Research interestsAmerican literatures of the 19th century History of American Life Sciences History of religion America's vitalism Ecology Material culture / object studies Theories of the archives of America in the 19th century and America
Professor Arsić specializes in 19th century American literatures and their scientific, philosophical and religious contexts. She is the author, most recently by Bird Relics: Sorrow and Vitalism in Thoreau (Harvard University Press, 2016), which was awarded the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize for Outstanding Book of 2016. It discusses how Thoreau linked mourning practices with biological life by formulating a complex theory of decay and suggesting a new understanding of the pathological. She also wrote When we say goodbye: A reading in Emerson (Harvard UP, 2010) and a book on Melville called Passive constitutions or Bartleby 7½ times (Stanford UP, 2007). She has (with Cary Wolfe) a collection of essays on Emerson called The other Emerson: New approaches, different paths (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and (with Kim Evans) a collection of essays on Melville called Melville’s Philosophies (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her work has appeared in magazines such as General knowledge , Diacritic , ELH , J19 , Leviathan , New England quarterly , Nineteenth century prose , Who's speaking? , Representations , Telos and Textual practice and discusses authors such as Mary Rowlandson, Anne Bradstreet, Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Stanley Cavell, and Gilles Deleuze.
Arsi is currently working on two book projects. The first, Ambient Life, Melville, Materialism and the Ethereal Enlightenment focuses on images of the elemental, plant and animal life that pervade Melville's work to examine how he imagined the ability of matter to move and transform. In Melville, not only different forms of life but also elements go into strange assemblages: Moss grows on animals, vegetation is made of stones, metal glistens on the feet of turtles, dogs house people and lizards hiss with divine anger. Surrounding life reads such strange taxonomies against the backdrop of contemporary American science, cosmologies of the Pacific islands, and a number of ethnographic narratives of African religions and customs known to Melville to show how their varied representations of matter led to his stories of metamorphosis and evocation, with complex political consequences. The second book project, Schmetterlingstropen: Emily Dickinson, The Archive und The Lyric , explores Dickinson's obsession with transmutation and invisible continuities between discrete bodies promised by entomological life forms to ask how such preoccupation determines their understanding of poetic form and what it means for their way of adding poetry in fascicles archive. Sets, envelopes, letters or simply boxes and chests of drawers.