Sponsored Working Group

Pragmatism

 

For the past several years, the Pragmatism working group has explored the background and contemporary implications of “classic” American pragmatism. Having recently considered the natural history of pragmatism in the United States with an eye to the hemispheric influences of Humboldt and Darwin in the nineteenth century, the group turned last year to the influence of pragmatism around the globe in the mid- to late-twentieth century. In 2020-2021, Steven Meyer, Washington University in St. Louis, has agreed to co-direct the working group with Brad Evans. Together, they have planned an intensive reading of the work of Alfred North Whitehead, whose extensions of the radical empiricism of William James has come to play an increasingly important role in contemporary speculative thought. The direction the seminar takes will depend, obviously, on whether or not we are on campus, but it will entail a series of sessions taking on Whitehead’s notoriously difficult mathematical logic and—especially—his philosophy of science. This exploration will build upon the group’s previous work on the philosophy of Peirce, James and Dewey, and it will open up a consideration of the pragmatist strand of more recent work in speculative philosophy by, among others, Isabelle Stengers, Brian Massumi, and Steven Shaviro. In pursuing this course, the group also looks forward to drawing on the expertise of current and former working group members. In particular, we will welcome Nick Gaskill back into the fold by way of videoconferencing. There is also the strong possibility of having other guests join us by Zoom or in person. All are warmly invited to join the working group. No previous knowledge of Pragmatism is necessary.

 

Organizers

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Rutgers English. Brad Evans is a specialist in 19th and 20th century American literature and culture and the history of anthropology. He is the author of Ephemeral Bibelots: How an International Fad Buried American Modernism (2019) Before Cultures: The Ethnographic Imagination in American Literature (2005). He also co-produced the restoration of a silent feature film that premiered in 1914, In the Land of the Head Hunters, which was directed by the photographer Edward Curtis and starred an all-indigenous cast from the Kwakwaka’wakw community of British Columbia, Canada. The film is now listed in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Each of these projects has been quite different from the other, covering a broad range of media, but they were inspired by something the anthropologist Franz Boas wrote in 1911. In a major study of American Indian languages, Boas noted that race, language and culture circulate independently and at remarkably different rates. Evans’s research has focused on historical episodes of uneven circulation—episodes that generated new thinking about the concepts of race and culture, the relation of art and anthropology, and the dynamics of artistic movements. Steven Meyer, Washington University St. Louis, English. Steven Meyer teaches English and American literature and modern intellectual history, specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry, the history of modernism, Literature and Science, and the extensive cross-disciplinary tradition that derives from psychologist and philosopher William James and Anglo-American mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He is author of Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science (Stanford UP, 2001), which, among other things, established the interdisciplinary contours of Stein’s writing by demonstrating how her training in physiological psychology at Radcliffe and turn-of-the-century neuroanatomy at Johns Hopkins profoundly influenced the subsequent development of her innovative literary practices. In addition to the primary focus on Stein, Irresistible Dictation contains chapters on Emerson, James, Whitehead and Wittgenstein. Professor Meyer also co-edited the special issue of Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology on “Whitehead Now.” More recently he has edited The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science (2018), described by one reviewer as “providing a comprehensive, consistently informative, frequently enlightening survey of what is an extremely varied and theoretically challenging interdisciplinary field” and “an invaluable resource for students and scholars working in any areas of Literature and Science studies.” 

 

Screen Shot 2020 06 16 at 4.56.39 PM Brad ESteven Meyer, Washington University St. Louis, English. Steven Meyer teaches English and American literature and modern intellectual history, specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry, the history of modernism, Literature and Science, and the extensive cross-disciplinary tradition that derives from psychologist and philosopher William James and Anglo-American mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He is author of Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science (Stanford UP, 2001), which, among other things, established the interdisciplinary contours of Stein’s writing by demonstrating how her training in physiological psychology at Radcliffe and turn-of-the-century neuroanatomy at Johns Hopkins profoundly influenced the subsequent development of her innovative literary practices. In addition to the primary focus on Stein, Irresistible Dictation contains chapters on Emerson, James, Whitehead and Wittgenstein. Professor Meyer also co-edited the special issue of Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology on “Whitehead Now.” More recently he has edited The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science (2018), described by one reviewer as “providing a comprehensive, consistently informative, frequently enlightening survey of what is an extremely varied and theoretically challenging interdisciplinary field” and “an invaluable resource for students and scholars working in any areas of Literature and Science studies.”