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Constellations of a
Contemporary Romanticism

February 17, 2012
Pembroke Hall 305

The concept of the “contemporary” has haunted romantic writers and philosophers, and has often been a vexed starting point for discussions of innovation, nostalgia, historical situatedness, presentism, and futurity. Indeed, what romanticism signals, as a constellation of aesthetic, political, moral, and social considerations, often translates into reflections on its conceptual afterlife. Indeed, as a call for interdisciplinarity, romanticism just as often shatters the linkages it presumes to make between genres, forms, and fields. What are the social, political, and aesthetic remains of romanticism in our contemporary culture? And are these remains or vital presences on our theoretical landscapes? This one-day symposium brings together both romantic specialists and scholars from outside the field in order to explore notions of the "contemporary" and its theoretical intersections with the abiding force of romanticism. To this end, our panelists come from literary studies, queer theory, political theory, and media and cinema studies.

What dialogues emerge out of the particularity, portability, and endurance of various “romanticisms”? How do these discussions shape our understanding of modernity, postmodernity, or the “now”? And what kinds of pressures still persist in our thinking today that might bear some kind of adjacency to romantic thought?

Jane Bennett
Professor, Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Jane Bennett is professor of political theory and chair of the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Vibrant Matter, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics and Thoreau’s Nature: Ethics, Politics, and the Wild, and an editor of The Politics of Moralizing and In the Nature of Things: Language, Politics, and the Environment.

Lecture Title: “Thinking about Sympathy in an Age of Powerful Things”


Lee Edelman
Fletcher Professor of English Literature
Tufts University

Lee Edelman began his academic career as a scholar of twentieth-century American poetry. He has since become a central figure in the development, dissemination, and rethinking of queer theory. He is the author of Transmemberment of Song, Homographesis, and No Future: Queer Theory and The Death Drive. His current work explores the intersections of sexuality, rhetorical theory, cultural politics, and film.

Lecture Title: "The Pathology of the Future, or The Endless Triumphs of Life"

Elizabeth Fay
Professor, English
University of Massachusetts, Boston

Elizabeth Fay is a Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is also Director of UMass Boston’s Research Center for Urban Cultural History. Specializing in British Romantic Literature, she has written books on William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Romantic Medievalism, and feminist approaches to British Romanticism. For several years she has also served as co-editor of Literature Compass Romanticism, an ejournal published by Wiley/Blackwell, and has co-edited an edition of Felicia Hemans’ Siege of Valencia.

Lecture Title: "Dorothy Wordsworth’s Ecoliterary Anti-body"

Jerrold Hogle
University Distinguished Professor, English
University of Arizona

A Guggenheim and Mellon Fellow for research, Jerrold Hogle has published widely on Romantic poetry, literary and cultural theory, and the Gothic. He is a Past President of the International Gothic Association. His books include Shelley's Process (Oxford UP), The Undergrounds of "The Phantom of the Opera"(St. Martin's/ Palgrave), and The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction(Cambridge UP). His two previous essays on Frankenstein have both been reprinted and are most available in the Macmillan New Casebooks collection on Frankenstein, edited by Fred Botting, and inRomanticism, History, and the Possibilities of Genre, edited by Tilottama Rajan and Julia Wright (Cambridge UP). He is currently at work on a book entitled The Gothic Image in the Romantic Poem.

Lecture Title: "The Gothic-Romantic Nexus Today"

Forest Pyle
Associate Professor, English
University of Oregon

Forest Pyle is the author of The Ideology of Imagination: Subject and Society in the Discourse of Romanticism (1995) and a forthcoming book entitled From Which One Turns Away: A Radical Aestheticism in the Romantic Tradition. Pyle’s new research project, tentatively entitled "A Dead Man and a Blanket of Ash: Constellations of a Contemporary Romanticism," explores the persistence and extensions of Romanticism in some of the more adventurous forms of contemporary culture, including the music of Cat Power, Nirvana, Nick Drake, and Radiohead, the painting of Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter, and Francis Bacon, the films of Todd Haynes, Jim Jarmusch, and Wong Kar-Wei, and the literature of Paul Bowles, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Palmer, and Jorie Graham.

Lecture Title: "Say Goodbye, Cy, to the Shores of Representation: Twombly's Romanticism"

Steven Shaviro
DeRoy Professor of English
Wayne State University

Steven Shaviro is the DeRoy Professor of English at Wayne State University. He is a cultural critic who writes about film, music videos, process philosophy, and science fiction. Among his books are Connected, Or, What It Means To Live in the Network Society (2003), Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (2009), and Post-Cinematic Affect (2010).

Lecture Title: "Melancholia, or, The Romantic Anti-Sublime"