Epigenetic Poetics

Please join our next webinar to discuss epigenetic poetics. Dr. Lara Choksey will speak about “Epigenetics’ vague poetics”, examining writing by Georges Canguilhem and Albert Camus. Her respondent will be Prof. Susan M. Squier.

BioCriticism – 9th June 2023 – 2 pm CET

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81456501056?pwd=bW1pY0oyWE9mdEFJN0FzWHROSEYrQT09

Meeting ID: 814 5650 1056
Passcode: 980878

Lara Choksey: “Epigenetics’ Vague Poetics”

Abstract: An epigenetic puzzle tends to emerge in attempts to be precise about why, where, how, and to whom the environment matters in human development, and what kinds of shock produce epigenetic effects. What is “the environment” in epigenetics? How to calculate influences that alter, affect, and surround the genome? What counts as a shock to the system, and is it possible to know, with certainty, that these shocks are unanticipated? Jenny Reardon has suggested that in approaching these questions, “poetics may matter more than principles.” This paper considers the atmospheres of war that have shaped contemporary versions of what is loosely and variously called “the postgenomic”, focusing on Georges Canguilhem’s writing on the boundary between normal and pathological between 1943 and 1963, and Albert Camus’s La peste (1947). In these texts, responding to catastrophic circumstances produces a vague poetics of atmosphere, shifting the traditional opposition between organism and environment to decision-making and milieu-making.

Dr Lara Choksey is Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures at University College London, where she is also Associate Faculty in the UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation. She researches the interplay of science, technology, critical race and postcolonial studies, and sociological realism in literature. She has published articles and chapters on epidemiological plots and national syndromes, on precision medicine and poetry, and on colonialism and climate change in speculative fiction. Her monograph, Narrative in the Age of the Genome (Bloomsbury 2021), considers measures of the human in genomic narratives.

Prof Susan M. Squier is Brill Professor Emerita of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English at Pennsylvania State University. She is the co-author of Graphic Medicine Manifesto (2015) and of PathoGraphics: Narrative, Aesthetic, Contention, Community (Penn State University Press, 2020), and the author (among other works) of Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawing as Metaphor (2017), Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet (2011), Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontier of Biomedicine (2004), and Babies in Bottles: Twentieth-Century Visions of Reproductive Technology (1994). Squier is Emeritus Board Member of the Graphic Medicine International Collective, whose mission is to guide and support the uses of comics in health, and co-editor of the Graphic Medicine book series at Penn State University Press.

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