SO FAR | 1793 | This Parabola Is a Tomb

Saturday, 20 April 2019, 12 noon, diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery

Workshop with
Ben Woodard

The Alien films, and especially the prequels, seem to emphasize the stakes of vitalism as involving an extended battle over the teleological status of evolutionary theory and the stubbornness of the idea of intentional creation. In this workshop, we will investigate these tendencies linking dark romanticism and its dangerous Lovecraftian transformations by looking at the emergence of vitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries across the fields of medicine, embryology, physiology, biology, as well as the relation between philosophy and the natural sciences more broadly construed. While a clear or definitive portrait of vitalism strains the imagination, it is certain that its invocation responded to the problem of how to introduce ‘proper’ order into the apparent chaos of the life form by mixing purpose, teleology, mechanism, form, function, and transformation. We will examine Karl Friedrich Kielmeyer’s address “On the Relations between Organic Forces in the Series of Different Organisations, and of the Laws and Consequences of these Relations” (1793) alongside passages from Lovecraft (in particular “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” and “At the Mountains of Madness”) to see how SF can recover – or react against – the dark romantic naturalization of mind.

Since attendance is limited, please send an email to register and receive the readings to

The event is part of the series SO FAR | Science-Fiction(s), with the generous support of the Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa.

Graphic design: Anna-Luise Lorenz