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Future Humanities Institute Inaugural Lecture Series

Future Humanities Institute Inaugural Lecture Series

Burning Up With Rilke: Elegy, Ecology, Action

 Thursday 13 October 2022 @ 5 pm in Boole 4


Speaker: Prof. Caitríona Ní Dhúill, Department of German, SLLC / ERI

Respondent: Prof. Astrid Wingler, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences / ERI


An open discussion and wine reception will follow the lecture and response

How do we read major works of literature and art in new ways in the face of climate change, and how does the practice of attentive reading help us to navigate an increasingly uncertain future? Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies – completed a century ago, the same year in which Eliot’s The Waste Land and Joyce’s Ulysses were published – serve in this lecture as a challenge to the ‘Future Humanities’ in an era of ecological crisis. The lecture asks how we can encounter Rilke’s poems on their terms and our own, while disentangling our readings from outmoded discourses of mastery and mystery and from the industrious gatekeeping of professionalised philology. Finding ourselves at the crossroads between ecocidal destruction and necessary transformation, we can do worse than slow down, acknowledge our differences, and learn to read with more care. Rilke’s Elegies can allow us to do precisely that; what we do after we read them is up to us.