Charlotte M. Craig Distinguished Visiting Professor
The Languages of Botany: Revisiting the Book of Nature with Freud and Benjamin
While scholars have long characterized modern botany as a fusion of scientific, economic, and colonial interests, it has rarely been recognized that the study of plants has always been a study of language. This lecture shows how twentieth-century theorists of politics and culture drew on the signifying and representational paradigms of botanical discourses. The goal is to offer a new account of what it means to read the natural world.
Jan Mieszkowski is the Reginald F. Arragon Professor of German and Humanities at Reed College. A specialist in modern European literature and philosophy, he has pursued comparative and interdisciplinary studies of a broad range of topics in post-Enlightenment thought with a particular focus on aesthetics and politics. Jan’s first book, Labors of Imagination (Fordham, 2006), offered a new account of the relationship between Romanticism and classical political economy by showing how both traditions embraced production as a model of intellectual and material praxis. In Watching War (Stanford, 2012), he argued that the Romantic era saw a profound shift in political culture as warfare came to be understood as a mass spectacle. In Crises of the Sentence (Chicago, 2019), he proposed that the concept of the sentence has played a crucial but largely unacknowledged role in literary discourses. Jan is currently completing a monograph about the poetics of botany.