On Oct. 28, faculty from across the humanities will discuss Tili Boon Cuillé’s book Divining Nature: Aesthetics of Enchantment in Enlightenment France (2020). Alexander Stefaniak, head and associate professor of musicology, will moderate the discussion. Panelists will include Wolfram Schmidgen, professor of English; Rebecca Messbarger, professor of Italian; and Minsoo Kang, professor of history at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
During the Enlightenment, according to popular understanding, scientific absolutism displaced religious faith along with cultural appreciation for the marvelous and sublime. Complicating this common perception of the period, Divining Nature puts Enlightenment-era advances in the natural sciences into close conversation with rich illustrations of fine art, theatre, and literature from the same era. Cuillé, professor of French and comparative literature, explores this dichotomy and reveals that the marvelous survived the Enlightenment and was preserved through the simultaneous evolution of French cultural institutions dedicated to science, art, religion, and folklore.
“ This book explores an understudied aspect of the Enlightenment: the widely accepted notion that the natural world divulged its secrets openly and visibly,” said Pannill Camp, associate professor of drama. “ Nature’s visible features were not to be understood like illusionistic scenery at the opera that masked an underlying function, but rather as a providently designed spectacle bearing visible philosophical truths. Cuillé forces us to reassess the common belief that the 18th-century sciences were based on an opposition between rationality and enchantment.”
The roundtable will take place Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. in Hurst Lounge.