Awe and Attention Symposium

Awe and Attention is a two-day interdisciplinary symposium addressing the widely perceived loss of attention in the contemporary world. Presenters and keynote speakers will speak to the consequences—social, psychological, and ecological—of the crisis of attention, and consider possible ways to alleviate it through a renewal of awe.

Keynote Speakers

David Abram is a cultural ecologist and philosopher who lectures and teaches widely on several continents. He is the founder and creative director of The Alliance for Wild Ethics, and author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (2010), and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World (1997).

David Abram Keynote Address, Magic and the Machine: Notes on Technology and Animism in an Era of Ecological Wipe-Out: Friday 2/16, 4:30 p.m., CTIHB 101

Patrick Curry is a philosopher and ecological ethicist. He is author of numerous books including Deep Roots in a Time of Frost: Essays on Tolkien (2014), Ecological Ethics: An Introduction (2011), and Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity (1998), as well as the editor-in-chief of the on-line journal The Ecological Citizen.

Patrick Curry Keynote Address, “The Work of Wonder”: Saturday 2/17, 1:30 p.m., CTIHB 101

Plenary sessions: Friday 2/16, 9 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and Saturday 2/17, 9 a.m.-12:45 p.m., CTIHB 143 (the Jewel Box)

Admission is free.


Friday (Jewel Box, CTIHB 143)

9:00 Welcome: Scott Black

9:15 Awe and the Sublime (Scott Black, moderator)

  • Lauren Shohet, “Answering looks of sympathy and love”

  • Joe Metz, “Blind Spot: (Non) Seeing, (Non) Saying, and (Non) Sense in Adalbert Stifter’s The Mountain Forest
  • Diana Leong, “Blackness and Ecological Attunement in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God” 

10:30 Break

10:45 Reading (Lisa Swanstrom, moderator)

  • Ariana Reilly, “Driven to Distraction: Sustaining Fictions and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure
  • Robert Caserio, “Awe and Attention: Nabokov’s Version of What Is To Be Done”
  • Jane Thrailkill, “Kate Chopin, John Dewey, and the Sensuality of Small Things” 

12:00 Lunch

1:15 Attending to Climate Change (Natasha Seegert, moderator)

  • Lizzie Callaway, “Seeing What’s Right in Front of Us: Climate and Attention in The Bone Clocks
  • Adam Sobel, “Extreme Weather Events as Teachable Moments: the Adrenaline Rush of Disaster Meets the Attention Deficit Challenge of Climate Change”
  • Jeff McCarthy, “Pay Attention: Climate Change and the Limits of Awe” 

2:30 Break

2:45 Digital worlds (Kate Coles, moderator)

  • Zach Johnson, “That Thin Stratum in Which All Events Transpire” 
  • Alf Seegert, “From Narcissistic Mirror to Awe-filled Encounter: Other-Oriented Attention in Video Games”
  • Lisa Swanstrom, “Drifting Attention, Digital Art”

4:00 Break

4:30 Keynote: David Abram, “Magic and the Machine: Notes on Technology and Animism in an Era of Ecological Wipe-Out” (CTIHB 101)       

6:30 Dinner

Saturday (Jewel Box, CTIHB 143)

9:00 Welcome back: Alf Seegert

9:05 Arts of attention (Alf Seegert, moderator)

  • Kate Coles, “The Poetics of Distraction (A Defense)”
  • Maureen O’Hara Ure, “On Travel”
  • Dwight Codr, “Absentminded Object Substitution and Commercial Modernity: (In)attention in Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock
  • Matt Wickman, “Attending Closely, Seeing Double: Levertov’s Later Poetry”

10:50 Break

11:00 Environments of wonder (Lauren Shohet, moderator)

  • Gretchen Henderson, “The Art of Attention: Field Notes toward an Aesthetic Ecology”
  • Bryan Carr, “Eros and Ennui: philosophical pedagogy against the spell of disenchantment”
  • Natasha Seegert, “Where There’s a Monster, There’s a Miracle: Radioactive Boars and Earth’s Abiding”

12:15 Lunch

1:30 Keynote: Patrick Curry, “The Work of Wonder” (CTIHB 101)

2:45 Discussion between keynote presenters David Abram and Patrick Curry

4:00 End

For further information, please contact the co-hosts, Scott Black ( or Alf Seegert ( 

Last Updated: 2/13/18