Skip to Content

The Atmospheres of Nuance

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Jeffrey Peters

Co-Organizer: Katharina Piechocki

Contact the Seminar Organizers

We are today often told that ours is a media landscape of rigid binarisms, of Manichean oppositions, of entrenched, increasingly violent confrontations. What better time than now to ask questions about the power of nuance to unsettle the philosophical presuppositions by which we make sense – or nonsense – of the world? Derived from the Old French nuer (itself handed down from the Latin nubes, or cloud), which signified blending colors in tapestry weaving, and which is analogous as well to the Italian sfumatura, or the gradual shading of hues in painting, nuance is a blurring force. Like the shifting atmospheric events that mediate between the earth and the heavens, and which the Ancients called meteora, the cloudiness of nuance confuses boundaries and is therefore often thought to be suspect, the product of speculation, of imperfect mixtures, of shadowy fictions. 

But to what extent does a poetics of nuance, precisely by dissolving the familiar categorical distinctions, inform the various nonhumanisms and flat ontologies – speculative realism, actor network theory, object studies, new materialisms – that seem all the more urgent at this moment of ecological crisis? How does it bring the divided regions whose boundaries it blurs into communication? What, moreover, might our increasingly fragile atmosphere have to teach us about about the generative, creative potential of those phenomena that lack directly perceptible shape and form, but which fundamentally sustain meaning and being, such as climate, weather, space itself, and which Timothy Morton has recently called hyperobjects? How, in other words, does the ephemeral formlessness of the meteora disrupt the ends-oriented teleologies of the modern? To what extent does the always-unfinished open-endedness of nuance allow for rethinking the limits and divisions that govern our ethical, political, and ecological epistemologies? 

We seek to bring together papers from a wide range of disciplinary, theoretical, and historical perspectives that consider the conceptual resources of nuance. We are particularly interested in work that reflects on the relations between a poetics of nuance, an aesthetics of blurring, the materiality of atmospheric conditions and events, and the creation of meaning.



«Back To Seminars