On the Supernatural, October 30 2009

Supernovae: Bridge to the Supernatural
Santiago Gonzalez, Astronomy

We report anguishing tales of death and afterlife in the fascinating world of stars in space. Occasionally, the normally peaceful and harmonious ambiance of your galactic neighbourhood is disturbed by dreadful and terrible catastrophic events. What you thought was a nice cute blue giant star suddenly collapses and explodes in a horror display of light while all its “guts” are ejected far into space in a supernova. After this tremendous assassination (or is it suicide?), some ghostly scary remnants, named neutron stars and black holes, invisible at times, continue to scare the vicinity in the afterlife. We briefly explain these enormous explosive deaths of stars. Who are those merciless assassins? How do they come to exist? Are other member stars of the galaxy safe? What about planets that inhabit those star systems? Can we predict them? Is their afterlife as fearful as it seems?

“The High Science”
Leslie Barcza, Drama

Claude Debussy & Erik Satie were two of the chief flag-bearers of the idealist response against science in the late 19th Century, men of known occultist tendencies. I will address connections they made between music and metaphysics, particularly in Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande, and Satie’s Le Fils des Étoiles.

Visible Histories: Ghosts in 19th-Century English Literature
Jessica Duffin Wolfe, English

Worn out and campy at first glance, the haunted-house story is in fact one of the most curious heirlooms in the mansion of Victorian literature. This presentation considers how ghosts in nineteenth-century English literature ask their readers to look at houses, history (as opposed to the past), and the ends of story itself.

The Fantastic Object in Theory, Fiction and Performance
Joe Culpepper, Comparative Literature

Fantastic literature has the power to teach even hardened, skeptical readers how to once again believe in the impossible. Analyzing the complex way in which a fantastic object from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Aleph” causes one to doubt the limits of mimetic reality, of genre conventions and even of reality itself reveals important lessons about the relation between how we are deceived as readers and how we are deceived as spectators. This discussion calls upon Todorov’s theorizing of the fantastic to focus on reality shattering moments — times at which the supernatural and the natural explosively mix — as if they were bursts of fire or light accompanying magic effects.

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