April 4, 2013
I’ll be directing a seminar called “Theater and Judgment in Early Modern England” for faculty and advanced graduate students at the Shakespeare Association of America conference in St. Louis next year. The description is below.
Judgment is both a concept and a practice. It is fundamental to law as well as religion, and it is a key term in the development of aesthetics and the discourse of sociality. As such, judgment has a remarkably vibrant intellectual history. The basic premise of this seminar is that the theater of Shakespeare and his contemporaries occupies an important position within that intellectual history, that early modern plays and the institution of theater have compelling things to tell us about judgment, and that, conversely, judgment offers an illuminating framework for thinking about a variety of early modern plays. The audience for this seminar is broad since judgment stands at the intersection of several different strands of early modern intellectual culture, including law, religion, ethics, literary criticism, and rhetoric. It will also appeal to philosophically and theoretically inclined scholars, especially those interested in Hannah Arendt. Arendt explored the topic of judgment in various ways throughout her career and lectured on Kant’s Critique of Judgment at the University of Chicago and the New School for Social Research. The aim of the seminar will be to map out the relationship between early modern theater and the intellectual history of judgment through a variety of case studies. Papers are invited on a range of topics. These might include: courtroom scenes; judges and judge-figures; justices of peace and juries; judgment and theatrical spectatorship; theater and the development of literary criticism; judgment and the prehistory of taste; the legal history of judgment; divine judgment; skepticism and other intellectual contexts; judgment and evidence; theological considerations; judgment and sociality; modern philosophical perspectives; medieval inheritances; the rhetoric of judgment.
December 29, 2012
“Throughout the three-piece and four-piece periods, Talking Heads songs, and even the shows, were still mostly about self-examination, angst, and bafflement at the world we found ourselves in. Psychological stuff. . . . The groove was always there, as a kind of physical-body oriented antidote to this nervous angsty flailing . . . It served as a sonic and psychological safety net, a link to the body. It said that no matter how alienated the subject or the singer might appear, the groove and its connection to the body would provide solace and grounding.”
–David Byrne, How Music Works
December 17, 2012
“A person is a person through other persons”
–Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness
October 30, 2012
A new exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, co-curated by Rosamond Purcell and Michael Witmore
Very Like a Whale takes its name from Hamlet’s quickly changing descriptions of a cloud’s shape as a camel, a weasel, and, finally, a whale—claims that are met each time with hearty agreement from Polonius.
Jointly curated by Folger Director Michael Witmore and photographer Rosamond Purcell, the exhibition explores the richness and variety of Shakespeare’s visual language through Purcell’s photographs and a wealth of rare books, manuscripts, prints, and natural objects. Along the way, it presents a sprawling landscape of ideas and images, from mirrors, magic, and optical illusions to uncanny animals, twists of fate, and the ugly transformations of war. More info here.
“When I stood there making academic small talk and looking at the automaton, or peering into the gorgeous array of books on objects in the ‘Wind’ case, I considered the larger project of putting such strangeness inside an academic institution . . . The gambit is that such strangeness speaks to the same part of the mind that’s moved by Shakespeare, and it certainly works for me.”
– Steven Mentz (St. John’s University), The Bookfish
October 10, 2012
Artist Samuel Winston has assembled three concept clouds–solace, passion, and rage–from the language of Romeo and Juliet. This is an interesting way of bringing together, through Shakespeare, the abstract and the material, the linearly linguistic and emotionally associative. Have a look here.
October 1, 2012
A really exiting and genuinely original series forthcoming from Stanford University Press
Paul A. Kottman, Editor
The aim of this series is to reclaim the authority of humanistic inquiry for a broad, educated readership by tackling questions of common concern. For example, ‘What do we value and why?’ ‘To what kind of life can we aspire, given the contours of modern society?’ ‘What is it to lead a free life?’ ‘What is the place of the imagination in our society?’ ‘Why do, or why should, we still care about particular artworks?’ Square One shows how questions such as these are reflected in our philosophy, art, literature, politics, and ethics.
Pushing beyond the twin trends that have come to characterize much academic writing in the humanities—increasing specialization, on the one hand, and interdisciplinary ‘crossings’ on the other—Square One cuts across and through fields in order to show the relevance and importance of humanistic inquiry for an intellectual readership. Reversing the retreat into second-order questions such as ‘What did we once care about?’ or ‘How is a particular work to be understood in its particular context of origin?’ Square One poses first-order questions, such as ‘How does a particular work force us to look at ourselves and our commitments differently?’ ‘How, and under what conditions, are commitments formed and sustained?’
Authors will be asked to make their work accessible and compelling to educated non-specialists as well as academic experts. Rather than address only a particular academic group of experts, and rather than simply open new, interdisciplinary terrain from within traditional fields, books in the series will focus on a first-order question in topics with clear relevance to traditional domains of humanistic inquiry: philosophy, literature, art, ethics, political thought.
July 20, 2012
“It may be an unflattering figure, but the more I have thought about theater the more I see it as having the characteristics of an organism: it feeds on the world as its nourishment, it adapts to cultural climate and conditions that necessitate periodic shifts in direction and speed, and finally it exhausts itself and dies–one of its traditions, like generations, replacing another”
–Bert O. States, Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: On the Phenomenology of Theater (1985)
July 20, 2012
Lucian Freud, by all accounts the greatest portraitist of the twentieth century, was obsessed with skin. A major exhibition of his work is currently showing at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (the only US venue). Listen to this wonderful interview with exhibition co-organizer and Fort Worth Modern Chief Curator, Michael Auping.
July 5, 2012
Blouin ArtInfo on Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s treatment of the 13th Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany:
“What Christov-Bakargiev offers the art world at Documenta is a next stage of thinking. Over the past decade there has been another development that stands in direct counterpoint to the etherealizing of data intrinsic to the Web, while finding the story of the social through things. The study of material culture and a small group of philosophers coolly called “thing theorists,” among them Quentin Meillassoux and Graham Harman, have been broadening the anthropocentric focus of the sociologues to query the play of the object world in which the human is a single actor among all objects, while the ecological crisis has added a dimension of urgency to the acknowledgment of the life of the nonhuman. In this Documenta, we see a fundamental turn in this direction on a very grand scale. This new objectism takes into account a voluminous repertoire of tools for signification: empirical data machines; the expressive arts of sculpture, photography, painting, filmmaking, and literature; systems analysis; whole narratives and fragmented ones; and the measurement of time through various means, calling attention to both its presence and its suspension or eradication” Full article here. Documenta website here.