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Romanticism conference to explore global crises, scientific breakthroughs

"Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow," Adolf Northern (1828-1876)
October 31, 2012

How do catastrophes, science and the Romantic era go together?

“While Romanticism is often associated with successful political revolutions – in America and France – social revolutions, such as the elimination of the slave trade and the emergence of women’s rights, or aesthetic revolutions in poetry and painting, the age was also one defined by global war, economic disaster and personal catastrophes for its leading proponents,” says Mark Lussier, a professor of English at Arizona State University.

“Catastrophes: The 2012 International Conference on Romanticism,” will be held at ASU from Nov. 8-11. Lussier is co-organizer of the conference, along with Ron Broglio, an ASU associate professor of English and senior sustainability scientist. The gathering will explore the important connections between the Romantic era’s darker aspects and endeavor to respond to them, with special emphasis on various scientific revolutions.

The European Romantic period, from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, is noted for revolutionary thinking about the individual’s place in the world, perceptions of nature and the role of imagination.

Among the conference activities is a free, public plenary session entitled “Romantic Sciences: Crises and Resolutions,” which will take place on Nov. 8 from 5:45-7 p.m. in the Memorial Union Turquoise Room on the Tempe campus.

Leading scholars Marilyn Gaull (The Editorial Institute at Boston University), Alan Richardson (Boston College), Ashton Nichols (Dickinson College), and ASU’s Lussier will discuss the groundbreaking work taking place during the Romantic era in a wide range of physical sciences, including astronomy, chemistry, life sciences, neuroscience, and ecology.

According to Lussier, “The emergence of what is now termed ecology, the birth of incipient theories of evolution, the articulation of ‘deep time’ in geology, or the expansion of the universe through technological innovations via more powerful telescopes . . . began a process that underwrites the modern and even contemporary views of scientific knowledge today.”

This is the second time that the International Conference on Romanticism has been held at ASU (the first was in 2006). The gathering, which attracts top scholars from across the globe, brings high visibility to the university’s achievements, including the national rankings of ASU doctoral programs. Hosting the conference at ASU provides an important opportunity for students to present their work and interact with these renowned scholars from various disciplines. An example of the fruit from such collaborations is the volume “Engaged Romanticism: Romanticism as Praxis” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), a collection of papers from the 2006 conference co-edited by Lussier and Bruce Matsunaga, a doctoral candidate in English at ASU.

Sponsors of the 2012 International Conference on Romanticism include the ASU Department of English, ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, ASU Institute for Humanities Research, and ASU School of International Letters and Cultures (all units in the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); as well as the ASU New College and its Division of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies; ASU Graduate College; ASU Project Humanities; and John Arnold, Esq.

For more information on the conference and public plenary session, please visit

Written by Heather Hoyt

Media contact:
Kristen LaRue,
Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences