Guest lecture on the "nonhuman turn" at HCAS

The Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies will host a guest lecture by Professor Marco Caracciolo on “Facing the Nonhuman Through Form and Narrative” on October 8th at 4pm.

The talk focuses on Richard Powers’s novel The Overstory (2018), whose branching structure recreates the interdependency between humans and plants. Caracciolo argues that a renewed interest in narrative form can greatly benefit contemporary discussions on human-nonhuman interrelation in literature.

The lecture also launches the work of the Helsinki team of the Academy of Finland Consortium “Instrumental Narratives”. After the lecture there will be a short panel discussion by members of the consortium on topics raised by Prof. Caracciolo’s lecture. The panel is moderated by HCAS alumna Merja Polvinen, the PI of the Helsinki branch of the consortium, and the participants include, in addition to Marco Caracciolo, Kaisa KortekallioBo PetterssonHanna-Riikka Roine (HCAS) and Jouni Teittinen. Following the discussion, we will raise a glass to celebrate Prof. Caracciolo’s visit and the launch of the Finnish Academy research consortium in Helsinki. 

Abstract for the guest lecture “Facing the Nonhuman Through Form and Narrative” by Marco Caracciolo: 

The “nonhuman turn” is Richard Grusin’s term for work that, in various subfields of the humanities and social sciences, challenges the boundary between human culture and the biological, climatological, and geological realities of our planet. The nonhuman has had a significant impact on literary scholarship as well, particularly in areas such as ecocriticism and the study of literature and science. This talk argues that a renewed interest in form, and narrative form more specifically, can greatly benefit contemporary discussions on human-nonhuman interrelation in literature. Conceptualizing form as a pattern that is simultaneously textual and affective, Caracciolo will explore how literature can encapsulate—through the formal means of storytelling—what David Abram calls the “ever-shifting patterns” of the nonhuman world. More concretely, the talk will focus on the novel The Overstory (2018) by Richard Powers.  

Marco Caracciolo is an Assistant Professor of English and Literary Theory at the University of Ghent, where he coordinates the ERC Starting Grant project “Narrating the Mesh” (NARMESH). He received a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Bologna in 2012, and before Ghent, he has held fellowships in Hamburg, Groningen, and Freiburg, and has been a “Project Narrative” visiting scholar at Ohio State University. His work focuses on the phenomenology of narrative and second-generation cognitive approaches to literature, as well as the relationship between narrative and scientific models, particularly models that challenge the human-scale world of bodily experience. His major publications include The Experientiality of Narrative: An Enactivist Approach (2014); and Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction: Explorations in Readers’ Engagement with Characters (2016). For more information, see Caracciolo's profile on the Ghent University website.

Marco Caracciolo’s visit to Helsinki is funded by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki. 

The event is free and open to all, check out the University of Helsinki events calendar here.



HCAS Project Planner Kaisa Kaakinen, 0294122493

Guest lecture to launch Academy of Finland research consortium “Instrumental Narratives"

The Academy of Finland research consortium “Instrumental Narratives” (iNARR 2018-2022) is a collaborative project between the Universities of Tampere, Turku and Helsinki. The project develops ideas and analytical instruments that will equip researchers, professional groups and non-academic audiences to navigate today’s social and textual environments that are dominated by storytelling. The Helsinki team is led by Dr Merja Polvinen, who works as a Senior Lecturer in English Philology and Docent in Comparative Literature at the University of Helsinki. She is a former Core Fellow of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies.

Exploring the Limits of Narrative

The Helsinki Team of the consortium focuses on the challenges narratives face when they tackle the dynamic between an individual and complex global phenomena. Their analyses will reveal the techniques and dynamics that speculative narratives use to represent the unrepresentable, whether that is a non-human environment or a human experience of such an environment. Based on those analyses, the team works towards a theoretical frame for how such speculative techniques push against the limits of narrativity, and how speculative narratives can be used to expand our understanding of the relationship between human beings and our experiential, social, and media environments.  

The team understands narrative as a practice that influences how individuals frame and perceive the reality around them. Thus they want to understand how narratives can change readers’ cognitive and embodied practices, such as engaging with their environments, with each other, and with works of art such as the narrative itself. Their hypothesis is that narrative does have a particular power to influence its audience; however, different forms of narrative – for example, speculative narratives – utilize that power in different ways.