Hic Sunt Dracones: Deep Edges in Eliade, Tolstoy, and Atwood
By Sarah Gridley, Associate Professor of English at CWRU
Monday, October 20, 4:30pm
Clark Hall 2014

This talk will attempt to track two kinds of chaos monsters—sea serpents and snakes—through two poems, one fable, and one consecration ritual. Drawing on a term paper she wrote as a student in Timothy Beal’s RLGN 445 course, Gridley’s monster-searching will range all over the map: from the axis mundi of a foundation stone in India, to the bottom of a Russian well, to depths of the Canadian wilderness and the Underworld beneath it. Must we repeat more and more insistent forms of cosmos- and ego-building in response to depth, disorientation, and dissolution—or how might literature and religion help us meet our ‘chaos monsters’ less defensively? Gridley invites colloquium participants to join her in pursuing this question through various examples of World Literature.


Magic, Fable, and Opera: Monteverdi and the Quest for Immortality
By Vladimir Marchenkov, Professor of Aesthetics and Theory at the School of Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University
Wednesday, November 5, 6:00pm
Guilford Hall 323

A remarkable milestone in the history of the myth about Orpheus and Eurydice, Claudio Monteverdi and Alessandro Striggio’s 1607 favola in musica L’Orfeo was the product of two definitive Renaissance cultural currents: humanism and magic. Both were fuelled by fascination with ancient myth, albeit in very different keys. While humanism cultivated myth as allegory, magicians dreamed of harnessing music’s hidden powers for their own ends. L’Orfeo registered both these trends, and blended them together in a groundbreaking artistic statement, laying the foundation of both modern opera and the modern artistic Orphism. The continuing vitality of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth owes much to the modern idea of conquest of nature that culminates in triumph over death as nature’s ultimate limit to man’s omnipotence. Marchenkov will conclude his presentation with a performance of his recent composition, “To Night,” from a song cycle based on the Orphic Hymns (2nd century A.D.).


Mysticism East and West, Ancient and Modern
Wednesday, December 3,  4:30 pm
Clark Hall 206

The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., defines mysticism as “Belief in union with the divine nature by means of ecstatic contemplation, and belief in the power of spiritual access to ultimate reality, or to domains of knowledge closed off to ordinary thought. Also applied derogatorily to theories that assume occult qualities or agencies of which no empirical or rational account can be offered.”

While the concise, two-part definition in the ODP2 offers the general reader a working definition, nevertheless it points to a bifurcated understanding of the term. On the one hand, mysticism emerges as a way in which humankind and God might unite, perhaps to transcend unimportant, mundane concerns and enjoy cosmic consciousness; but on the other hand, one is warned that mysticism might be an irrational construct connected with magic and groundless belief in the supernatural.

The semester’s final meeting of the World Literature Colloquium will examine in a roundtable setting the topic of mysticism. Participants will consider the meaning of the term “mysticism” in both Western and Eastern literature and civilization along with several major figures and their writings as they relate to mysticism. Participants include (in alphabetical order) Florin Berindeanu (Classics and World Literature), Takao Hagiwara (Modern Languages), Denna Iammarino (SAGES/English), and Timothy Wutrich (Classics).


Viewpoint Blends
By Mark Turner, Institute Professor of Cognitive Science at CWRU
Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 5:00pm
Clark Hall 206

A participant in any scene of communication is embodied, and so has a viewpoint. An individual person is in a particular spot, in a particular time, with a particular perceptual focus and attention. If I say, “I can help you now by looking here,” what I have said is unintelligible unless you understand something about my viewpoint, and accordingly what I might mean by “I,” “you,” “now,” and “here,” words that could mean many different things in different situations, depending on the viewpoint of the person who says them. All languages have many expressions for expressing viewpoint, but they also have plenty of expressions for expressing blends of viewpoint. “I will come to your party” takes the “I” from the viewpoint of the speaker but the “come” from the viewpoint of the addressee. Literary texts frequently use pyrotechnic constructions of blended viewpoint. This talk will present types of blended viewpoint in language, literature, and media.