Cosponsors
  • Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life
  • The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society
  • The Leverhulme Trust
Organizer
  • Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities
Notes
  • Image Credit/Caption: Piet Mondrian, "Broadway Boogie Woogie," 1942-1943

This is the second conference of the international research network Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts, c.1875-1960 funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The Network’s first conference, ‘Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy and the Arts in the Modern World’ held at the University of Amsterdam in 2013, mapped Theosophy’s varied influence on painting, sculpture, applied and decorative arts, music, architecture and other art forms in the period c.1875-1960. It focused on the translation of Theosophical ideas, especially those of key figures in the Theosophical Society in this period, such as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Annie Besant, into material, visual, and audible form.

Theosophy was, without question, a major source of inspiration and influence for artists in the modern age. Our second conference, to be held at Columbia University on October 9–10 (Friday-Saturday), 2015, seeks to locate that influence within its cultural contexts and to trace the textual practices and philosophical, historical, and cultural traditions that produced and sustained Theosophy. This conference also seeks to explore the wider contexts of Theosophy’s influence in the arts. How can we locate Theosophical arts within broader cultural and social histories of the period c.1875-1960? Interest in Theosophical ideas was often far more than an aesthetic inclination. For many, Theosophy was useful precisely because it gave social and political purpose to the arts. Beyond these conscious commitments, how might we go about understanding the historical specificities of Theosophical arts? For example, how might we understand these arts in relation to class, gender and race, to momentous historical events such as the First World War, to geopolitics, or to the local politics of place?

In the first place, the writings of Blavatsky, Besant and other thinkers influenced by Theosophy are worthy of attention in their own right. How should we read these texts as contributions to modern (re)enchantment? How did these writings come to influence artists and thinkers in such a wide variety of fields, and what was the nature of that influence? Secondly, we should account for the textual life of Theosophy beyond its official publications: writers of fiction and poetry were influenced by Theosophical ideas, and artistic figures of all kinds produced their own texts, such as manifestos, which extended the textual reach of Theosophical enchantment. In addition, we might ask how Theosophical ideas made the transition between elite and popular forms of writing, for example, to genres such as science fiction and fantasy, and what this might tell us about the location of esoteric thought in modern culture. Thirdly, we should note the rapidly expanding social movements influenced by Theosophical writings, such as vegetarianism and animal anti-vivisection. How did these movements shape life practices and bring about cultural transformations? Finally, we also invite reflection on the entanglement between Theosophy and the arts on the one hand and science, technology and medicine on the other. The period c.1875-1960 was one of momentous change not only in the arts, but also in the sciences: how might we trace the connections between artistic and scientific practice which formed in relation to Theosophy and related movements?

Program

October 9, 2015  Friday

8:30am - 9:00am EDT

Registration

9:00am - 9:30am EDT

Conference Welcome (Room 1501)

Gauri Viswanathan

Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities

Columbia University

9:30am - 10:30am EDT

Keynote Address I: The Theosophical Imagination (Room 1501)

Wouter Hanegraaff

Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

University of Amsterdam

Chair

Gauri Viswanathan

Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities

Columbia University

10:30am - 12:15pm EDT

Panel I: Art, Media, and Aesthetics (Room 1501)
Chair

Christopher Scheer

Associate Professor of Music

Utah State University

Respondent

Stefan Andriopoulos

Professor of Germanic Languages

Columbia University

"Claude Bragdon and the Art of Invisible Dimensions"

Christopher White

Associate Professor of American Religious History

Vassar College

"Astral Bodies: From Clairvoyant Perception to Technological Mediation"

Jeremy Stolow

Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies

Concordia University, Montreal

"'My Theory of Soul Atoms': Theosophy and Occult Mysticism in Sadakichi Hartmann's Aesthetics"

Emily Gephart

Academic Faculty

School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

12:15pm - 2:00pm EDT

Lunch break: Concert by the Fry Street Quartet (Room 1501). Food available for sale through Camille's.

2:00pm - 3:45pm EDT

Panel II: Canons and Margins (Room 1501)
Chair

Gauri Viswanathan

Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities

Columbia University

Respondent

Sarah Cole

Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Columbia University

"Henrietta Frances Lord - a Translator of Ibsen for the Theosophical Movement"

Giuliano D’Amico

Associate Professor

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

"Jessie L. Weston's Occult Anthropology: Theosophy in 'From Ritual to Romance'"

Mimi Winick

PhD Candidate in English

Rutgers University

"Unveiling Isis and Other Victorian Literary Pastimes"

Michael Gomes

Director

Emily Sellon Memorial Library in New York

3:45pm - 4:15pm EDT

Break III

4:15pm - 6:00pm EDT

Panel III: Self and Affect (Room 1512)
Chair

Rachel Cowgill

Senior Lecturer of Musicology

University of Huddersfield

Respondent

Christopher Scheer

Associate Professor of Music

Utah State University

"Practical Asceticism: On Theosophy's Astral Ethics"

J. Barton Scott

Assistant Professor of Historical Studies and the Study of Religion

University of Toronto

"'Oneness with the Infinite': Self and Symbol in D.H. Lawrence's 'The Rainbow'(1915)"

Christina Iglesias

Graduate Student in English

Columbia University

"Serialism Enchanted: The Theosophical Basis of Elisabeth Lutyens's Modernism"

Annika Forkert

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Music

University of Bristol

4:15pm - 6:00pm EDT

Panel IV: Color and Sound (Room 1501)
Chair

Carmel Raz

Lecturer in Music

Columbia University

Respondent

James Mansell

Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies

University of Nottingham

“Every Picture Tells a Story: Édouard Schuré’s 'The Great Initiates': Theosophy, Text, Context, and Influence on the Visual Arts in France”

Massimo Introvigne

Professor of Sociology of Religion

Pontifical Salesian University

“Alexander Hector’s Color Music Instruments and Unified Theories of Sonic and Visual Frequencies"

Pia van Gelder

Research Associate

University of New South Wales Australia

“Theosophical Impulses in the Work of John Varian: Mystic, Poet, Inventor, Masseur”

Paul Ivey

Professor of Art History

University of Arizona, College of Fine Arts

6:00pm - 7:15pm EDT

Reception (Foyer)

October 10, 2015  Saturday

9:00am - 9:30am EDT

Registration

9:30am - 10:30am EDT

Keynote Address II: "After Theosophy" (Room 1501)

Joy Dixon

Associate Professor of History

University of British Columbia

Chair

James Mansell

Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies

University of Nottingham

10:30am - 12:15pm EDT

Panel V: Intellectual History via Theosophy (Room 1501)
Chair

James Mansell

Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies

University of Nottingham

Respondent

Susan Pedersen

Gouverneur Morris Professor of British History

Columbia University

“Enchanting the Farm: Anthroposophy and the Origins of German Organic Agriculture”

Corinna Treitel

Associate Professor of History

Washington University in St. Louis

“Woodrow Wilson’s Great Mistake: Self-Determination and the Theosophical Concept of Peace”

Shiben Banerji

Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

"Theosophy as Cultural Translation: Mediating Hinduism"

Gauri Viswanathan

Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities

Columbia University

12:15pm - 1:30pm EDT

Lunch break: Enchanted Modernities project activities on display (Room 1501). Food available for sale through Camille's.

1:30pm - 3:15pm EDT

Panel VI: Theosophy's Transculturalism (Room 1501)
Chair

Helena Capkova

Assistant Professor of Art History

Waseda University, School of International Liberal Studies

Respondent

Wouter Hanegraaff

Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

University of Amsterdam

“The Colors of Conversion: Swedenborg, Theosophy, and Transcultural Mysticism”

Devin Zuber

Assistant Professor of American Studies, Literature, and Swedenborgian Studies

Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

“Images of Buddha and Christ in French Symbolist Art: Interpreting East and West through a Theosophical Lens”

Serena Keshavjee

Associate Professor of Art History

University of Winnipeg

“The Reception and Propagation of Theosophy in China”

Chuang Chien Hui

Specially Appointed Assistant Professor

Osaka University

1:30pm - 3:15pm EDT

Panel VII: Politics and Institutions (Room 1512)
Chair

Marco Pasi

Associate Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

University of Amsterdam

Respondent

Cóilín Parsons

Assistant Professor of English

Georgetown University

“Theosophical Individualism and the Politics of Neutrality”

Colin Duggan

Researcher and Lecturer

Univeristy College Cork, Ireland

“The International Lodge Reconsidered: The Theosophical Network and its Impact on Japanese Interbellum Modernity”

Toshio Akai

Professor of Cultural Studies

Kobe Gakuin University

“Transmutations of Theosophy in Russian and East European Literary and Philosophical-Scientific Contexts (c.1880s-1950s)”

Yuri Stoyanov

Research Associate

University of London School of Oriental and African Studies

3:15pm - 3:45pm EDT

Break II

3:45pm - 5:00pm EDT

Panel VIII: The Public Sphere (Room 1512)
Chair

Rachel Cowgill

Senior Lecturer of Musicology

University of Huddersfield

Respondent

Matthew Hart

Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature

Columbia University

“The Theosophical Gothic: Propaganda and Positive Epistemologyin H.P. Blavatsky’s 'Nightmare Tales' (1892)”

Christine Ferguson

Senior Lecturer in English

University of Glasgow

“Revivalism as ‘Beautiful Necessity’: Tracing a Transatlantic Gothic Spirit”

Ayla Lepine

Lecturer in Art History

University of Essex

“Fables of Enchantment: Spiritualism, Anarchism and the Politics of Affectionbetween Women in Spain and Latin-America”

Marta Ferrer Gómez

Graduate Student in Latin American and Iberian Cultures

Columbia University

3:45pm - 5:00pm EDT

Panel IX: Futurism, Art, and Theosophy (Room 1501)
Chair

Sarah Victoria Turner

Assistant Director for Research

Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Respondent

Marco Pasi

Associate Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

University of Amsterdam

“Kandinsky, Boccioni, and the Ether in the International Culturesof Science and Theosophy”

Linda D. Henderson

David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History

University of Texas at Austin

“A Theosophical Portrait of Ruzena Zatkova, Futurist”

Fae Brauer

Research Professor for Visual Art Theory, School of Cultural Studies and Creative Industries

University of East London

“Evolving Androgynous Astrobodies: Hélène Dufau's Occult Transformism”

5:00pm - 6:00pm EDT

Roundtable Discussion - Enchanted Modernities Project Team (room 1501)
Chair

Gauri Viswanathan

Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities

Columbia University

Chair

James Mansell

Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies

University of Nottingham

Helena Capkova

Assistant Professor of Art History

Waseda University, School of International Liberal Studies

Rachel Cowgill

Senior Lecturer of Musicology

University of Huddersfield

Marco Pasi

Associate Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

University of Amsterdam

Christopher Scheer

Associate Professor of Music

Utah State University

Sarah Victoria Turner

Assistant Director for Research

Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Participants
  • Toshio Akai Professor of Cultural Studies Kobe Gakuin University
  • Stefan Andriopoulos Professor of Germanic Languages Columbia University
  • Shiben Banerji Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Fae Brauer Research Professor for Visual Art Theory, School of Cultural Studies and Creative Industries University of East London
  • Helena Capkova Assistant Professor of Art History Waseda University, School of International Liberal Studies
  • Sarah Cole Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Rachel Cowgill Senior Lecturer of Musicology University of Huddersfield
  • Giuliano D’Amico Associate Professor Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Joy Dixon Associate Professor of History University of British Columbia
  • Colin Duggan Researcher and Lecturer University College Cork, Ireland
  • Christine Ferguson Senior Lecturer in English University of Glasgow
  • Annika Forkert Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Music University of Bristol
  • Pia van Gelder Research Associate University of New South Wales Australia
  • Emily Gephart Academic Faculty School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Michael Gomes Director Emily Sellon Memorial Library in New York
  • Marta Ferrer Gómez Graduate Student in Latin American and Iberian Cultures Columbia University
  • Wouter Hanegraaff Professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents
  • Matthew Hart Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Linda D. Henderson David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History University of Texas at Austin
  • Chuang Chien Hui Specially Appointed Assistant Professor Osaka University
  • Christina Iglesias Graduate Student in English Columbia University
  • Massimo Introvigne Professor of Sociology of Religion Pontifical Salesian University
  • Paul Ivey Professor of Art History University of Arizona, College of Fine Arts
  • Serena Keshavjee Associate Professor of Art History University of Winnipeg
  • Ayla Lepine Lecturer in Art History University of Essex
  • James Mansell Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies University of Nottingham
  • Cóilín Parsons Assistant Professor of English Georgetown University
  • Marco Pasi Associate Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents University of Amsterdam
  • Susan Pedersen Gouverneur Morris Professor of British History Columbia University
  • Carmel Raz Lecturer in Music Columbia University
  • Christopher Scheer Associate Professor of Music Utah State University
  • J. Barton Scott Assistant Professor of Historical Studies and the Study of Religion University of Toronto
  • Jeremy Stolow Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies Concordia University, Montreal
  • Yuri Stoyanov Research Associate University of London School of Oriental and African Studies
  • Corinna Treitel Associate Professor of History Washington University in St. Louis
  • Sarah Victoria Turner Assistant Director for Research Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
  • Gauri Viswanathan Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities Columbia University
  • Mimi Winick PhD Candidate in English Rutgers University
  • Christopher White Associate Professor of American Religious History Vassar College
  • Devin Zuber Assistant Professor of American Studies, Literature, and Swedenborgian Studies Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley