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On Hubris and Imagination: Kafka, Nietzsche, and Contemporary Ecological Discourse

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Friday, February 21, 2020
10:00 am - 11:30 am
Kata Gellen

*Delayed to 10am start time because of Duke's severe weather policy

Join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its Friday morning series, tgiFHI! tgiFHI gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields. Breakfast is served at 9am.

This paper uses the writings of Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche to think through two tropes in contemporary ecological discourse: the failure of imagination and the critique of hubris. Both thinkers critique humans for failing to recognize the limits of their cognitive horizons, but neither thinks this should prevent us from trying to understand things that are beyond our powers of understanding. Together they demonstrate that confronting cognitive failure and overreach are in fact indispensable tools for dealing with a "hyperobject" like climate change (Timothy Morton), or climate phenomena that are real and present despite seeming "improbable" (Amitav Ghosh). Taking inspiration from Kafka and Nietzsche, I suggest that climate discourse should stretch our imaginative capacities and confront the necessary hubris of the endeavor.

About the presenter: Kata Gellen is Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature at Duke University

Contact: Sarah Rogers