The Robert E. Knoll Lecture Series was founded to honor Professor Robert Knoll, D.B. and Paula Varner Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus, for his extraordinary service to the department, the university, and the community. The series presents annual lectures by distinguished visiting scholars addressing topics of interest to faculty, undergraduate students, and members of the public who have an interest in literature.
2017-2018 Robert E. Knoll Lecture
March 6, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Sheldon Museum of Art, Ethel S. Abbott Auditorium
Leigh Gilmore is a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. She is the author of Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony, Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women’s Self-representation, and coeditor of Autobiography and Postmodernism. She has published articles on autobiography, law and literature, and feminist theory in Feminist Studies, Signs, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Biography, among others, and in numerous collections.
Stacy AlaimoMarch 28, 2017
Stacy Alaimo is professor of English, Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Former Director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Minor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“Deep Sea Speculations: Literature and Science in the Abyss"
Perhaps because deep sea life has long been a mystery, the literature and science of the abyssal realms have been intertwined through their speculative practices. Such speculations mix science and aesthetics, taxonomy and narrative imaginings of the lifeworlds of “alien” creatures. William Beebe, the early 20th century scientist and explorer, attempted to describe the animals he encountered while diving into the deep seas in his bathysphere in the 1930s. Beebe’s scientific stories are xenophilic, but John Wyndam’s 1953 novel, The Kraken Wakes, which begins with Beebe, ultimately imagines strange “xenobathic intelligences” that threaten humanity. Drawing on Vilém Flusser and Lois Bec in Vampyroteuthis Infernalis who present a weird meditation on what it could mean for humans to cross into the world of a mollusc, this talk considered the challenges of marine animal studies, abyssal posthumanisms, and the blue humanities. The talk drew from Dr. Alaimo’s book in progress, Composing Blue Evologies: Scientific and Aesthetic Captures of Abyssal Life.
Donald E. PeaseMarch 15, 2016
Donald E. Pease is Professor of English and Comparative Literature, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, and Chair of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Dartmouth College.
“Between the Camp and the Commons: Bio-Political Alter-Geographies in Frederic Douglass and Herman Melville”
Giorgio Agamben famously described the “camp” as a state of exception: “the most absolute biopolitical space available and ever realized—a space in which power has before it pure biological life without any mediation.” He proceeded to define the camp as the nomos hidden matrix of the bio-political space of the planet in which the state of exception has become the rule. Taking Agamben’s insight as point of departure, Antonio Negri has described the commons as the domain—of common goods, common knowledge—that emerges into visibility by animating the alter-geography of this planetary nomos. As the shared substance of our social being, the commons are “produced and circulated through those everyday processes by which life itself is sustained, enhanced, disseminated or otherwise organized.”
The terms the “camp” and the “commons” emerged out of efforts to interrogate the biopolitical technologies that, in targeting life itself, increasingly subsumed social and biological life, and to explain the consequent ontological struggle over what Hardt and Negri have described as the production and reproduction of life itself. In his lecture, Professor Pease discussed scenes in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself that locate the “camp” and the “commons” as mutually exclusive biopolitical spaces. He specifically focused on passages in which Douglass and Melville imagine the “commons” as the immanent force of surplus life itself passing through the death camps of the slave plantation and the Pequod.
Frederick Luis AldamaApril 7, 2015
Dr. Aldama is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at the Ohio State University where he teaches Latino/a and Latin American post-colonial literatue, film, and comics, as well as narrative theory and cognitive science approaches to culture.
“The Science of Storytelling”
Wai Chee DimockApril 2, 2009
Wai Chee Dimock is William Lampson Professor of American Studies and English at Yale University.
“Three Wars: Henry James and Others”
“Three Wars: Henry James and Others” examined the shadows of war on American democracy. Beginning with a discussion of Henry James and World War I, it looped back to the American Civil War (by way of Walt Whitman), and went forward as well to World War II (by way of Kurt Vonnegut and Nicholson Baker).