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Environmental Humanities Research Workshop Lecture: Kellie Robertson, “Reading the Moon’s Spots: A Genealogy of Lunar Humanities”
October 18, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Lecture: Kellie Robertson (University of Maryland, College Park, English): “Reading the Moon’s Spots: A Genealogy of Lunar Humanities”
Kellie Robertson writes about medieval literature and culture; her research and teaching are premised on the idea that a return to this earlier intellectual history can help us to better understand our own modern desires and philosophical commitments.
Her most recent book, Nature Speaks: Medieval Literature and Aristotelian Philosophy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) examines late medieval poetry in the context of its physics, arguing that both domains struggled over how to represent nature in the wake of Aristotelian science. Whether or not nature can speak in an autonomous voice is a problem with which modern environmental politics still struggles, and Robertson’s book argues that there is value in returning to medieval models of how the human was understood in relation to the rest of the nonhuman world.
Her current book project, Yesterday’s Weather: Narrative and Premodern Climate Change, looks at how medieval and early modern societies depict the shock of the natural disaster. While the weather is notoriously changeable, human responses to it reveal some surprising consistencies across time, as each era struggles to respond to the durable dilemma of being subject to forces beyond human control. The stories we tell about weather, both then and now, are almost always stories about our own modernity, but it is a modernity experienced as somehow precarious. Looking back at how premoderns wrote about the weather helps us to understand better the stories that we tell ourselves about climate change today.
She is also the author of The Laborer’s Two Bodies: Labor and the ‘Work’ of the Text in Medieval Britain, 1350-1500, a book that explores textual and material responses to the first national labor laws. These laws—designed to mitigate the effects of the unprecedented labor shortages following the appearance of the Black Plague—forced writers of all kinds to ask what constituted “true labor,” a question that became nearly unavoidable once work became the object of emphatic legal regulation. She is the editor (with Michael Uebel) of a collection of essays entitled The Middle Ages at Work: Practicing Labor in Late Medieval England.
Her research has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center.
At the University of Maryland, she currently serves as the Director of Graduate Studies for the English Department.