Sabine Wilke about the Hanauer Seminar 2018-19:
The Hanauer seminar has begun its work for the year. Six select graduate students and I are examining human and nonhuman relations in Western Civilization from the Classics to today. What does it mean to engage the Western tradition and its core values such as equality, freedom, justice, and democracy in a broader and more global context? What is the meaning of the enlightenment in this age of radical interconnectivity where even the concept of the human is put into question?
In bi-weekly discussions of select readings seminar participants are critically examining the literature and culture of humanism on select examples drawn from the Western tradition and comparing them with contemporary articulations of human and nonhuman relations that emphasize the need to rethink human exceptionalism.
During fall quarter we read Pindar Odes, Shakespeare’s “Winter’s Tale,” and German biologist Jakob von Uexküll’s treatise on animals and their environment; we also visited a site of ecological restoration to apply our knowledge about humans and nonhumans to a field site. In winter quarter we inspected the art on display in the “Between Bodies” exhibit at the Henry Gallery, read Alfred Russell Wallace on the Orang-Utan in Borneo, Alexander von Humboldt on the nocturnal life of animals in the tropics, and Jane Bennet’s treatise on “Vibrant Matter;” we also learned about ancient squeezes, and had lunch with German philosopher Markus Gabriel. In spring we will see a Shakespeare play, read Yoko Tawada’s piece on the polar bear, visit the bug collection in the Burke Museum, visit the “Gretchen Frances Bennet” exhibit in the Frye Museum, and meet with a couple other visitors to talk about their work in relation to our topic.
Read more about the individual seminar participants and their projects below.
Project 1: Heidi Biggs: Everyday cycling practices and climate change
Heidi Biggs is a second-year graduate student studying interaction design at UW’s School of Art + Art History + Design. Her research explores and highlights the intersections of everyday cycling practices and climate change. She is currently working with Seattle’s local cycling community—in light of their inherent climate-consciousness, cultivated through daily exposure to weather and seasons—in order to create speculative, sensor-based, wearable technologies which translate climate change data into haptic feedback. These technologies, worn while riding, are designed to enable and encourage embodied reflection about the impacts of climate change in the context of cyclists’ daily cycling practices.
Project 2: Joshua Zacks: Introduction to Greek Epigraphy
Joshua Zacks is a PhD candidate in the Department of Classics. His research focuses on the performance and commissioning of ancient Greek poetry in praise of athletic victors. In particular, he examines how praise poets reference ancient art, architecture and topography in their compositions in order to glorify and memorialize their patrons.
This project aims to familiarize Seminar participants with some of the conventions of Greek Epigraphy. Hanauer Fellows will first be introduced to methodological issues in the field of inscribed objects in Greco-Roman antiquities. After a brief discussion, Seminar participants will have the opportunity to engage hands-on with individual inscriptions, and explore the issues that surround the reading, hearing, reciting, and even touching of ancient inscriptions. Hanauer Fellows will be presented with a wide range of funerary and dedicatory inscriptions, focusing (where appropriate) on some of the archaeological and topographical contexts which framed encounters with such inscriptions. Ultimately, the project will address how inscribed objects from all eras of classical antiquity appropriate a human voice for themselves and give an overview as to the ways in which funerary epitaphs frame encounters between living reader and deceased speaker.
Project 3: Robert Anderson: Rewilding
Robert Anderson is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington. I am a critical human geographer working at the intersection of political ecology and science studies to explore the cultural politics of the environment, with a particular focus on the practices of endangered-species conservation and ecological restoration. My dissertation research examines the ongoing endeavor to protect wild wolves in the Pacific Northwest. The gray wolf (Canis lupus) was nearly extinct in North America in the mid-20th century, but has made a comeback and is now found across the American west. Their range includes much of Washington state, where human-wildlife conflict has become a highly controversial political issue. As an endangered species that is framed simultaneously a dangerous predator and an emblem of wildness, the gray wolf embodies important tensions in the discourses of environmentalism, and the management of this species both poses immediate policy challenges and raises broader questions regarding human relations with the natural world. The “rewilding” of landscapes in the American west through the return of the wolf, I argue, provides an opportunity to interrogate discourses and practices of American environmentalism in the time widely described as “the Anthropocene,” examining the cultural politics that have made possible the return of the wolf even while troubling its status as an emblem of a pure, “wild” Nature.
Project 4: Vanessa Hester: Climate Change
Vanessa Hester is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Germanics, where she also works as an instructor for language classes. She is currently working on her dissertation that analyzes the presentation of nearly invisible environmental threats such as climate change or animal extinction in contemporary German literature. Vanessa grew up in Germany and came to the US in 2013 to pursue a graduate degree in American literature at the University of Idaho. After finishing graduate school in Idaho, she came to UW to research the significance of environmental literature in the German academic context. Vanessa is enthusiastic as she believes in the power of literature and fiction to inform about imminent real-world problems.
Project 5: Emily George: Deadly Storms and Warm Stones
Emily George is a PhD Candidate in English specializing in early modern drama and religion. Her dissertation focuses on representations of religious and moral conversion--inward, spiritual 'turns'--in popular English drama from 1570-1625, exploring the ways that these theatrical, imaginative depictions of transformation engage with theologies of salvation, damnation, and human agency. The plays she studies connect the experience of conversion to deadly storms and the touch of warm, living stone, reflect on the relationship between the human soul and the natural, material world, and confront the inadequacy of human actions, speech, rituals, and desires in attaining salvation.
Project 6: Alex McCauley: The Flood
Alex McCauley studies nineteenth-century literature and ecocriticism. He is writing a dissertation on drowning and population in the nineteenth-century novel. The experiment is treating the drowned as a population united not by a shared origin or characteristic, but by a shared ending. Floating this idea forwards, drowned corpses become the entry point for discussing liquefied crowds (streams of people), flooded cities, and sunken continents. Following recent scholarship, he is interested in examining the novel as a model of collapse, rather than simply as a medium of bourgeois compromise and ideological complicity. Flood becomes a means by which nineteenth-century writers imagined the transformation of political economy, not through reform or revolution but through natural catastrophe--a fitting lesson for us as we swim into Anthropocene's floods and storms.