ENGL 50430 Breathing Matters: Poetics and Politics of Air

The participants in this seminar will be asked to re-examine the notion of “inspiration” in its aesthetic and historical senses, revisiting age-old textual and arts practices based on tropes of channeling, as well as contemporary practices based on embodied, performative and geopoetic notions of interconnection, circulation, receptivity and transmutation—including practices that reflect and refute the denial of the innate interconnectivity of beings. We will explore the reciprocity of breathing in and out as a key to cognitive and aesthetic practices built on conscious somatic traditions, on poetics of critical voicing and unvoicing. We will delve into the workings of air as an animating element that bridges and binds individuals to both internal and external forces—controllable and uncontrollable, state-sponsored and ambient, or what we would call “natural” under anthropocene conditions. We will explore the long history of engagement with this element as it has been used to signify and enhance the circulation and interception of ambient forces, signs, and voices in literature, performance, audiovisual and electronic media, and perhaps sculptural and architectural sites. We will examine the modern and contemporary politicization of air as a commons, and will apply our research to the analysis and critique of industrial and post-industrial landscapes. The imagination of air itself becomes central to thinking about utopian or dystopian collectivities in a time of respiratory crisis.

2020-2021 Autumn