May 16, 2023

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Overcoming Domesticity in “Housekeeping”

Event Series: A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment

Showing the Nature Abhors a Vacuum Video

Marilynne Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping (1980), treats generations of Foster women tending the family home in fictitious Fingerbone, Idaho. They contend with regular lunar floods, a lake that swallows a train full of people, and the alluring call of nature that unsettles staid domesticity. In this talk, Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J., will discuss Robinson's deft treatment of the power of the natural world to enchant, confound, and ultimately overtake the family home. Simmons will also consider how Housekeeping, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, fits in with Robinson's broader interests in ecology, overlooked historical voices, and biblical literacy.

Michael Scott, director of the Future of the Humanities Project, will provide opening and closing remarks, and Kathryn Temple, a Future of the Humanities Project senior fellow, will moderate a Q&A session following the presentation.

This event is sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project; the Georgetown Humanities Initiative; the Georgetown Master’s Program in the Engaged and Public HumanitiesCampion Hall, Oxford; and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, Oxford). It is part of the one-year-long series: A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment.


Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J. is a Catholic priest and research fellow in the Department of English at Georgetown University. Simmons' licentiate in sacred theology thesis, “Via Literaria: Marilynne Robinson's Theology Through a Literary Imagination,” explored the convergence of literary and Christian imaginations. He completed his doctorate at Campion Hall in Oxford. Simmons' academic interests include phenomenology of attention, theology and literature, and writers “bothered by God.”

Kathryn Temple

Kathryn Temple

Kathryn Temple is a professor in the Department of English at Georgetown University where she has taught since 1994. She specializes in the study of law and the humanities. Among her publications are Loving Justice: Legal Emotions in William Blackstone’s England (2019) and the co-edited Research Handbook on Law and Emotions (2021). Her humanities outreach activities include work with military veterans and the incarcerated.