February 27, 2014
Thursday, 4:00 pm
306 Royce Hall
Jason Groves, Yale University
"Novel Environments: Goethe's Cosmic Novel and the Allure of the Inorganic "
Within a well-documented “spatial turn,” the Age of Goethe exhibits what could be called a "geological turn" in cultural awareness. Today, as a volatile earth violently intrudes into literary, philosophical, and artistic activity, the problem of setting in Goethe's abandoned Cosmic Novel (1784/85) and Wilhelm Meister's Years of Wandering (1821/29) gains a renewed urgency. Just as “Bildung” operates in these texts in both human and inhuman realms, so too does the “wandering" of the novel choreograph a vibrancy of both organic and inorganic forms. In this way, the novel productively unsettles those divisions between life and non-life that Goethe's more discursive writings uphold. We are thus reminded that literature has been receptive to the earth precisely at those sites where it remains unaccountable and unconsolidated.
Jason Groves is a post-doctoral associate in the Integrated Humanities at Yale University. His research and teaching interests include literature and discourses of nature in the Age of Goethe, theater and performance studies, and critical theory. He is currently at work on two related book projects on the volatility of the earth and the vulnerability of bodies in 19th and 20th century German literature and thought, Literature and the Shock of the Earth and Walking Out. His work has appeared in venues such as Critical Climate Change, The Global South, Modern Language Notes, Performance Studies, Society and Space, Synapse: The International Curator’s Network, The Yearbook of Comparative Literature, and Die Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. He is co-editor of the 2014 German issue of Modern Language Notes, and, since June 2013, co-editor of Feedback, a curated blog of critical and cultural theory at Open Humanities Press.