CANCELLED HRC Seminar: Atmospheric



We speak, perhaps more often than we realize, of the “atmosphere” of an artwork. Unlike “sfumato,” “tierce de Picardie,” or “free indirect discourse,” atmosphere is not a technical term of analysis. We might call it an example of vernacular aesthetics, useful because vague. But that vagueness may be charged in ways that reward inspection.
I am writing a book about why Edgar Allan Poe was so promiscuously remediated, adapted, and remade in arts and media not his own. More exactly, I am investigating what the case of Poe can tell us about the fate of literature in a post-literature world. The study requires finding in-between concepts that escape capture by any given media, artistic form, or interpretive discipline. “Atmospheric” is such an in-between concept.
Using Poe’s famous tale “The Fall of the House of Usher” as touchstone text, I will look at how certain artists—in music, Claude Debussy and Philip Glass; in film, Jean Epstein—engage atmosphere as both a theme drawn from Poe’s tale and an animating concern in their own work.


Prof Jonathan Elmer is is Director of the College Arts and Humanities Institute at Indiana University, in the U.S. where he is also Professor of English. Between 2015 and 2017 he was the Artistic Director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the largest and longest-running festival of arts and ideas in the United States. He is author of two books and forty articles, on topics ranging from race and sovereignty in the Atlantic world to Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory, public humanities in the age of “creatives,” and the prehistory of the cocktail. He has played trombone for fifty years, and has performed music in France, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the US.

Date & time

Tue 17 Mar 2020, 4.30–5.45pm


Theatrette (2.02), Sir Roland Wilson Building, 120 McCoy Circuit, ANU


Professor Jonathan Elmer, Indiana University

Event series


Prof Will Christie


Updated:  16 March 2020/Responsible Officer:  Head, Centre/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications