Brown Bag Lecture: “Affinity and Self-Experiment: J. W. Ritter’s Galvanic Poetics”

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Date: April 16, 2013
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Carolina Malagon

Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776–1810), German electrochemist and Romantic, subjected his body to a series of brutal self-experiments in what he thought of as a heroic quest to understand the nature of galvanism and thus of chemistry and physics, and of nature itself. His work is defined by the bizarre meeting of cutting-edge findings and alchemical explanations, of sophisticated Romantic poetic devices and baroque obfuscations. The stakes are particularly high in a work published shortly before his death, The Fragments from the Estate of a Young Physicist (1810). At once scientific and literary in nature, Fragments set into motion a poetic experiment that affects not only the selfhood of the author but ultimately also of the reader. The talk will explore these implications for a Romantic understanding of the scientific self in particular and for chemistry in general.

Carolina Malagon is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of German at Princeton University. She received her master’s degree in Berlin at the Humboldt-University and her B.A. degree from Yale. Her general area of interest is the 18th century, and she is particularly interested in the mutually constitutive relationship of literature and science around that time.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

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