Founded in 1999, the Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas teaches a year-long intensive course focusing on the meaning of culture: what it is, how it functions, and how we, as subjects, participate in it.

The texts that we examine exemplify a number of social, political, philosophical, and literary currents from the past that have made us who we are as citizens, intellectuals, artists, scientists, and observers in the world today.

The CCI Program also hosts a colloquium series and interdisciplinary symposia that address issues in the humanities. Please check Events.

Upcoming Talks


‘Radicle’ Empiricism: Plat-Thinking in Henry David Thoreau’s Journal

Dr. Thomas W. Howard

Date: Wednesday, February 21st
Time: 12:30-13:30
Location: Main Campus Library Art Gallery

Since the discovery of mycorrhizal fungal networks connecting the roots of forest trees, research has continued to uncover the communal and even cognitive processes of plant life. With terms like “plant-thinking,” “phytopoetics,” and “phytographia,” scholars working in the multidisciplinary field of literary and cultural plant studies have begun to explore how the vegetal world appears in human philosophy and literature. At the same time, nineteenth-century American literary scholars have increasingly centered the scientific practice of Henry David Thoreau, highlighting his later proto-ecological work which some call a form of “radical empiricism” because of his rejection of rigid taxonomy. I bring these two streams together by suggesting Thoreau’s “radicle empiricism,” gesturing to the plant’s taproot, or “radicle,” as a model for a more robust scientific practice that incorporates the empiricism of the plants themselves. Reading the vegetal entries of Thoreau’s Journal, I demonstrate how “radicle empiricism” attends to plants’ minor empirical perspective while also encouraging the reader to continue the root-like experimental process.

Dr. Thomas W. Howard is an assistant professor in the Bilkent CCI Program. He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Washington University in St. Louis in 2023. His research focuses on nineteenth-century American and transatlantic literature, literature and science, and environmental humanities.