Culture > Events > 2016 Sylvia Naish Lecture: Simone Schroder: Imagining Global Connectedness in Alexander von Humboldt’s Ansichten der Natur
Event Date: 7th Apr 2016 | 18:00
2016 Sylvia Naish Lecture: Simone Schroder: Imagining Global Connectedness in Alexander von Humboldt’s Ansichten der Natur
Room 243, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
During his 1799-1804 tropical and subtropical South American journey, the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt explored mountain peaks, pondered the origins of the river Orinoco, listened to nocturnal animals in primeval forests, and experienced awe in the face of the steppes and deserts of Venezuela. Wherever he went he recorded his impressions of the landscape, collected items, and measured and mapped foreign nature. Some of his journal entries were later turned into a long scientific report, while others enhanced Ansichten der Natur ('Views/Aspects of Nature', 1808) – a popularizing essay collection that addressed the general public. This paper seeks to bring together a genre perspective with an ecocritical reading of Humboldt’s essays. Drawing on Ursula Heise’s Sense of Place and Sense of Planet (OUP, 2008), it will argue that the aesthetics of the literary essay are pivotal to Humboldt’s ecological vision of an interconnected globe. While Heise focuses on Modernist novelistic writing, Schroder demonstrates the aesthetic potential of the essay genre, the interdiscursive function of which allows Humboldt to combine encyclopaedic facts with lively nature descriptions, micro-narratives and thought patterns that reflect a global vision.