Professor Jonathan Bordo
MA (McGill and Alberta), MA, MPhil, PhD (Yale)
Traill College, Scott House 206
705-748-1011 ext. 6019
Dr. Jonathan M. Bordo is a philosophically trained cultural historian and theorist whose thought is grounded in the philosophical, scientific, religious and aesthetic culture of early modernity (1450 – 1710) cv. His continuing work bridges his interests between picturing, testimony and institutions of memory. He is also one of the leading scholars in the interdisciplinary study of landscape. Dr Bordo has received many grants and held many fellowships including at present a Trent Research Fellowship, having been a Research Fellow at many distinguished Institutes and Centres most recently at the John Carter Brown Library.
Jonathan Bordo’s research and publications have been on the cutting edge for some years. His writings have been published widely in international and national journals and collections that include: “The Proper Name Canada in the Environmental Imaginary of Henry David Thoreau.” In Marcienne Rocard and Michèle Kaltembeck (eds), “L'Ecologie dans tous ses Etats au Canada” Editions Universitaires du Sud (EUS) France, 2010. “The Homer of Potsdamerplatz – Walter Benjamin in Wim Wender’s Sky over Berlin/Wings of Desire, a Critical Topography” in Images (Brill Amsterdam, 2008); “The Keeping Place” in Nelson & Olin, Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade (University of Chicago Press, 2003), “Picture and Witness at the Site of the Wilderness” in W.J.T. Mitchell, Landscape and Power 2nd Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2002), Phantoms in On European Ground: The Photographs of Alan Cohen (University of Chicago Press, 2001), “The Witness in the Errings of Contemporary Art” in Paul Duro (ed.) The Rhetoric of the Frame, Cambridge 1997. Jonathan Bordo is presently engaged on an extended version of “The Homer of Potsdamerplatz” and “Canada the Proper Name of the Wilderness,” volumes one and two of The Landscape without a Witness.
Jonathan Bordo’s scholarly research has two orientations -- a geopoetics and a critical inventory of and meta reflection on theory itself. The geo-poetics is entwined with the study of art, film and visual culture and it has led to his articulation of an approach that he refers to as “critical topography. ” At the same time Bordo persists with the question, what is theory? in order to interrogate the unstable middle station of theory between philosophy and cultural history. For Bordo, theory is a kind of cultural analysis that advances in part by checking tendencies of inexorable textual repetition and unmitigated speculation through lexico-philological work, critical inventory of concepts and case studies – Bordo’s gloss on Kant’s dictum: concepts without objects are empty, objects without concepts are blind. His current doctoral seminars are a contribution to a reflection on theory, in the formation of early 20th century cultural inquiry with special attention to the works of Freud, de Saussure & Benjamin. The Specular Witness, a collection of published and new essays, also nearing completion, gives attention to the very character of theory as a kind of testimony. Bordo’s two orientations are reflected in the projects and the approaches of the doctoral students with whom he is engaged: Forensic determinations of evidence and cultural memory in the matter of mass deaths (Cyr), Bataille and the Collège de Sociologie (Bell), Theories of social ontology of 'late capitalism' as a critical examination of autopoiesis and theory (Timms), Studies in the critical topography of famine and the Irish diaspora (Dunne).