Cosmopoiesis: Literature and World-Making

Presented by Sabrina Ferri

"There is no frigate like a book/ to take us lands away," wrote Emily Dickinson. Such is the power of fiction. The best stories in literature have always had the power to transport readers to faraway worlds and uncharted imaginary lands. But why do fictional worlds seem so real? How do writers invent their worlds? These are some of the questions that we will address while exploring cosmopoiesis, or world-creation, in fiction. We will discuss the strategies and reasons behind the construction of imaginary worlds and we will look at writers who have tried to reshape and reimagine the world through fiction. We will consider their works from two interdependent perspectives: 1) as world-shaping constructs, which can change reality and our understanding of it; and 2) as self-contained worlds in their own right. World-making, we will see, is a powerful act of the imagination but also a bold challenge to common beliefs and assumptions about reality.

About Sabrina Ferri

Sabrina Ferri is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Notre Dame. Her research focuses on modern Italy and the making of the modern world and encompasses literature, philosophy, science, and visual arts. She teaches courses about Italian culture, the Enlightenment, theory and literature, adventure fiction, and imaginary worlds. Ferri's first book, Ruins Past: Modernity in Italy, 1744-1836, was published in 2015 in the Voltaire Foundation's series Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment. She is currently working on utopian cities and the urban imagination and on a long-term project on anachronism and historical thought during the long eighteenth century.