Primo Levi and Creative Chemistry

We just had the annual conference for the Society for Literature Science and the Arts in Atlanta. Haven’t heard of SLSA before? Here’s the rundown:

The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts welcomes colleagues in the sciences, engineering, technology, computer science, medicine, the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and independent scholars and artists. SLSA members share an interest in problems of science and representation, and in the cultural and social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine.

Lots of great things were happening here. There was a very popular Orphan Black panel:

And fascinating intersections of poetry, authorship, big data, object-oriented feminism, and much more. As befitting a conference held in Georgia, there were some papers given on Flannery O’Connor:

I was on the Creative Chemistry panel with Anna Dvorak and Raymond Malewitz. All of us talked about Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table. This wonderful book is a collection of stories and memoirs of Levi’s time in fascist Italy, with each thematically linked to an element of the periodic table.

Periodic table large

Anna chaired our panel and presented a great reading of Primo Levi’s book as more an alternative history of nature politics. I especially loved the way she drew out of Levi’s writings how both matter and people cannot be controlled.

Ray gave a talk based on his forthcoming article from Configurations on Levi’s implications for posthumanist science. That’s posthumanism in the sense of after humanism, not posthuman as in cybogs. And if you’re interested in close readings of Fight Club, No Country for Old Men, The Road, and MacGyver, then check out his book: The Practice of Misuse: Rugged Consumerism in Contemporary American Culture.

In my paper, I looked at how Levi’s scientific poetics suggests the capaciousness and creative mystery of the elements and how writing can be a healing act. You can take a look at it here:

SLSA16 was a great conference. I’m glad it was so close to home this year.

Next year’s conference will be in Arizona, and the theme will be on time. Check out the call for papers.

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