Elemental Readings I: Air

A Luskin Endowment for Thought Leadership Conference
When: Friday, May 19, 2023 12:00 pm
Where: UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, 425 Westwood Plaza

A Luskin Endowment for Thought Leadership Conference, co-sponsored by the Departments of Classics and English, UCLA. May 19th – 20th, 2023.

Register here to attend.

Organizers: Louise Hornby (English) & Alex Purves (Classics)

Keynote Speaker: John Durham Peters, María Rosa Menocal Professor of English and of Film & Media Studies, Yale University.

Confirmed Speakers/Participants
Shane Butler, Johns Hopkins University
Elizabeth DeLoughrey, UCLA
Katharine Earnshaw, University of Exeter
Louise Hornby, UCLA
Hsuan Hsu, UC Davis
Eleanor Kaufman, UCLA
Karla Nielson, Huntington Library
John Durham Peters, Yale University
Justine Pizzo, University of Southampton
Verity Platt, Cornell University
James Porter, UC Berkeley
Alex Purves, UCLA
Mario Telò, UC Berkeley
Ben Tran, Vanderbilt University
Victoria Wohl, University of Toronto
Dora Zhang, UC Berkeley

Recent work across a range of fields in the humanities and arts, as well as in environmental, media and digital studies, has paid increasing attention to the role of the elements in shaping our experience and understanding of the world. This conference brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines who are seeking to redefine the role of air, atmosphere, and the weather in traditionally non-scientific media (predominantly poetry, writing, music, photography, and film). The topic invites discussion of the mutability of weather as an invisible ontology (and marker of climate change) as well as discussions of atmosphere (whose porous and unfinished nature embraces a broad range of entities, from modes of knowing and feeling, to the stuff we breathe, to outer space). In each of these cases, air’s mediating possibilities across fields, materials, and periods are especially rich for collaboration and the exchange of ideas.

Our conference seeks fruitful points of contact between two colleagues in English and Classics at UCLA, who both work on air and the elements, joining with scholars from media studies, art history and environmental humanities, for a multifaceted discussion of a common object.

More information on the conference will appear shortly, including links to register. The conference will be on site only. Please send any enquiries to

Provisional Schedule (not final)

Friday, May 19th

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:20 Opening Remarks

Louise Hornby & Alex Purves

1:30-3:30 Panel 1: Sentient Air

Hsuan Hsu, “Smellscape as Distributed Memory”

Victoria Wohl, “Intelligent Air”

Response: Dora Zhang

3:30 Coffee Break

4-5:30 Keynote

John Durham Peters, “On Sensing and not Sensing the Air and the Weather”

6pm Dinner

Saturday, May 20th

8:00 am Breakfast

8:30-10:45 Panel 2: Meteorologies

Verity Platt, “Air in Unexpected Places: Foam, Breath, and Philostratus’ Truth in Painting”

Katharine Earnshaw, “Thought Bubbles and Feeling Blue (or, Micromeditations on affective Chromacities)”

Justine Pizzo, “Character Studies and the Changing Climate of Victorian Realist Fiction”

Response: Karla Nielson

10:45 Coffee break

11-12.45 Panel 3: Violence in the Air

Ben Tran, “Unburied Sound and the Atmosphere”

Mario Telò, “Achrony and Aeropolitics in Aulis”

Response: Liz DeLoughrey

1-2 Lunch

2- 4:15 Panel 4: Ambience

Shane Butler, “Ovidian Atmospheres”

Eleanor Kaufman, “Mudimbe’s Air in French Philosophy”

Response: Jim Porter

4:30-5 Closing Remarks

Louise Hornby & Alex Purves

6pm Dinner

Friday, May 19, 2023 12:00 pm America/Los_Angeles Elemental Readings I: Air A Luskin Endowment for Thought Leadership Conference UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, 425 Westwood Plaza UCLA English