Joan Steigerwald

Department of Humanities

Associate Professor

Office:  Norman Bethune College, 312
Phone: 416-736-2100 Ext: 70417
Emailsteiger@yorku.ca

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities, and in the Graduate Programs of Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, and Social and Political Thought, at York University. My research takes place at the intersections between the life sciences, philosophies of nature and aesthetics in the Enlightenment and Romantic periods.

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My current book project Experimenting at the Boundaries of Life: Organic Vitality in Germany around 1800 examines attempts to develop a science of biology. It explores how the endeavor to delimit experimentally the organic from the inorganic rather blurred the boundaries of life, and how instrumental investigations of organic vitality acted as media shaping the understandings of life. These epistemic concerns were also central to the philosophies of nature developed at the turn of the nineteenth century, from Kant to Schelling. Reading German philosophies of nature against the grain of many idealist expositions, I argue that the material and contingent conditions of life opened the understanding of judgment to dialectical irresolution and boundary concepts. Romantic figures, such as Goethe and Novalis, also took up these experimental and epistemic concerns in their own practical investigations and figurative representations. The book is interested in how life became a problem in the years around 1800, and argues for reconsidering the significance of the ways that problem was explored at the time for our subsequent understandings of life.

A recent edited volume, Entanglements of Instruments and Media in Investigating Organic Life, explores how throughout the history of biology life has been constituted through various instruments and media. A new interdisciplinary project, Object Lessons of a Romantic Natural History, explores how natural history was shaped by many of the concerns of the European world in the years around 1800, even as it reshaped the imaginary of that world. Focusing on a series of specific objects valued in natural histories in the Romantic period, it expands outward to the larger cultural contexts of those objects.

Degrees

PhD, King’s College London
MA, University of Manitoba
BA, University of Manitoba


Research Interests

History of the Life Sciences and Environmental History, German Idealism and Romanticism, Science and Technology Studies and Contemporary Theory

Selected Publications

“The Subject as Instrument: Galvanic Experiments, Organic Apparatus and Problems of Calibration.” In Human Experimentation, ed. L. Stewart and E. Dyck. Boston: Brill. View

"Ground and Grounding: The Nature of Things in Schelling's Philosophy." Symposium 19:1 (2015): 176-97. View

“Treviranus' Biology: Generation, Degeneration and the Boundaries of Life.” In Gender, Race, and Reproduction. Philosophy and the Early Life Sciences in Context , ed. S. Lettow, 105-27. SUNY, 2014. View

“The Antinomy of the Teleological Power of Judgment and its Significance for the Critical Project.” In Objectivity After Kant: Its Meaning, its Limitations, its Fateful Omissions, ed. B.Demarest and G. Van de Vijver, 83-97. Olm Press, 2013. View

“Rethinking Organic Vitality in Germany at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century.” In Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010, eds. S. Normandin and C.T. Wolfe, 51-75. Springer, 2013. View

“Figuring Nature, Figuring the (Fe)male: The Frontispiece to Humboldt’s Ideas Towards a Geography of Plants.” In Figuring it Out: Science, Gender and Visual Culture, ed. by Anne Shteir and Bernhard Lightman, 54-82. University Press of New England, 2006. View

Selected Publications

“The Subject as Instrument: Galvanic Experiments, Organic Apparatus and Problems of Calibration.” In Human Experimentation, ed. L. Stewart and E. Dyck. Boston: Brill. View

"Ground and Grounding: The Nature of Things in Schelling's Philosophy." Symposium 19:1 (2015): 176-97. View

“Treviranus' Biology: Generation, Degeneration and the Boundaries of Life.” In Gender, Race, and Reproduction. Philosophy and the Early Life Sciences in Context , ed. S. Lettow, 105-27. SUNY, 2014. View

“The Antinomy of the Teleological Power of Judgment and its Significance for the Critical Project.” In Objectivity After Kant: Its Meaning, its Limitations, its Fateful Omissions, ed. B.Demarest and G. Van de Vijver, 83-97. Olm Press, 2013. View

“Rethinking Organic Vitality in Germany at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century.” In Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010, eds. S. Normandin and C.T. Wolfe, 51-75. Springer, 2013. View

“Figuring Nature, Figuring the (Fe)male: The Frontispiece to Humboldt’s Ideas Towards a Geography of Plants.” In Figuring it Out: Science, Gender and Visual Culture, ed. by Anne Shteir and Bernhard Lightman, 54-82. University Press of New England, 2006. View

All Publications

Books

'Kantian Teleology and the Biological Sciences.' Ed. Joan Steigerwald. Special Issue of Studies in History and Philosophy Of The Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37: 4 (2006).

Book Chapters

“Degeneration: Inversions of Teleology.” In Marking Time: Romanticism and Evolution, eds. Joel Faflak and Josh Lambier. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (under contract).

“The Subject as Instrument: Galvanic Experiments, Organic Apparatus and Problems of Calibration.” In Human Experimentation, ed. L. Stewart and E. Dyck. Boston: Brill. View

“The Ethos of Critique in German Idealism.” In Objectivity in Science: Approaches to Historical Epistemology, eds. F. Padovani, A. Richardson and J. Tsou, 79-99. Boston Studies in Philosophy and History of Science. Dordrecht: Springer, 2015. View

“Treviranus' Biology: Generation, Degeneration and the Boundaries of Life.” In Gender, Race, and Reproduction. Philosophy and the Early Life Sciences in Context , ed. S. Lettow, 105-27. SUNY, 2014. View

“Rethinking Organic Vitality in Germany at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century.” In Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010, eds. S. Normandin and C.T. Wolfe, 51-75. Springer, 2013. View

“The Antinomy of the Teleological Power of Judgment and its Significance for the Critical Project.” In Objectivity After Kant: Its Meaning, its Limitations, its Fateful Omissions, ed. B.Demarest and G. Van de Vijver, 83-97. Olm Press, 2013. View

“Natural Purposes and the Reflecting Power of Judgment: The Problem of the Organism in Kant’s Critical Philosophy.” In Romanticism and Modernity, eds. Robert Mitchell and Thomas Pfau, 29-46. New York: Routledge, 2011. Originally published in European Romantic Review 21:3 (2010): 291-308.

“Figuring Nature, Figuring the (Fe)male: The Frontispiece to Humboldt’s Ideas Towards a Geography of Plants.” In Figuring it Out: Science, Gender and Visual Culture, ed. by Anne Shteir and Bernhard Lightman, 54-82. University Press of New England, 2006. View

“The History of Romanticism, Religion and Nature.” In Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, ed. by Bron Tyler and Jeffrey Kaplan, II: 1419-22. London: Continuum International, 2005.

Journal Articles

"Ground and Grounding: The Nature of Things in Schelling's Philosophy." Symposium 19:1 (2015): 176-97. View

“Natural Purposes and the Reflecting Power of Judgment: The Problem of the Organism in Kant’s Critical Philosophy.” European Romantic Review 21:3 (2010): 291-308. Reprinted in Romanticism and Modernity, eds. Robert Mitchell and Thomas Pfau. New York: Routledge, 2011, 29-46.

“Figuring Nature: Ritter's Galvanic Inscriptions.” European Romantic Review, 18: 2, 255-63. Expanded version in Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire et d'Epistémologie des Sciences de la Vie, 2 (2008).

“Kant’s Concept of Natural Purpose and the Reflective Power of Judgment.” Special Issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37: 4 (2006): 712-34.

“The Dynamics of Reason and its Elusive Object in Kant, Fichte and Schelling.” Memorial Edition of Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science in honor of founding editor Gerd Buchdahl, 34:1 (2003): 111-34.

"Goethe’s Morphology: Urphänomene and Aesthetic Appraisal." Journal of the History of Biology 35 (2002): 291-328.

"Epistemologies of Rupture: The Problem of Nature in Schelling’s Philosophy." Studies in Romanticism 41 (2002): 545-84.

“Instruments of Judgment: Inscribing Organic Processes in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33 (2002): 79-131.

“The Cultural Enframing of Nature: Environmental Histories in the German Romantic Period.” Environment and History 6 (2000): 451-96.

Approach To Teaching

My teaching reflects the different areas of my research. I teach the graduate courses Essays on the Philosophy of Freedom and Organisms as Instruments. At the undergraduate level I teach the courses Nature in Narrative, Representations of Nature and the first year general education course Science and the Humanities.

Current Courses

TermCourse NumberSectionTitleType 
Fall 2017 AP/HUMA3226 3.0  Representations of Nature: Cultural and Historical Perspectives SEMR  

Upcoming Courses

TermCourse NumberSectionTitleType 
Winter 2018 AP/HUMA4228 3.0  Nature in Narrative SEMR  


I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities, and in the Graduate Programs of Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, and Social and Political Thought, at York University. My research takes place at the intersections between the life sciences, philosophies of nature and aesthetics in the Enlightenment and Romantic periods.


My current book project Experimenting at the Boundaries of Life: Organic Vitality in Germany around 1800 examines attempts to develop a science of biology. It explores how the endeavor to delimit experimentally the organic from the inorganic rather blurred the boundaries of life, and how instrumental investigations of organic vitality acted as media shaping the understandings of life. These epistemic concerns were also central to the philosophies of nature developed at the turn of the nineteenth century, from Kant to Schelling. Reading German philosophies of nature against the grain of many idealist expositions, I argue that the material and contingent conditions of life opened the understanding of judgment to dialectical irresolution and boundary concepts. Romantic figures, such as Goethe and Novalis, also took up these experimental and epistemic concerns in their own practical investigations and figurative representations. The book is interested in how life became a problem in the years around 1800, and argues for reconsidering the significance of the ways that problem was explored at the time for our subsequent understandings of life.

A recent edited volume, Entanglements of Instruments and Media in Investigating Organic Life, explores how throughout the history of biology life has been constituted through various instruments and media. A new interdisciplinary project, Object Lessons of a Romantic Natural History, explores how natural history was shaped by many of the concerns of the European world in the years around 1800, even as it reshaped the imaginary of that world. Focusing on a series of specific objects valued in natural histories in the Romantic period, it expands outward to the larger cultural contexts of those objects.

Degrees

PhD, King’s College London
MA, University of Manitoba
BA, University of Manitoba

Research Interests:

History of the Life Sciences and Environmental History, German Idealism and Romanticism, Science and Technology Studies and Contemporary Theory

All Publications

Books

'Kantian Teleology and the Biological Sciences.' Ed. Joan Steigerwald. Special Issue of Studies in History and Philosophy Of The Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37: 4 (2006).

Book Chapters

“Degeneration: Inversions of Teleology.” In Marking Time: Romanticism and Evolution, eds. Joel Faflak and Josh Lambier. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (under contract).

“The Subject as Instrument: Galvanic Experiments, Organic Apparatus and Problems of Calibration.” In Human Experimentation, ed. L. Stewart and E. Dyck. Boston: Brill. View

“The Ethos of Critique in German Idealism.” In Objectivity in Science: Approaches to Historical Epistemology, eds. F. Padovani, A. Richardson and J. Tsou, 79-99. Boston Studies in Philosophy and History of Science. Dordrecht: Springer, 2015. View

“Treviranus' Biology: Generation, Degeneration and the Boundaries of Life.” In Gender, Race, and Reproduction. Philosophy and the Early Life Sciences in Context , ed. S. Lettow, 105-27. SUNY, 2014. View

“Rethinking Organic Vitality in Germany at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century.” In Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010, eds. S. Normandin and C.T. Wolfe, 51-75. Springer, 2013. View

“The Antinomy of the Teleological Power of Judgment and its Significance for the Critical Project.” In Objectivity After Kant: Its Meaning, its Limitations, its Fateful Omissions, ed. B.Demarest and G. Van de Vijver, 83-97. Olm Press, 2013. View

“Natural Purposes and the Reflecting Power of Judgment: The Problem of the Organism in Kant’s Critical Philosophy.” In Romanticism and Modernity, eds. Robert Mitchell and Thomas Pfau, 29-46. New York: Routledge, 2011. Originally published in European Romantic Review 21:3 (2010): 291-308.

“Figuring Nature, Figuring the (Fe)male: The Frontispiece to Humboldt’s Ideas Towards a Geography of Plants.” In Figuring it Out: Science, Gender and Visual Culture, ed. by Anne Shteir and Bernhard Lightman, 54-82. University Press of New England, 2006. View

“The History of Romanticism, Religion and Nature.” In Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, ed. by Bron Tyler and Jeffrey Kaplan, II: 1419-22. London: Continuum International, 2005.

Journal Articles

"Ground and Grounding: The Nature of Things in Schelling's Philosophy." Symposium 19:1 (2015): 176-97. View

“Natural Purposes and the Reflecting Power of Judgment: The Problem of the Organism in Kant’s Critical Philosophy.” European Romantic Review 21:3 (2010): 291-308. Reprinted in Romanticism and Modernity, eds. Robert Mitchell and Thomas Pfau. New York: Routledge, 2011, 29-46.

“Figuring Nature: Ritter's Galvanic Inscriptions.” European Romantic Review, 18: 2, 255-63. Expanded version in Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire et d'Epistémologie des Sciences de la Vie, 2 (2008).

“Kant’s Concept of Natural Purpose and the Reflective Power of Judgment.” Special Issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37: 4 (2006): 712-34.

“The Dynamics of Reason and its Elusive Object in Kant, Fichte and Schelling.” Memorial Edition of Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science in honor of founding editor Gerd Buchdahl, 34:1 (2003): 111-34.

"Goethe’s Morphology: Urphänomene and Aesthetic Appraisal." Journal of the History of Biology 35 (2002): 291-328.

"Epistemologies of Rupture: The Problem of Nature in Schelling’s Philosophy." Studies in Romanticism 41 (2002): 545-84.

“Instruments of Judgment: Inscribing Organic Processes in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33 (2002): 79-131.

“The Cultural Enframing of Nature: Environmental Histories in the German Romantic Period.” Environment and History 6 (2000): 451-96.


Teaching:

Approach To Teaching
My teaching reflects the different areas of my research. I teach the graduate courses Essays on the Philosophy of Freedom and Organisms as Instruments. At the undergraduate level I teach the courses Nature in Narrative, Representations of Nature and the first year general education course Science and the Humanities.


Current Courses

<
TermCourse NumberSectionTitleType 
Fall 2017 AP/HUMA3226 3.0  Representations of Nature: Cultural and Historical Perspectives SEMR  

Upcoming Courses

TermCourse NumberSectionTitleType 
Winter 2018 AP/HUMA4228 3.0  Nature in Narrative SEMR