“Jacobin Pastoral and the Inhuman Trade” – Talk with Amanda Jo Goldstein
When: Monday, April 12, 2021 4:00 pm
Amanda Jo Goldstein, from the University of California, Berkeley, is the Barbara L. Packer guest lecturer in 2020-21. On April 12 she will speak on “Jacobin Pastoral and the Inhuman Trade.”
What conceptions of nature support utopian exercises in “social dreaming”? Motivated in part by the surprising aptitude of earlier modern fiction and science to grasp the logic of sociogenic climate change – a form of causation that caught mainstream modern science by surprise – these lectures explore aspects of poetic thought dismissed as “Utopian” or “Romantic” for espousing the heterodox premise that nature answers to justice, rather than necessity. “Jacobin Pastoral and the Inhuman Trade,” takes up the recurrent fact or fantasy of ecological retribution and its utopian counterpart, ecological jubilee. The purportedly abolitionist propensities of the earth in Erasmus Darwin’s materialist epic of the 1790s enable a reckoning with the silence on the matter of race that has too frequently marked newer materialist and Anthropocene theory.
Amanda Jo Goldstein specialize 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. Her book, Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (University of Chicago Press, 2017), shows how writers from William Blake to Goethe, Percy Shelley and the young Karl Marx revived ancient atomist science to argue for poetry as a privileged technique of empirical inquiry, especially when it came to representing the new problem of biological life in its dependency upon broader social and natural histories. The book has been awarded the Kenshur Prize for an outstanding monograph of interest to eighteenth-century scholars and the MLA Prize for a First Book (2018). A new research project takes up the ecology of utopia in the early socialist projects dubbed “Romantic” and “Utopian”; another seeks the poetic and scientific roots of the “new” concepts of biosemiosis and plasticity in the long history of epigenetic neuroscience.
This series was established in memory of our beloved Emeritus Professor, Barbara Packer. Barbara was not only the most distinguished scholar of Emerson to emerge since the Emersonian revival of the mid-1960s, but she also was a most generous colleague and teacher whose vivid intelligence, warm humor, and true grace were daily gifts to all who knew her. While Barbara’s path-breaking scholarship on Emerson and other nineteenth-century American authors was marked, in the words of her teacher, Harold Bloom, by “a warmth and generosity … unmatched elsewhere,” in Barbara we all encountered “a mind that startled us by its large scope,” to use Emerson’s words. One of a small band of scholars who edited Emerson’s works for Harvard, she wrote the historical introduction to his late work, The Conduct of Life (2007). Her account of the Transcendentalist movement in the Cambridge History of American Literature (1995) was later published as The Transcendentalists (2007), which Joel Myerson has called “the best extended study of Transcendentalism available.” She held a Visiting Professorship at Columbia in 1987 and was a Fellow of the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1989-90.