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A Poetics of Nature: Religious Naturalism, Multiplicities, and Affinities

Title of Lecture: A Poetics of Nature: Religious Naturalism, Multiplicities, and Affinities

Abstract: I introduce an ecological aesthetic (or a poetics of nature), grounded in the tenets of religious naturalism. As a capacious, ecological religious worldview, religious naturalism reframes humans as natural processes in relationship with other forms of nature. It also features a materialist, relational ontology, encouraging humans’ processes of transformative engagement with each other and with the more-than-human worlds that constitute our existence. Seeking to establish this poetics of nature as a basic orientation in/of American life, I locate its lived truths in the poetic, philosophic, and literary expressions of such iconic figures as Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, and Anna Julia Cooper. Inspired by their aesthetic-ethical visions found in select works, I sketch the contours of a poetics of nature that re-inscripts the human as part of life’s complex web of cultural and cosmic meanings; this poetics also re-arranges established, influential positionalities and accentuates new emphases in myriad nature’s enunciations, desires, dreams, and possibilities. This poetics challenges us to consider new, creative ways of conceptualizing human agency, understanding human-nature relations, and responding aesthetically-ethically to the challenges of anthropogenic climate change.

Bio Sketch: Carol Wayne White is Presidential Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Bucknell University, specializing in Poststructuralist Philosophies, Process Philosophy and Theism, Religious Naturalism, Science and Religion, and Critical Theory and Religion. Her books include Poststructuralism, Feminism, and Religion: Triangulating Positions (2002), The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631-70): Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism (2009), and Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism (2016), which won a Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Titles. White has published numerous essays in philosophy of religion and on religious naturalism; her work in philosophy and critical religious thought has also appeared in Zygon: The Journal of Religion and Science, The American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Philosophia Africana, and Religion & Public Life. White has received international awards and national fellowships, including an Oxford University Fellowship in Religion and Science, a Science and Religion Grant from The John Templeton Foundation, and a NEH Fellowship. She is currently finishing a book manuscript exploring a trajectory of modernist racial discourse that intimately conjoined white supremacy and speciesism in promoting views of black animality and doing research for a new book project that explores the insights of religious naturalism expressed in contemporary North American nature poets and writers.

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Thursday, February 29 at 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Strong Hall, Room B1
1621 West Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996

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