This talk considers anti-representational models of perception in eighteenth-century philosophy, aesthetics, and literature--the idea that what minds and works of art do is make the world present to us rather than represent it at a remove, and that perceiving is active contact not passive contemplation. Focusing on the loco-descriptive poetry of Dyer, Thomson, and Cowper, the aesthetic theory of Hogarth, the perceptual psychology of Berkeley and Reid, and some moments in Sterne, Professor Kramnick shows us how this anti-representational genealogy plays out in contemporary philosophy and science of mind. His interest is a dissident tradition of thought that emphasizes tactility rather than vision (or conceives of vision as a kind of touch) and values naiveté rather than skepticism.
Jonathan Kramnick is Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. His research and teaching is in eighteenth-century literature and philosophy, philosophical approaches to literature, and cognitive science and the arts. His first book—Making the English Canon: Print Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700-1770 (Cambridge, 1999)—examined the role of criticism and aesthetic theory in the creation of a national literary tradition. His second—Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson (Stanford, 2010)—considered representations of mind and material objects along with theories of action during the long eighteenth century. Building on this study, Professor Kramnick's current book project asks what distinctive knowledge the literary disciplines and literary form can contribute to discussions of such topics as perceptual consciousness, created and natural environments, and skilled engagement with the world. More information about him can be found here.
**Following the lecture there will be a reception at the home of Sandra Macpherson and Luke Wilson, 239 E. Torrence Rd. All are welcome!