CCI Seminar: “Radicle’ Empiricism: Plant-Thinking in Henry David Thoreau’s Journal”, Thomas W. Howard, 12:30Noon February 21 2024 (EN)

The Program in Cultures, Civilizations, and Ideas is pleased to announce our first talk in the spring semester Colloquium Series. Dr. Thomas W. Howard will present his work entitled: “‘Radicle’ Empiricism: Plant-Thinking in Henry David Thoreau’s Journal.”

Date: Wednesday, February 21st
Time: 12:30-13:30
Location: Main Campus Library Art Gallery

Since the discovery of mycorrhizal fungal networks connecting the roots of forest trees, research has continued to uncover the communal and even cognitive processes of plant life. With terms like “plant-thinking,” “phytopoetics,” and “phytographia,” scholars working in the multidisciplinary field of literary and cultural plant studies have begun to explore how the vegetal world appears in human philosophy and literature. At the same time, nineteenth-century American literary scholars have increasingly centered the scientific practice of Henry David Thoreau, highlighting his later proto-ecological work which some call a form of “radical empiricism” because of his rejection of rigid taxonomy. I bring these two streams together by suggesting Thoreau’s “radicle empiricism,” gesturing to the plant’s taproot, or “radicle,” as a model for a more robust scientific practice that incorporates the empiricism of the plants themselves. Reading the vegetal entries of Thoreau’s Journal, I demonstrate how “radicle empiricism” attends to plants’ minor empirical perspective while also encouraging the reader to continue the root-like experimental process.

Dr. Thomas W. Howard is an assistant professor in the Bilkent CCI Program. He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Washington University in St. Louis in 2023. His research focuses on nineteenth-century American and transatlantic literature, literature and science, and environmental humanities.