Conversations from the Cullman Center: Catastrophizing: Gerard Passannante and Michael Wood

April 18, 2019

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Gerard Passannante discusses his new book, Catastrophizing: Materialism and the Making of Disaster, with Michael Wood. Catastrophizing may look like simply a bad habit, but Passannante argues that it was also a spur to some of the daring conceptual innovations and feats of imagination that defined the period between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. He goes on to explore both the danger and the critical potential of thinking catastrophically in our own time, in particular with regard to climate change.

Gerard Passannante is associate professor of English and the director of Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of The Lucretian Renaissance: Philology and the Afterlife of Tradition, winner of the Harry Levin Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association in 2013. His work has been supported by the American Academy in Rome, the National Humanities Center, and the Bogliasco Foundation. He worked on Catastrophizing during his 2014-2015 Fellowship at the Cullman Center.

Michael Wood is professor emeritus of English at Princeton University. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books, where he is also an editorial board member and has a regular column, “At the Movies.” He is the author of several works, including America in the Movies, The Road to Delphi: the Life and Afterlife of Oracles, Literature and the Taste of Knowledge, and most recently, Yeats and Violence.