DFG Research Training Group Globalization and Literature. Representations, Transformations,  Interventions

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Patrick Geiger

Patrick Geiger, M.A.

The Fluid Subject: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Global Awareness


Dissertation Abstract

My dissertation project suggests that Thoreau's texts provide a solid basis for the investigation of the genesis of forms of subjectivity which can be conceived of as reacting to global dynamics. These forms of subjectivity emerge from philosophical-practical repositionings. Their textual und imaginative strategies are to be interpreted as reactions to a specific awareness of global interrelations and the self's location therein.
Thoreau's perception of a "restless, nervous, bustling, trivial nineteenth century" with its momentum-gaining globalization, economic acceleration, social transformations as well as cultural and intellectual-historical reshaping force him to perform a radical revision of the primarily 'Western' concept of subjectivity. Thoreau, imagining and writing Walden, exerts a rigorous philosophical doctrine which can be recognized as the attempt to create a 'fluid subject' on the basis of new parameters in which the problematic contradiction between the contemporary experience of expansion and the awareness of the limitations and constraints of human existence are to be integrated. While the perspective of the experiencing self stretches into the infinite, the palpable and direct circumstances of life present themselves as unavoidable impediments. Thoreau reacts to these circumstances with extravagant re-evaluations of the correlations between subjectivity and objectivity, nature and culture, person and society, locality and globality, urbanity and rurality, utopia and reality, as well as aesthetics and politics, while integrating these new globalized parameters.
Thoreau's awareness emanates from this practice located between differentiation, tradition, founding anew and contingency, a practice which eagerly integrates a wide variety of influences from very diverse backgrounds. The critical examination of the self and the quest for the reality of nature in the microcosm "Walden Pond" are an attempt to meet the ever-growing knowable world and its global interrelations with new and appropriate modifications of subjectivity. Ultimately, my research project will (1) theoretically determine this specific subjectivity, (2) examine Thoreau's poetics of fluidity in light of their historicity (also looking at other contemporary texts and recent theory) and (3) illuminate these poetics in regards to concepts such as 'contemplation and configuration of globalization'.

Short CV

Since 2016 PhD Candidate at the Research Training Group

Since 2015 Collaborator at the Archive of Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

2015: M.A. in Philosophy, LMU Munich

2014: M.A. in Comparative Literature, LMU Munich

2012: B.A. in Comparative Literature, LMU Munich