We’ve just concluded the first meeting of our Minding the Modern reading group, having read the brief exordium in which Pfau lays out the broad arguments and stakes of the book. Attendance was good–more than I had expected–and we energetically discussed the exordium, from making sure that we understood Pfau’s terms and claims to speculating on their importance for the humanities at large, which Pfau explicitly underlines as a second concern for his book. Among other things, we talked about:
- Our understanding of nominalism and voluntarism, especially in the context of how, as Pfau argues, “theoretical inquiry and practical reason have terminally parted ways” (3).
- Different understandings of modernity, from Pfau’s own to others centered on ideology, economics, technology, historicity, etc.
- Pfau’s distinction between scientific and interpretive methods, especially in clarifying his understanding of empiricism as a “value-neutral” operation (4).
- Melancholy as either a “condition” of modernity or, by contrast, a willed or responsible act.
- The “subject” versus the “person,” the latter of which, David Ruderman recalled, Pfau favors as terminology.
- The close reading of Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of a Gentleman in his Study (above) as the opening move of Minding the Modern.
- How Pfau’s objective “to clarify the increasingly confused understanding of what role concepts play in humanistic inquiry, and what constitutes the ground or source of their authority” (4) rings in the context of professionalism, (inter)disciplinarity, and periodicity in literary studies.
All in all, we’re excited to get this adventure going. As our newest faculty member Jake Risinger proposed, we might also look to Pfau’s previous work on melancholy and moods to better understand how melancholy works in this diagnosis of modernity’s malaise. In closing, and in contradistinction to Pfau’s portrait of 16th century modernity, I offer the following portrait of 21st century modernity.
ICR 2014 Banner
As its founding act, Romanticism @ OSU arranged a panel proposal for the 2014 International Conference on Romanticism: “Enchanting Echoes: Folklore and Form in Romantic Ballads.” This last weekend, we made the journey to Minneapolis, despite the disastrous shutdown of Chicago airspace on Friday. Unfortunately, one of our panel members wasn’t able to make it due to the flight cancellations, and another of our panel members wasn’t able to stay after reading due to extreme illness. We were, in many ways, the panel of Last Romanticist Standing. But we had an engaged audience, and the Q+A session was especially collegial, with a lot of back-and-forth on difficult ideas rather than the more perfunctory “one and done” Q+A methods that sometimes plague a languishing session. Our heartfelt thanks go out to the friends, both new and old, who attended our session and provided such insightful feedback. We’re already looking ahead to ICR 2015!
As Romanticism @ OSU sends its panel to ICR 2014, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be hosting a loose reading group for Thomas Pfau’s magnum opus Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge (2013). We’ll first meet, having read Pfau’s brief exordium, to discuss how we’d like to proceed as a group. As some of us already imagine, we’ll build a wish list of particular chapters we’d like to talk about. Minding the Modern is a tome, and we’ll try to take it nice and easy over the academic year.
So far, the response has been enthusiastic, and I for one am glad to be talking about how we might raise the stakes of placing Romanticism (which functions as a critical moment in Pfau’s narrative) in much larger histories that tangle with the most difficult questions about the human experience.
I’m happy to announce that the panel proposal that emerged from the first meeting of Romanticism @ OSU has been accepted for the 2014 International Conference on Romanticism this coming September. With Romanticism @ OSU core members Sara Cleto, Joey Kim, and Brittany Warman, I’ll be a part of “Enchanting Echoes: Folklore and Form in Romantic Ballads.” Here’s the overall description that we submitted:
Taking seriously Wordsworth’s note that “repetition and apparent tautology are frequently beauties of the highest kind,” these papers investigate the relationship between echoes and enchantment in Romantic ballads. How did poets like Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats imagine repetition working upon their readers, and just what is so enchanting about recurring language, form/structure, and ideas? Romantic poetry famously celebrates uniqueness, but, as Peter McDonald rightly observes, “[p]oetry is in central ways delineated by various figures of repetition.” Repetition thus emerges as a significant confluence of the most persistent questions about Romanticism. How do poets balance notions of adaptation and originality, tradition and innovation, the common and the beautiful, and so on? Echoes lead to enchanting perspectives on current exigencies of scholarship on Romantic poetry.
To do this, the panel takes echo in its broadest sense: both literally as the repetition of words and sounds and figuratively as the adaptive integration of extant stories and tropes. As Cleto and Warman argue, folkloric influences in the poetry of Keats and Wordsworth strikingly reveal the enchanting rhetoric and ritual of repetition. Kim traces the evocations of the Lucy figure across Wordsworth’s oeuvre to clarify the enchanting and therapeutic work of elegy, the latter of which Conatser picks up to articulate a poetics of confession grounded in the enchantment and repetition of the ballad form. Just as Romantic poets sought to enchant the common and traditional, this panel seeks to invigorate how we read some of the most iconic moments in Romantic poetry.
Additionally, I’d like to note that Joey Kim and I recently joined the board for the Graduate Student Caucus of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR). We’re looking forward to collaborating with scholars and teachers of Romanticism across the country!