Sunday, May 26, 2019

Talk - The 'Ecology of Form'

The Nineteenth Century Graduate Seminar will meet for its third and final session of the Easter term at 5pm on Thursday 30 May, in the Faculty of English Board Room. Our speaker will be Devin Griffiths (University of Southern California), who will speak on the topic of 'The Ecology of Form'; abstract below.
All are most welcome to attend both the discussion and the informal drinks at the Granta afterwards.

'The Ecology of Form'

I'll be talking about Charles Darwin and what we might call the anthropology of plants. Starting with his work on orchids in the 1850s, Darwin was fascinated by plants that suggest a deep continuity between animal and plant life, and he developed a sophisticated array of techniques that allowed him to establish dialogues with their behavior. As a case study, I'll be taking Darwin's late work, The Power of Movement in Plants (1880) in which he developed tools of synchronization, or "entrainment," that allowed plants to write themselves into his work. I'll be using this example to explore how such tools produce a form of collective authorship in which the objects of natural study contribute to their own investigation, a way of voicing nature in scientific publication. My aim is to sketch out a late feature of Darwin's ecological research program, part of a wider effort to study Darwin's importance as an ecologist, and as a process philosopher. But I'm also interested in how that labor becomes visible through, and indeed, is organized by, specific textual forms, here, not simply scientific publication, but experiments in what we might term plant graphology and the printing of plant life, and I'll conclude by discussing the afterlife of these experiments in scientific publication.

Devin Griffiths is Associate Lecturer at the University of Southern California, and author of The Age of Analogy (Johns Hopkins UP, 2016)

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