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Devin Zuber - Sermons in Stones: American Environmental Thought and Swedenborgian Nature-Mysticism

Tuesday, August 7th 2012, 7:00pm

Tuesday Night Talks at Pacific School of Religion

1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

Reception 7 PM, Lecture 7:30 PM

Free and open to the public

While many know of John Muir and his iconic battle to preserve the Yosemite wilderness, few recall how Muir's Sierra Club—that seminal forerunner of modern-day environmentalism—began in the art studio of William Keith, a Swedenborgian landscape painter. This talk excavates the hidden presence of Swedenborgian thought behind the history of American environmentalism, from Johnny Appleseed's early proto-conservation on the Ohio frontier to the circle of Swedenborgian artists and writers in the background of the Sierra Club at the close of the 19th century. Muir's tendency to view nature as a sacred script — "sermons in stones," as he ecstatically wrote about the Sierra Nevada mountains—will be situated in relation to Swedenborgian concepts of "correspondence" that were part of the aesthetic vocabularies of Muir's Swedenborgian friends in Berkeley and San Francisco. Exploring these ideas can help us better understand the ways we continue to locate spirituality and authenticity in our contemporary experiences of the wild.

Devin Zuber, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of American Studies, Literature, and Swedenborgian Studies. Dr. Zuber centers his inquiries in literary aesthetics, hermeneutics, and cultural history, which includes the environment as special zone of engagement. His scholarly interests include exploring the different ways people have imagined and constructed their relationship to the environment through various practices of cultural representation. He is also a Swedenborgian specialist, and particularly interested in the legacy of Swedenborg's thought in Romanticism. His work has appeared in Religion and the Arts, American Studies, and Variations, and he is presently completing a book on Swedenborg's contribution to American environmental aesthetics. During Summer Session 2012, he is teaching Enviromentalism in American Religion and Culture.