October 17th @ 6pm at Daniel Family Commons
This talk explores the medial and communicative conditions of the (German) Enlightenment creation of the modern observing self, broadly defined as a self that encounters the world both rationally and sensually and has to account for the validity of its cognition without recourse to something outside itself. It contends that lyric poetry is at the forefront of attempts to practice and theorize this human world encounter. In an investigation spanning roughly the first half of the eighteenth century, it explores the connection between poetic speech and philosophical attempts to understand and evaluate processes of cognition as well as the incorporation of an observing self into a larger social whole. In particular, it shows how an increasing use of poetic mediality profoundly shapes what humans can pay attention to, and how they can account for the accuracy of an observation that can never be observed in the moment of cognition.