GR6493: Science and American Literature | B. Arsic

Graduate Seminar
M 4:10-6PM

This course will explore how 19th century American authors registered the transformation of natural history into the sciences of life. During that period, the fixed classifications of beings were destabilized by new sciences-- chemistry, biology and pathology--that emphasized process and transformation, and traditional, herbal methods of healing, predicated on studies of anatomy, were replaced by the clinic. With the emergence of experimental medicine, discourses of life and personhood changed, profoundly affecting law, theology, philosophy and literature. At the same time, as scientific discourses concerning the vital were being transformed, the American authors we will read were changing their understanding of what the natural is, and proposing a series of cosmological, poetic and ethical responses to the idea that life is common not only to all creatures but in fact to all phenomena. The course will explore a variety of theories that propose life as material but our interest will be less in cosmological than ethical and ecological questions.

Link to Vergil
Note: only courses offered during the two previous semesters have active Vergil links.