365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016
The Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue, Room 4406 This lecture draws on a forthcoming study, The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic: Realism, Sovereignty and Transnational Experience, to reflect on the emergence of neoformalist, “descriptive,” and “surface” approaches to reading literature and…
The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, Room 4406
This lecture draws on a forthcoming study, The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic: Realism, Sovereignty and Transnational Experience, to reflect on the emergence of neoformalist, “descriptive,” and “surface” approaches to reading literature and culture, inspired partly by Bruno Latour’s ontological turn to actor-network theory. As a study of realism, The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic is itself a species of neoformalism but one that resists the idea that contextualization is a fatal distraction from “what is in plain view” (Felski). Both deeply synchronic and invested in the importance of elucidating globalization’s longue durée, The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic looks at serialized realism in its nineteenth-century as well as present-day instantiations. Although Victorian liberalism and today’s neoliberalism differ substantially, both share a fascination with the trope of the racialized alien within, a figure conducive to the realist narratives of capitalist globalization of Gustave Flaubert, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, and today’s “quality” television. The call for an ethically and aesthetically attentive critical practice is most welcome; but, like a swing of the pendulum, a too adamant rejection of “suspicious reading” reproduces a new "paranoia" without attending the substance of Eve Sedgwick’s judicious mid-90s critique. By helping both to form histories and historicize forms across spatial networks and long and short durations of time, the notion of the geopolitical aesthetic works against the critical stalemate that pits a surface-focused ethics of reading against a depth-focused politics of reading.
Historians James Oakes, of the Graduate Center, and Sean Wilentz, of Princeton, discuss Oakes’s provocative new book about the Civil War, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865.
Free, registration required.