revisionist work, literary critics have been slow to pick up  on the consequences. There is still a tendency to dismiss Austen’s religion, or to think it the least interesting aspect of her. More to  the point, there is a reflex to align  Austen with the kind of cultural critique that constitutes the main legacy of secularization within the disciplines of the Humanities. Both kinds of misreading flow from our historical  assumptions about the rise and  conquest of ‘secularization’. I will suggest how both things — both religion and the ‘secular’ —  are constitutive of Austen’s uniqueness as a novelist.

Michael Gamer (University of Pennsylvania), “Copyright and the Canon: Two Case Studies”
March 4, 2011, 4pm-6pm

Michael Gamer is the author of Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation (Cambridge, 2000). He is currently at work on two books: Recollections in Tranquility: The Collected Author and the Institutionalization of Romanticism; and A History of British Theatre: Staged Conflicts, under contract with Blackwell Publishing. He is editor of Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (Penguin, 2002) and Charlotte Smith’s Manon L’Escaut and the Romance of Real Life (Pickering and Chatto, 2005). He works on collaboration and is fond of collaborative work: with Jeffrey Cox he edited The Broadview Anthology of Romantic Drama (Broadview, 2003); with Dahlia Porter Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800 (Broadview, 2008). He has also published essays in MLQ, PMLA, Novel, ELH, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Studies in Romanticism, and other journals on poetic collections, the novel, pornography, popular culture, authorship, and dramas of spectacle.

Robert Mitchell (Duke University), “Experiments, Romanticism, and the Avant-Garde”
February 18, 2011, 4pm-6pm

Robert Mitchell is interested in relationships between the sciences and prose and poetry of the Romantic era, and in the role of theories of emotional communication (for example, sympathy and identification) in eighteenth-century and Romantic-era philosophy and literature. He is also interested in contemporary intersections between information technologies, genetics, and commerce, especially as these have been played out in the legal, literary, and artistic spheres. He is currently working on a monograph on the role of experimentation in Romantic-era vitalist science and literature.

“Emotional Wars: Recovering Feeling in Philosophy,” featuring David Clark, William Galperin, J. David Velleman, and Nancy Yousef
November 4, 2010, 6pm-8pm

How have the emotions shaped philosophical reasoning about matters of justice, citizenship, war and peace? How does the philosopher give voice to historical trauma, and how can we responsively read the passionate undercurrents of rational argument? Join noted literary critics David Clark and William Galperin, along with philosopher J. David Velleman for a lively exchange on the vital place of affect in contemporary critical practice.  J. David Velleman is Professor of Philosophy at New York University whose recent books include How We Get Along and Self to Self.  David Clark is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University and author of Bodies and Pleasures in Late Kant (forthcoming, Stanford).  William Galperin is Professor of English at Rutgers University, author of The Historical Austen and The Return of the Visible in British Romanticism.  Moderated by Nancy Yousef, Resident Mellon Fellow at the Center for Humanities and Associate Professor of English at Baruch College and The Graduate Center.

Mary Favret (Indiana University-Bloomington), “Dim: Keats and the Pains of Reading”
December 3, 2010, 4pm-6pm

Jacques Khalip (Brown University), “Dark Times: Scarcity and Wasted Life (Arendt, Byron, and Clare)”
April 9, 2010, 2pm-4pm

Jacques Khalip is an assistant professor at Brown University. He received his PhD from Duke University. He writes on and teaches British romanticism, queer theory, aesthetics, 19th- and 20th-century poetry, and critical theory. Khalip is the author of Anonymous Life: Romanticism and Dispossession (Stanford University Press, 2009), which examines the concept of romantic anonymity as a way of being-in-the-world that resists the Enlightenment emphasis on transparency, self-disclosure, and emotional autonomy. He has published essays in Arizona Quarterly, Criticism, differences, ELH, Raritan, and Forum Italicum, and has also published numerous poetry reviews in Antipodes, The Boston Review, Jacket, and Verse. The CUNY Romanticism Group is pleased to welcome Khalip as the first invited speaker in our Spring 2010 seminar series.

Francesco Crocco, “‘The Humble Man’: Fear and Reconciliation in Coleridge’s ‘Fears in Solitude'”
March 27, 2009

Alexander Schlutz (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), “Novalis, Philosophy, and Poetry”
March 13, 2009, 2pm-4pm

Professor Schlutz studied Comparative Literature, English Literature and French Literature in Germany and the United States. He received his M.A. from the University of Tübingen and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle. His research focuses mainly on the literary and philosophical problems of the Romantic period and the contemporary questions of literature and globalization, postcolonial literature and intercultural communication. His interdisciplinary study Mind’s World: Imagination and the Modern Subject, which investigates the role of imagination in philosophical and literary models of subjectivity from Descartes to the Romantics, is forthcoming from the University of Washington Press in 2009. Prof. Schlutz is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the German on-line journal parapluie (http://parapluie.de), which has been publishing essays on literature, culture, the arts and philosophy on the internet since 1997.

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