All One Stuff: Emerson’s Materialism

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This talk contradicts the longstanding reading of Emerson as invested in idealism and instead charts his obsession with matter both organic and inorganic, organized and unorganized. By attending to his interest in sciences of life, Branka Arsić reconstructs the geological and botanical theories that led him to formulate a genuinely vitalist ontology; and by outlining his vitalism through readings of both early and late essays and lectures, Arsić will ultimately be asking what the ethical and political consequences of his vitalism are. Branka Arsić specializes in literatures of the 19th century Americas and their scientific, philosophical, and religious contexts. She is the author, most recently, of Bird Relics: Grief and Vitalism in Thoreau (Harvard University Press, 2016). Learn more about Harvard Divinity School and its mission to illuminate, engage, and serve at hds.harvard.edu/.

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