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SC Wednesday, September 6, 10 am Speaker: Elizabeth Harvey Title: “Out of One’s Mind: Dementia in Anne Carson’s Poetry”

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September 6, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Wednesday, September 6, 10 am

Speaker: Elizabeth Harvey

Title: “Out of One’s Mind: Dementia in Anne Carson’s Poetry”

ABSTRACT: Anne Carson is an internationally renowned Canadian poet. Her eccentric poetic genius has been recognized by a sweep of prestigious awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the first T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize conferred on a woman, two Griffin Poetry Prizes, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Although readers acknowledge her brilliance, Carson can be a difficult, sometimes inaccessible poet. Trained with a PhD in classics, she taught ancient Greek for a living (at McGill University, Princeton University, and the University of Michigan) before starting a career in mid-life as one of the most successful poets currently writing. She has published over twenty books of poetry, essays, and translations of Greek and Latin works. She continually creates new forms and genres that are dense with classical references and punctuated with her characteristic mischievous, deadpan humor. Her defiance of conventions prompted Michael Ondaatje to call her “the most exciting poet writing in English today.” She is radically, often contentiously, redefining the nature of poetry, language, and memory through her self-reflexive attention to reading and the operations of the human mind.

Her work inspires a central question: how do we know the unexplored reaches of our own minds? This query lies at the heart of my engagement with Anne Carson’s poetic works. Her writings are crowded with many figures who live on the margins of our customary forms of consciousness: they are the visionaries, prophets, sleepers, the insane, melancholy, and demented. Depictions of dementia, from the Latin, “out of one’s mind,” recur with special poignance among these anomalous figures. Carson’s father is one of the demented figures who appears repetitively in her writing. He died of Alzheimer’s disease, and she thus knows with tragic awareness what it is like to live with, and to lose someone, to dementia. Her capacity to translate her father’s progressive deterioration into poetic fragments provides remarkable perception into that process of loss. She describes him in his decline as becoming “an x-ray of himself.” His disease, in other words, illuminated the unseen workings of his mind in much the way that radiographic technology produces an image of the body’s interior. Carson uses her poetic technique to make portraits of her father’s mental disintegration. She recorded her own recollections as his memory ebbed, a way perhaps to preserve what he was losing. Two works are especially pertinent to my discussion of these portrayals: Anthropology of Water and Uncle Falling. This presentation explores Carson’s intertwining of her father’s decline with classical myth, a pairing that provides a haunting cultural matrix for her exploration of the human mind, death, and mourning.

Bio: Elizabeth D. Harvey is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Toronto and a psychoanalyst in private practice. She is the author of Ventriloquized Voices: Feminist Theory and Renaissance Texts, editor of Sensible Flesh: On Touch in Early Modern Culture, has co-edited several collections of essays, and has published many essays on early modern literature, the phenomenology of the body, the senses, the emotions, and psychoanalysis. She has just finished a book (with Timothy M. Harrison) on early modern literature, science, and medicine, John Donne’s Physics, which is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. She is completing a book on reading and thinking in the writings of Anne Carson.

The link to register is https://forms.office.com/r/1Lzbkz2nEd

The deadline to register is the Monday before the event at noon. The Zoom link will be sent to registrants only.


September 6, 2023
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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