ENTANGLEMENTS: Jane Bennett, “Out for a Walk in the Middle Voice”

Jane Bennett, “Out for a Walk in the Middle Voice”
Thursday 3 June, 20:00hrs CEST on Zoom

Registration now closed (3 June).


We are excited and honoured to be welcoming Professor Jane Bennett to our online series. Bennett’s book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Duke UP, 2010) had huge impact on thinking about distributed agency and vital materiality in the Environmental Humanities. In her new book Influx and Efflux (Duke UP, 2020), Bennett picks up the question central also to Vibrant Matter: how to think about human agency in a world teeming with powerful nonhuman influences?

Abstract: I begin by exploring two strolls: one by the 19th century naturalist Henry Thoreau, who finds himself inscribed by vegetal forms and powers; and one by Paul Klee’s graphic line as it enlists the energies of a human hand to become a doodle. These two walks expose the radical entanglement of human and nonhuman activities, and they call for a lexicon able to acknowledge such a trans-specied kind of agency. How to bespeak such joint efforts in ways that give the nonhuman its due? What grammar, syntax, and verbal forms best acknowledge the contributions of animal, vegetal, mineral, and atmospheric vitalities to one another? How to find a language sensitive to the way human writing is itself enabled and infused with nonhuman inscriptions? Here I draw upon the poetic grammar of Walt Whitman.

Jane Bennett is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Bennett specializes in political theory: ecological philosophy, art and politics, American political thought, political rhetoric and persuasion, and contemporary social theory. Her book Vibrant Matter (Duke University Press, 2010) is central to thinking about the agency of non-human entities in the environmental humanities. Her lecture in our series is based on her latest book Influx & Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman (Duke University Press, 2020).

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