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Erica Fretwell Lecture: “Towards a Craft Epistemology” (American Literature and Sciences Series)
January 26, 2021 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
“Towards a Craft Epistemology”
What makes race an elemental fact of consciousness? How does psychophysics, the “failed” science of sense experience, reframe our understanding of aesthetics? At the nexus of metaphysics, aesthetics, and empiricism, psychophysics opens up an alternate genealogy of feeling, in which the sensorium constitutes not the moral grounds of sentiment but the more phenomenological foundation of lived experience. This talk focuses on Helen Keller’s experiments in elaborating the multiple selves of tactile experience – the double consciousness that arrives immanently in what Merleau-Ponty would later call “double sensation” – and its implications for W.E.B. Du Bois’s formulation of African American “second sight.” The centrality of touch to the composition, thematic content, and conceptual contributions of Keller’s autobiographies provides the outlines of a new set of beliefs about and practices involving handicraft in the nineteenth century, at the intersection of aesthetics, empire, and epistemology.