Seminar: Professor Tom Nurmi, “Melville’s Foams: Reading in the Margins of Environmental Literature”

December 9, 2021, 5-7 p.m.  

Environmental Humanities seminar at LARCA, Université de Paris, Zoom session.


Over the past few decades, a deeper understanding of Herman Melville’s engagement with nineteenth-century science has opened new ways of reading the many animals, plants, and minerals that appear throughout his fictions and poems. But much remains unnoticed and unthought in Melville’s ecologies. What, for example, can we say about all of the slimes, molds, and foams that creep into familiar descriptions of captains and whales? This seminar examines some of Melville’s strangest imagery: the marginal, seemingly unremarkable descriptions of the frothy, scummy conditions at the boundary between substance and vapor, life and non-life, shore and sea. Getting dirty with Melville, we are able to excavate the meaning of these oozy traces for his philosophy of literature and for their implications in our ongoing efforts to reconstruct the origin and legacies of the Anthropocene.

Tom Nurmi is Associate Professor of English Literature and Culture at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the author of Magnificent Decay: Melville and Ecology (University of Virginia Press, 2020).

Thomas Dutoit, CNRS-LARCA 2021-22/ University of Lille, will be respondent. 

The Zoom link will be available at the website for the seminar:

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