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Join us online for a talk by Caroline Levine. Audience Q&A will follow.
What do scholars of literature and the arts have to offer in response to the climate crisis? The aesthetic humanities have long traditions of insisting on open-endedness, negation, and inaction. Levine argues that in this moment of rapid and destabilizing change, this tradition has reached its political limit. She makes a case for the particular value of formalist methods in rebuilding and remaking our social world. Form has never been an exclusively aesthetic term. A vast range of objects, from sounds to neighborhoods to coral reefs, can be analyzed for their structures and patterns, and in this respect, formalism belongs to all fields, or to none. But for this reason, formalism also has the potential to be a useful meta-disciplinary method, capable of moving between politics and art, between sonnets and public transportation systems. This talk will analyze sustainability in formal terms and focus specifically on the forms of sustainable infrastructure in contemporary cities, including Houston, Barcelona, and the Brazilian cities of Belo Horizonte and Curitiba.
Caroline Levine is the David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of Humanities at Cornell University. She has spent her career asking how and why the humanities and the arts matter, especially in democratic societies. She argues for the understanding of forms and structures as crucial to understanding links between art and society. She is the author of three books, The Serious Pleasures of Suspense: Victorian Realism and Narrative Doubt (2003, winner of the Perkins Prize for the best book in narrative studies), Provoking Democracy: Why We Need the Arts (2007), and Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (2015, winner of the James Russell Lowell Prize from the MLA, and the Dorothy Lee Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Culture, and named one of Flavorwire’s “10 Must-Read Academic Books of 2015”). She is currently the nineteenth-century editor for the Norton Anthology of World Literature and has written on topics ranging from formalist theory to Victorian poetry and from television serials to academic freedom.