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Annual Invitational Lecture: Verity Platt, “The Sentient Sponge: Between Natural History, Art History, and Philosophy”

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 at 5:00pm to 6:30pm

A.D. White House, Guerlac Room 121 President's Drive Ithaca NY 14853

The Annual Invitational Lecture of the Society for the Humanities is designed to give a Cornell audience a chance to hear one of our distinguished Cornell humanities faculty members who may frequently speak at other universities, but whom we seldom have the privilege of hearing. This year's Society Invitational Lecture will be delivered by Verity Platt (Professor in the Departments of Classics and History of Art & Visual Studies, College of Arts & Sciences). 

“The Sentient Sponge: Between Natural History, Art History, and Philosophy”

Exploring how physical artifacts played an active role in the ancient production of knowledge, this lecture focuses on a rather unexpected object that was ascribed epistemic value in antiquity: the humble sponge. As naturally-formed products of the deep, sea sponges helped thinkers across a wide variety of literary genres and philosophical positions to formulate relations between matter and mind, perception and knowledge, and reality and representation. In the history of art (and especially in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History), the sponge was even hailed as a co-creator of images that transcended Platonic ontologies of representation to attain a form of visual “truth”, offering an ecology of ancient art that speaks to contemporary sensitivities to object-oriented and nonhuman modes of becoming.

Verity Platt is Professor of Classics and History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell, where she is also affiliated with CIAMS, Environment and Sustainability, Media Studies, and Religious Studies. She is the author of Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature, and Religion (2011) and co-editor of several volumes on the history and historiography of classical art, including The Frame in Classical Culture (2017) and The Embodied Object in Classical Antiquity (2018). She is currently completing a monograph entitled Epistemic Objects: Making and Mediating Classical Art and Text for the Oxford University Press series, "Classics in Theory”. She is also co-curator (with Annetta Alexandridis) of the Cornell Cast Collection, and (together with Andrew Weislogel) curated the current Johnson Museum exhibition “Wonder and Wakefulness: The Nature of Pliny the Elder".

Registration not required. Free and open to the public. Recpetion to follow the lecture. 

Christine Elfman
Fossil, Glass Sponge (2022)
Faded lichen dye on paper (anthotype)
20x16 inches
Courtesy of the artist and EUQINOM Gallery

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