Monday, October 20, 2008

After Walking the Whitman Walk, Listen to the Killingsworth Talk (10/30)

Next Thursday (10/30) we are thrilled to welcome Walt Whitman scholar M. Jimmie Killingsworth of Texas A & M to campus as this semester’s final English Department Scholarly Speaker. It is sure to be an exciting week in the department, with Frostic speaker Arnost Lustig here starting on Tuesday, and then Jimmie later in the week. We on the Speakers Committee hope as many of you can make it to these events as possible.

Here are the specifics for Jimmie’s visit:
Lecture topic: “Whitman and the Nature Writers: Looking for the Soul in a Disenchanted Land”
Thursday, October 30, 7 PM, Brown 3025

Among Jimmie’s many and varied publications, his latest are _Walt Whitman and the Earth: A Study in Ecopoetics_ (University of Iowa Press, 2004), _Appeals in Modern Rhetoric: An Ordinary-Language Approach_ (Southern Illinois University Press, 2005), and _The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman_ (Cambridge University Press, 2007). His visit to campus is co-sponsored by the WMU Environmental Studies Program and the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Here's the abstract of Jimmie’s talk:

As the self-proclaimed poet of the body and poet of the soul, and as the enchanted lover of the earth, Walt Whitman took the measure of a world transformed by urbanization and industrialization. While always open to the idea of human progress and the technological sublime, Whitman's vision took on a dark and elegiac tone in the years following the Civil War as he surveyed a disenchanted, and increasingly disenchanting, land. In bearing witness to the obstructions he found on the path to a soulful life, Whitman not only shared a vision with the great nature writers of his time, such as his New England counterpart Henry David Thoreau and his friend John Burroughs, but also anticipated the nature writing that flourished in the wake of post-World War II environmental politics, when the fate of the entire natural world seemed to fall into human hands for the first time in history. With writers like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Doug Peacock, Peter Matthieseen, Leslie Marmon Silko, Bill McKibbens, and Janisse Ray, Whitman helped to found a literature devoted to recovering the sense of wonder, looking for the lost soul in an endangered land (one's own soul as rediscovered in natural settings as well as the soul of the land itself, its special character, beauty, and meaningfulness for human culture). Like Whitman's poetry, nature writing is an outdoor literature that aims to take readers beyond the confines of modern inwardness and human exclusivity and to introduce them to the wider (and wilder) world. In this work, the soul becomes not so much the exclusive property of the individual, held tightly like a title on private land, but rather an ecological phenomenon of circulation and reflection, that opens the person to the influx of natural and interpersonal powers.

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