Nathan Hensley (Georgetown) colloquium -- " 'The mystery of the cruelty of things': Sovereignty and Form circa 1866"
Nathan Hensley colloquium, in conjunction with Institute for the Humanities “Empire and Modernity” working group.
In this talk, Professor Hensley will unpack the argument of his recent book, Forms of Empire: The Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty (Oxford 2016), showing how the modern state's anguished relationship to violence pushed writers to expand the capacities of literary form. Drawing on two test cases -- the Jamaica insurrection of 1865 and A.C. Swinburne's Poems and Ballads, of 1866-- Hensley will show how literary technologies like the lyric poem, the dramatic monologue, and the heroic couplet helped Swinburne comprehend what John Stuart Mill and other commentators on the Governor Eyre controversy could not, namely the obscene violence at the heart of order: "the mystery of the cruelty of things." The talk concludes by reflecting on its own comparative or paratactic method, disclosing how our own habits of historical analysis bear the imprint, still, of the nineteenth century's turbulent engagement with modernity's intractable harm.
This event will be held at Institute for the Humanities, Lower Level, Stevenson Hall, 701 South Morgan.