ASTRA Lecutre Series presents Don Bruce - Astronomy and Literature in the 19th Century
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
ASTRA Lecutre Series presents Don Bruce - Astronomy and Literature in the 19th Century: Good News and Bad News from the Stars
One of the defining tensions in the nineteenth century was the conflict between order and disorder: though no an uncommon tension during other historical times, the particular form that it took in the nineteenth century had to do with both socio-political developments and scientific discoveries.
Significant advances in science and technology preetrated into everyday life, and the social sciences were born in an attempt to understand the motivations, mechanisms, forces at work in society: in particular, its sources of 'social energy'. Energy was a key metaphor of the 19th centure, and literature, as well as other forms of representation, engaged in its analysis.
Order and disorder manifested themselves in relation to astronomy in at least two ways: one major articulation was in terms of the application of the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) on a grand scale: heat death was our insescapable end. This was also related to the 19 c. notion of degeneracy. Another articulation however was in terms of the possibility of discovering new civilizations ('possible worlds'), of seeing ourselves in relation to something greater than ourselves which did not necessarily have a religious source, and of going beyond our mortal coil by means of a new, 'cosmic' spirituality.
This presentation will explore the tendancies in 19th century French literature, with forays into the surrounding cultural scene in Europe.
Donald Bruce received his PhD in French Studies from the University of Toronto in 1987. Most of the first part of his career however was spent at the University of Alberta as a professor of French, and as Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies. He moved to the University of Guelph in 2006 to become Dean of Arts. His main areas of reasearch and teaching are Nineteenth Century French Literature, especially what the French call épistémocritique: the interrelationship between different forms of knowledge, and their representation.
Tuesday, March 15
12:00 noon - 1:15 pm