Event Detail

Sermons in Stones: John Muir, Swedenborg, and Environmental Imagination


Sermons in Stones: John Muir, Swedenborg, and Environmental Imagination

November 2, 2021
6:00 7:30 pm

Prof. Dr. Devin Zuber
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

This talk traces some of the religious roots of American environmental imagination in the work of the conservationist John Muir, and others in the early Sierra Club - arguably the first bona-fide national environmental organization in the United States. While Muir's nature spirituality has been examined via his Transcendentalist inheritance (Thoreau, Emerson), and is often correlated to Zen Buddhism, little attention has been given to the significance of Muir's encounter with ideas he found in the 18th-century European mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg. Paying attention to the importance of Swedenborg for Muir, I argue, can illuminate certain tensions that lurk at the heart of Muir's aesthetic project to find "sermons in stones" (in His words), and to read wilderness landscape as a kind of sacred text: a metaphoricity inevitably entangled in colonial violence and the dispossession of native Californians from their ancestral homes in Yosemite valley, and elsewhere.

Dr. Devin Zuber is an Associate Professor for American Studies, Religion, and Literature at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. His most recent book, A Language of Things, was awarded the 2020 Borsch Rast Book Prize in Religious Studies, and at the GTU, he co-directs Sustainability 360, a new incubator for environmental humanities and religion. While on sabbatical in 2021-2022, he is a visiting professor of religion and literature at the Humboldt University of Berlin. 

For further information look at the flyer.

Online event, to be streamed via Zoom. Please register at https://www.nas.uni-bonn.de/Events

In cooperation with the North American Studies Program of the University of Bonn.