Paul Dobryden (Cornell University)

Compact seminar at Humboldt-Universität, December 2015


Broadly construed as the knowledge of natural systems and their reciprocal interactions with living things, ecological thought is deeply entwined with aesthetic values and practices. In this seminar we will examine the poetic underpinnings of ecological knowledge, from its nineteenth-century beginnings as the study of the “economy of nature” to its uneasy role within larger processes of imperial expansion and global commerce around 1900 and beyond. Based on readings of texts by Alexander von Humboldt, Jakob von Uexküll, Vladimir Vernadsky, and Arthur Tansley, we will ask: how does ecology produce its objects of study? what are its genres and rhetorics? its forms of authorship? its media, its visual and textual modes of representation? its spatialities and temporalities? Is it as strongly dependent on classical aesthetic values (wholeness, balance, harmony) as has been claimed, or is there room for disruption and discontinuity? In pursuit of these questions, we will also discuss Adalbert Stifter’s Brigitta and Godfrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi.


Participation only by personal registration