Figures of Possibility: Aesthetic Experience, Mysticism, and the Play of the Senses
In a study ranging across medieval contemplation, the invention of aesthetic experience, nineteenth-century decadent literature, and early twentieth-century essays and film, Niklaus Largier (German and Comparative Literature) shows how mystical practices have been reinvented across the centuries. Arguing for a new understanding of mystical experience, he foregrounds the ways in which devotion builds on experimental practices in order to reshape perception, cognition, and emotion.
Figures of Possibility (Stanford, 2022) illuminates the ways in which devotional practices have informed the creation of a wide range of experimental engagements in literature and art from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Read as a history of the senses and emotions, the book argues that mystical and devotional practices have long been invested in the modulation and reconfiguration of sensation, affect, and thought. Read as a book about practices of figuration, it questions ordinary protocols of interpretation in the humanities, and the priority given to a hermeneutic understanding of texts and cultural artifacts.
Largier is joined by Victoria Kahn (Comparative Literature and English). After a brief discussion, they respond to questions from the audience.