Rivendell Center for Theology and the Arts
Upcoming Frameworks for Loss and Permanence Initiative (FLPI) Colloquia:
“After Catastrophic Loss: Finding What Is No Longer There”
Date: November 20, 2020
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 PM
Location: On Zoom
Our twenty-first century world is no stranger to catastrophic loss, whether it results from large-scale violence, wildfires, a tsunami, a terrorist bombing, or an unchecked global pandemic. In these instances, the familiar has been obliterated or altered beyond recognition; before is now unavailable; the assumptions, landmarks, and frameworks by which we oriented our lives are unsettled, or have even disappeared. The desperate struggle to restore a sense of stability amidst shock and upheaval is common, as is the desire to avert or prevent such disasters in the future.
Is there anything we can learn from past experiences of catastrophic loss that can illuminate our responses to present circumstances?
In the early part of the twentieth century, the devastating loss of life during World War I radically upset perceptions of the present and the future. Millions of young men went to war; tragic numbers died on, or vanished into, the battlefields. Many came home broken in mind and body. The number of dead overwhelmed traditional processes and rituals of mourning. New ways of remembrance and commemoration had to be found. Families tried to access the spirit world, desperate to connect with their lost one.
In her recently published work Salient, poet Elizabeth Gray wrestles with what it means to try to find what is no longer there. In this poetic sequence, an account of her efforts to find ‘The Missing’ of a specific time and place—the Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders in October and November 1917 and the soldiers who vanished there—Gray insists that before we can think about moving forward after catastrophic loss toward healing and protection, we need to access the catastrophe itself. Only then are we able to get our bearings in an altered and unrecognizable landscape. She asks, “By what landmarks (literal, figurative, spiritual) might we orient ourselves? Where is North?”
In this, our second colloquium in the FLPI series, we continue to examine the personal and disciplinary lenses through which we research and understand loss and permanence, using works of the imagination as the locus for our conversation. Alongside the poet Elizabeth Gray, who will be joining us, we will explore the unique issues which catastrophic loss—in all its forms—presents, as we bring our cross-disciplinary lenses to bear on our engagement with Salient, and its meditations on loss and permanence.
FLPI colloquia are by invitation only to Yale faculty. To express your interest in participating, please contact us.
Photo © 2016 Tanya Walker.