How are the terms “human” and “nature” interrelated and how is their relationship changing?  We like to think of the interaction as a peaceful one, as one of balance and mutually beneficial coexistence, but the word “slash” can help us remember that more often than not violence is the mode of interaction. This Arts and Humanities laboratory and public lecture series features visiting scholars and Colby faculty from a variety of fields, including history, art, and philosophy, addressing fundamental aspects of human experience, such as food, architecture, war, and planetary futures. Who is ultimately in charge? Students will discuss weekly topics on a course weblog.  Nongraded. One credit hour. Series convened by Jim Fleming and Gianluca Rizzo.


September 15
Human / Nature in the Anthropocene
Jim Fleming
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.06.39 AMThe neologism Anthropocene (or age of humans), coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and popularized by geochemist and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, has recently struck a cultural nerve, pointing as it does to what may be the decisive epoch of our planet. What does it mean for humanity to be moving from the age geologists call the Holocene—where the historical records originated, to the Anthropocene—where it seems we may meet our demise? Are humanists and social scientists wise to appropriate this term, and what can we say about the history and cultural implications of what are apparently multiple Anthropocenes? What is the influence of this concept on us?

Fleming (STS,Colby) has written extensively on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of weather, climate, technology, and the environment.

September 22
Mimesis: Reality in Renaissance Art
Véronique Plesch
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.11.27 AMThe period we call the Renaissance is traditionally conceived of as a rebirth of Ancient ideas and ideals; but it could be argued that Renaissance artists were fundamentally concerned with the creation of a convincing depiction of reality. This lecture will explore the means at the service of such agenda (for instance linear perspective and oil painting), the motivations for such an interest and the functions it fulfilled, while also considering the differences between Italian and Northern Renaissance Art in this quest for mimetic illusionism. Given this year’s Humanities theme, special attention will be paid to depictions of nature.

Plesch (Art, Colby) is the author and editor of eight books and has published over forty articles in Europe and the U.S. in English, French, and Italian on subjects ranging from late medieval and Renaissance iconography to Alpine art, and from Passion plays to early modern graffiti, with forays into contemporary art.

September 29
The Artificial Cryosphere and Public Appreciation of “Aeroir,”
Nicola Twilley, Edible Geography and Gastropod
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.17.17 AMNicola Twilley will be exploring two atmospheric conditions that exemplify Human/Nature by presenting two ongoing projects: an exhibition and book exploring the artificial cryosphere and an artist project to develop new experiences that enhance the public appreciation of “aeroir.” For the past four years, Twilley has been exploring the largely invisible thermal infrastructure of refrigeration—a vast, distributed winter that has reconfigured both the contents of our plates and the shapes of our cities. In addition to sharing some of her research in this area, Twilley will also discuss her more recent, ongoing collaboration with the Center for Genomic Gastronomy to develop a multi-sensory array of devices, installations, and experiences that aim to make the aesthetics and politics of urban air pollution sense-able as an artifact. From smog meringues to street food-air quality pairings, the project aims to create a series of poetic intermediaries between humans and our collective atmospheric emissions.

September 29
Landscape Futures, with a discussion of artificial replacements for natural phenomena
Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG
8pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.20.51 AMGeoff Manaugh will explain the curatorial vision behind Landscape Futures, a 2012 exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art that foregrounded the instruments and devices through which the planetary sciences and landscape design are performed. By centralizing these mechanisms, the exhibition’s goal was to reveal how humans have become deeply dependent upon machines and other technical intermediaries for interpreting the landscapes around them. Manaugh will also present his ongoing research into the world of artificial replacements for natural phenomena, including legal patents registered for new forms of artificial snow, artificial trees, and even new forms of artificial geology. Discussing these in the context of several site visits performed by Manaugh and Twilley as part of their “Venue” project—including a landscape tour of the nation’s largest active landfill and a trip to the AstroTurf® factory northwest of Atlanta—will show the often-unexpected side-effects of replicating nature.

September 30
Panel Discussion
Nicola Twilley, Geoff Manaugh, and Diana Tuite
12pm, Colby Museum of Art

unnamedThe panel members will be discussing the following questions:
What is living art and what is your engagement with it?
What does it mean to “curate” — in a museum and as a blogger/scholar?
What is next on your agenda?

October 6
War and Wounds
Ana Carden-Coyne (via Skype)
1pm, Diamond 242

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.31.09 AMAna Carden-Coyne will be discussing her recent book, The Politics of Wounds (Oxford University Press, 2014), which explores military patients’ experiences of frontline medical evacuation, war surgery, and the social world of military hospitals during the First World War. The proximity of the front and the colossal numbers of wounded created greater public awareness of the impact of the war than had been seen in previous conflicts, with serious political consequences. She will also present images from “The Sensory War, 1914-2014,” an art exhibit on the experience and imagining of war for the WW1 centenary, at the Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery.

Carden-Coyne has edited a volume on Gender and Conflict Since 1914: Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Palgrave, 2012), which brings scholars from the humanities and social sciences together to consider the impact of war on gender roles in the past and present. She has acted as acted as consultant for the Wellcome Trust’s War and Medicine exhibition and made other contributions to international events such as the Sydney Festival and the Sydney Mardi Gras, and has published a commemorative booklet with the Guardian newspaper on “Wounded Visionaries.”

October 6
Futurism, Violence, and the Re-making of the World
Gianluca Rizzo
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 1.06.40 PMSince its beginning Futurism, the first of the historical avant-garde movements, strived to establish a radically new way of representing the world. In the Founding Manifesto, published in le Figaro on 20 February 1909, Marinetti writes: “Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.” Violence was their preferred mode of interacting with reality, and the key to unlocking a new sense of Aesthetics, as well as the path to creating of the New Man. An entire century and two world wars separate us from that manifesto: what, if anything, can we learn from Marinetti and the Futurists? Can we admire their aesthetic achievements and at the same time condemn their warmongering activities? Is it even possible to separate the two? This lecture will attempt to answer these and other related questions through an analysis of manifestoes and works of art, tracking the evolution of the Futurist appreciation of violence before and after World War I.

Rizzo (Italian, Colby) is the Paganucci Assistant Professor of Italian at Colby College. His research focuses on modern and contemporary macaronic writing, contemporary poetry, and aesthetics. He published numerous articles, poems, and translations, both from English to Italian and vice-versa (in Or, Chicago Review, l’immaginazione, il Verri, Autografo, etc.)

October 20
The Sweet Way
Charles A. Traub
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.12.18 AMCharles H. Traub, photographer of the real world, will be talking about his long involvement with the delights of the street, here there and anywhere, but particularly those of Italy. Drawing from his two recent books, Dolce Via and Lunchtime –which are monographs of his color works from the 70s and 80s–, he will talk about change and the realities of then and now, as cultures have blended and issues of representation have radically changed the nature of the lens arts.
What can be said in passing by one stranger to another at 1/125th of a second? Is one picture worth a thousand words? Or does it take a thousand pictures to really say anything? In a time when anybody and everybody is photographing anytime and everywhere, what makes for a significant body of work? Traub believes that in essence, the dialog of the lens is a matrix for understanding all of our activities, and that visual arts literacy is essential to this understanding.

October 27
Human/Nature in Antiquity
Kerill O’Neill
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Medea-AFASandys1868No different from people in our times, the Greeks and Romans exhibited a wide range of behavior vis-à-vis the natural world: awe at its majesty, greed for its resources, and fear of its secrets. The witches of antiquity, however, laid claim to special status because they said that they could control, dominate, and destroy nature. What dread powers did they claim to possess? How and why did ordinary people turn to them for help? What connection did Roman poets share with these purveyors of spells?

O’Neill (Classics, Colby) is Director of the Center for the Arts and Humanities. His teaching and research interests span Latin literature (especially the influence of love magic on love poetry), Greek tragedy, and Bronze Age Archaeology. He is the Field Director of the Mitrou Archaeological Project.

October 30
Big Dams, Big Damage? Why Big States Destroy Nature and Move Millions of People in the Name of Progress
Paul Josephson
4pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 11.38.24 AMOver the last 100 years national powers have focused tremendous resources on such big projects as dams (Hoover, Tucurui, Three Gorges), canals (Panama and Suez), and other extensive earth-moving operations. These projects have had tremendous human and environmental costs as we learn more and more. Less well known is why governments as different as Russia, Brazil and the US continue to support them — from Amazonia, to the Tennessee Valley, to Washington State, and to the Arctic and Siberia.

Josephson (History, Colby) is a specialist in the history of twentieth century science and technology, Russian and Soviet history, and environmental history. He is working on a history of major nature engineering projects in the former Soviet Union.

November 3
Re-writing the World: Italian Poetry in the 1960s and 1970s
Beppe Cavatorta, University of Arizona
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 1.12.04 PMThroughout the second half of the Twentieth Century, and especially in the 60s and 70s, Italian poets have attempted a radical renovation of the literary institutions and conventions they had received from tradition. Their efforts gave birth to what critics have called the neo-avantgarde. What had begun as an effort to reconsider literature, soon turned into a political experiment aimed at re-writing the world itself. These intellectuals formulated a sharp criticism of traditional power structures and the excesses of capitalism by unmasking its linguistic strategies. This new kind of “realism” did not aim at describing the world but rather at changing it. This lecture will reconstruct the interesting path these writers followed, looking at the way in which the natural world is presented in their poems.

Cavatorta is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Arizona, Tucson. His research interests are varied, with scholarly publications on Renaissance authors such as Machiavelli, Savonarola, and Tasso as well as contemporary writers like Alberto Savinio, Antonio Delfini, Tahar Lamri and Adriano Spatola. Among his other interests are Italian Futurism, the neo-avant-garde of Sixties, and the Partisan War as depicted in literature and film. His essays have appeared in several journals.

November 7
2015 Clara M. Southworth Symposium, The Culture of Nature: Garden Design, East and West
9:30am-5:00pm, Colby Museum of Art

André Le Nôtre’s formal parterre gardens at the Château of Vaux-le-VicomteThe Clara M. Southworth lecture series, endowed in 1969 by the interior designer from Portland, Maine, is meant to “bring annually to the campus a distinguished lecturer or lecturers to speak on a subject in the broad field of environmental design with emphasis on understanding some of the underlying philosophies of design which relate to the way in which men live.” As Colby’s 2015-16 Annual Humanities Theme Human/Nature aims to “reflect upon nature, the built environment, and the ways in which our relationship to the natural world has shaped human existence,” the Art Department is organizing a symposium entitled The Culture of Nature: Garden Design, East and West.The Culture of Nature brings together four distinguished scholars who will speak on Asia, the Islamic World, Europe, and the United States, to explore the delicate relationship between humans and nature in the specific context of the garden, and the ways in which conceptions of gardens and garden design have changed significantly over time and space. The symposium will also identify some common threads to help us better understand the complicated relationship between humans and nature.

November 10
Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives on the Environment
Keith Peterson
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 8.59.20 AMThe themes of anthropocentrism, the intrinsic value of nature, and an ecological worldview have preoccupied environmental philosophers for decades. What are some of the common ways that philosophers have considered these topics, and which of their conclusions are relevant today? We’ll consider whether anthropocentrism motivates the concept of the Anthropocene, how intrinsic value theory bears on the commodification of ecosystem services, and ask whether an ecological worldview is the best meta-scientific stance for environmentalism in this period of global climate disruption.

Peterson’s (Philosophy, Colby) primary areas of interest include philosophies of nature and environment, value theory, philosophical anthropology, and Continental philosophy.

November 17
Extreme Makeovers: The Visual Culture of Plastic Surgery
Tanya Sheehan
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

unnamedFocusing on the 20th-century and contemporary United States, this lecture explores the relationship between plastic surgery and visual culture. First, it presents plastic surgery as an increasingly popular practice motivated by a subject’s concern with being seen in a social environment. Second, it emphasizes the cultural importance of documenting visually, and especially photographically, the changes to the body and self produced through surgical operations. By reading closely images from the popular media and fine arts, Professor Sheehan will shed light on how and why Americans have sought to remake human nature through the visual culture of cosmetic medicine.

Sheehan (Art, Colby) teaches American and African American art history. She is the author of Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (2011). Her edited books include Photography, History, Difference (2014), Photography and Its Origins (2015), and the forthcoming Grove Guide to Photography.

December 1
Humans in space
Roger Launius
7pm, Kassman Auditorium

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 12.06.32 PMTrips to the Moon, humans in Earth orbit, and plans for exploring Mars all dominated thinking in the twentieth century. Even so, as the twenty-first century dawned an expansive vision for human spaceflight has not emerged. The Space Shuttle has been retired without a clear follow-on human spaceflight vehicle in the United States, and efforts to generate public excitement in lunar and Mars exploration have faltered. What does the first half of the twenty-first century hold for humans in space? In this presentation I will survey more fifty years of space exploration, reviewing the major human programs from the first efforts through the successful spaceflight programs of the recent past and offering comments on the possibilities available in the decades to come.

Launius is Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues, and has been a guest commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.