Around Cornell

News directly from Cornell's colleges and centers

The unexpected importance of the sea sponge in classical history

Looking beyond the sculptures, pottery, and architectural ruins of the Graeco-Roman era in this year’s annual Society for the Humanities Invitational Lecture, art historian Verity Platt will present her research on a valuable but unexpected object of ancient natural history: the humble sea sponge.

Platt, professor of classics and the history of art and visual studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, will address “The Sentient Sponge: Between Natural History, Art History, and Philosophy” on Feb. 15 , 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. in the Guerlac Room at the A.D. White House. A reception will follow. This event is free and open to the public and no registration is required.

“As naturally-formed products of the deep, sea sponges helped thinkers across a wide variety of literary genres and philosophical positions to formulate relations between matter and mind, perception and knowledge, and reality and representation,” Platt said. “In the history of art (and especially in Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History”), the sponge was even hailed as a co-creator of images that transcended Platonic ontologies of representation to attain a form of visual ’truth,’ offering an ecology of ancient art that speaks to contemporary sensitivities to object-oriented and nonhuman modes of becoming.”

Alex McNeil is Events & Administrative Coordinator for the Society for the Humanities.

Read the full story on the College of Arts and Sciences website.

Media Contact

Media Relations Office