2012 Swedenborg Scholar-in-Residence Lecture Series

URBANA, Ohio (March 5, 2012) – The public is invited to two presentations by the 2012 Swedenborg Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Devin Zuber. On Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the Sara Landess room in the Urbana University Student Center, Dr. Zuber will present a lecture entitled, “ Hieroglyphs Written with Sunbeams: John Muir, William Keith, and Swedenborgian Ecology.”

While many people know about the significance of John Muir and his iconic battle to preserve the Yosemite wilderness, few recall how Muir's Sierra Club—that seminal forerunner of modern-day environmentalism--began in the art studio of William Keith, a Swedenborgian landscape painter. This talk excavates the hidden presence of Swedenborgian thought behind the history of American environmentalism, from Johnny Appleseed's early proto-conservation on the Ohio frontier to the circle of Swedenborgian artists and writers in the background of the Sierra Club at the close of the 19th century. Muir's tendency to view nature as a sacred script -- "hieroglyphs written with sunbeams," as he ecstatically wrote about the Sierra Nevada mountains—will be situated in relation to Swedenborgian concepts of "correspondence" that were part of the aesthetic vocabularies of Muir's Swedenborgian friends. Exploring these ideas and how they enabled Muir to transform mountains into "glorious cathedrals," in his words, can help us better understand the ways we continue to locate spirituality and authenticity in experiences of the wild.

Zuber will continue this topic in a presentation entitled, "Swedenborg, Ecology, and 18th Century Natural Philosophy" for a Brown Bag Luncheon Program on Wednesday, March 28 from 12:00 to 12:50 p.m. in the Moore Conference room, lower level of the Student Center. Attendees may bring a lunch or purchase items at the Student Center White Family Grill.

Dr. Devin Zuber is an assistant professor for American Studies, Literature, and Swedenborgian Studies at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California, where he serves as a faculty member for the PhD Program in Art and Religion. Dr. Zuber received his PhD from the City University of New York (CUNY), where he was awarded the alumni and faculty award for most distinguished dissertation in 2009-2010. Before coming to Berkeley, Zuber was the in-residence Eccles fellow for American Studies at the British Library in London, and taught for three years as an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Osnabrueck in northern Germany. His scholarship has appeared in American Quarterly, Religion and the Arts, and Variations. He is presently completing a book on American environmental aesthetics, as well as a chapbook that features an interview with the performance artist Marina Abramovic. He has held fellowships at the Glencairn Museum of World Religions and the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and presently serves on the board of directors for CARE, the Center for Arts, Religion, and Education at the GTU.

His areas of research include, Transatlantic Romanticism; American Transcendentalism (particularly Emerson, Thoreau); ecocriticism and environmental studies; theories of religion and literature / religion and the arts; and American fiction writing (esp. contemporary Native American fiction).

Zuber has been a lecturer at numerous conferences and universities throughout the United States and Europe. Most recently, he was invited to speak at the 625th anniversary conference at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

The Swedenborg Scholar-in-Residence at Urbana University is made possible by funding from the General Convention of the Swedenborgian Church. For more information, call 937-484-1318.

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