Join Amanda Jo Goldstein for a discussion of her Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life
Wednesday, Apr 11, 2018 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in the Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley
Today we do not expect poems to carry scientifically valid information — but this was not always the case. In Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (Chicago, 2017), Amanda Jo Goldstein explores how Romantic poetry served as an important tool for scientific inquiry. She argues that the work of authors such as William Blake and Percy Shelley makes a compelling case for poetry’s role in the perception and communication of empirical realities.
Amanda Jo Goldstein is Assistant Professor of English at UC Berkeley specializing in Enlightenment and Romantic literature and science, with particular interests in rhetoric and poetics, pre-Darwinian biology, and materialist theories of history, poetry, and nature. A version of her Sweet Science chapter “Growing Old Together: Lucretian Materialism in Shelley’s The Triumph of Life” was first published in Representations in 2014.
Presented by the Townsend Center for the Humanities
On Friday, August 12, T. J. Clark will give one of two keynote lectures for the 24th Annual Conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR). The lecture, “Too Deep for the Vulgar: Hazlitt on Turner and Blake,” will take place at 6 pm in room 2050 of the Valley Life Sciences Building at UC Berkeley.
Clark is Professor Emeritus of Modern Art at Berkeley and was a long-time member of the Representations editorial board. His books and other writings, several of which found form originally in Representations, have influenced a generation of scholars.
The NASSR conference will take place from August 11 to 14 at various venues in Berkeley. More information and a full program are available at http://nassrberkeley2016.wordpress.com/.
by Amanda Jo Goldstein
Goldstein’s essay, published in Representations 128, explores Percy Shelley’s The Triumph of Life as a strategic revival of Lucretian poetic science: a materialism fit to connect the epochal, romantic interest in biological life to the period’s pressing new sense of its own historicity. Shelley mobilizes Lucretian natural simulacra to show how personal bodies produce and integrate passages of historical time, exercising a poetics of transience that resists the triumphalism characteristic of both historiography and vitalist biology in the post-Waterloo period. Representing aging faces as mutable registers of the “living storm” of a post-Napoleonic interval, The Triumph depicts the face-giving trope of prosopopoeia as the unintended work of multitudes—demonstrating a nineteenth-century possibility of thinking biological, historical, and rhetorical materialisms together.
“The Triumph of Life
was made famous,” says Goldstein, “in late twentieth-century criticism, for the way its ‘disfigured’ faces allegorized the verbal and material violence inherent in figuration as a function of reparative reading. In this article, however, I attempt to show how The Triumph
’s last lines pointedly cease to construe figuration as a principally verbal or cognitive process at all. The neglected ‘new Vision’ (434) with which Shelley’s poem breaks off instead urges readers to review the scene of life that The Triumph of Life
has been showing all along, but this time under changed philosophical and poetic premises about the relation between life, matter, and trope. For Shelley summons a very old poetic science to achieve his ‘new Vision,’ pointedly depositing the poem’s speakers and its readers in the midst of a closely adapted scene from Lucretius’s classical materialist epic, De rerum natura
(c. 55 BCE). This ancient atomist scene construes the sensation of ‘Vision’ itself as a mode of figuration and a feature of material transience.” Read more …
AMANDA GOLDSTEIN is Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. She is the author of essays on Herder’s poetic empiricism, Goethean morphology, and William Blake and the present-day revival of Lamarckian evolutionary theory.