This is the first seminar in the Nietzsche 13/13 seminar series. 1/13: Heidegger. >>
Thursday Lecture Series are open to Columbia faculty, students, and guests. Special Events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.
“Why do you shrink and speak so faintly? Are you superstitious?”
“I am constitutionally nervous. I dislike the discussion of such subjects. I dislike it the more because--”
You believe?” --Charlotte Brontë, Villette
Throughout history, conceptions of the supernatural have permeated art, science, culture, and politics, from the divine right of kings to the practice of illusionists, from transubstantiation to witchcraft, and from the power of political myth to the technological sublime. Conceptions of the supernatural make sense of seemingly irrational forms of knowing the world and experiencing it. They manifest in material ways in the form of religious and mystical experiences, in the “placebo” effect in medicine, in eerie sounds and optical illusions, and in debates about “post-truth” and “alternative” realities.
This lecture series explores the interdisciplinary facets of the supernatural from the symbolic to the spiritual, from the metaphorical to the political: What counts as supernatural in a religious, artistic, scientific or political context? What are the processes and structures around belief in the supernatural and what are the debates around supernatural tenets in traditional or occult religions? What aesthetic or scientific technologies--from gothic narratives to spirit photography--engender illusion and a belief in magic? How and why does the supernatural become productive, political, visible, and experiential--and how does it disappear? How do we understand efforts to obstruct, confront, or even dismantle the supernatural? And what role does the supernatural play in the formation of state-sanctioned ideologies and charismatic personalities? How might conceptions of the supernatural reshape our visions of new secular futures?
This talk examines the role of poisons and antidotes in slave societies throughout the Atlantic world. It will compare accounts of poisons, curses, and remedies used by Africans and indigenous Americans in regions including Virginia, Angola, and Guiana, questioning how European fears of tropical poisoning shaped colonization and the construction of natural knowledge in the seventeenth and eighteenth century Atlantic basin. The goal is to better integrate the history of poisons and antidotes within both the history of slavery and within the history of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. >>
How can feminist pedagogy be leveraged to transform diversity-based literacy in urban educational settings? Both within and outside of the field of education, "diversity" is a fraught and contentious term. >>
This is the second seminar in the Nietzsche 13/13 seminar series. 2/13: Georges Bataille. >>
There are few objects that illustrate so well the intersections of medicine, technology, and culture as artificial hands crafted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Made of metal, wood, leather, and paint, these artifacts suggest the creative and elaborate ways men and women in early modern Europe used to cope with bodily loss. >>
Norm Hirschy, Senior Editor in the Academic and Trade Division of Oxford University Press, will speak about the process of successfully getting a scholarly book published — including advice for turning the PhD dissertation into a book and stylistic techniques for crafting the book proposal. The event is co-sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities and the Dean of Humanities. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in the humanities are invited to attend. >>
In 1928, the German choreographer Rudolf Laban announced what he believed to be an explosive development in the history of dance: the creation of an inscription system that could “objectively” record human movement on paper. The technique, known as “Labanotation,” relied upon byzantine combinations of lines, tick marks, and boxes, but—despite its difficulty—was adopted both within dance and far beyond it throughout the twentieth century. >>
The United States is currently home to 5 percent of the world’s people and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately represented among America’s vast unfree population, with more black men under some form of carceral control (prison, parole, probation) than were enslaved in 1850. The systematic confinement and surveillance of people of African descent in the twenty-first century has led some scholars and activists to posit that contemporary mass incarceration is slavery, or, at the very least, an afterlife of slavery. In this telling, the carceral landscape of Mississippi cotton plantations and the antebellum slave patrol haunt contemporary super-max prisons and police departments empowered to detain, arrest, harass, and execute black bodies. This tragic narrative of American history points to enduring connections among police power, white supremacy, and black captivity. Yet, police power has also been indispensable to black liberation in the United States. The nineteenth-century abolition of slavery, post-Civil War Reconstruction (however brief), and the modern Civil Rights movement were all made possible by a vast expansion of the federal government’s police power. This talk explores the Janus-faced nature of police power in American history through the prism of nineteenth-century New York, where the gradual abolition of slavery coincided with the birth of the modern penitentiary. Well before the U.S. Civil War and the modern Civil Rights movement, New York’s state government deployed its police power to abolish chattel slavery and to build an expansive state prison system. Gradual emancipation liberated black New Yorkers from the yoke of chattel bondage, but structural racism rendered free people of African descent increasingly vulnerable to incarceration in penitentiaries that epitomized the carceral logic of liberal free-labor ideology. >>
This is the third seminar in the Nietzsche 13/13 seminar series. 3/13: Maurice Blanchot. Maurice Blanchot was heavily influenced by Nietzsche early on, and wrote several works that directly and indirectly engaged Nietzsche’s thought. Like Bataille, Blanchot took a holistic approach and often focused on the fragments. This session will explore his relation to Nietzsche and how it influenced subsequent critical thinkers. >>
Frances Ferguson has called free indirect style, or the intimate third-person representation of a character's words and thoughts, "the novel's one and only formal contribution to literature." In English letters, the invention of free indirect style is normally attributed to Jane Austen. And yet, the interdisciplinary turn of our moment asks us to reconsider literary form through the lens of cross-cultural exchange with the sciences. This talk turns to Enlightenment psychiatry to reveal free indirect style's pre-novelistic roots in the Bedlam casebook. Ultimately, I hope to offer not just a new history of the novel's most distinctive formal device, but also a new reading of the surprising ramifications of free indirect style's psychiatric heritage in two Romantic novels: Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (1798), and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813). >>
Billed as an “international opera,” the CIVIL warS was a massive collaborative project organized by avant-garde director Robert Wilson involving dozens of theater artists, composers, and writers from three continents. >>
This is the fourth seminar in the Nietzsche 13/13 series: Gilles Deleuze, The Deleuzian Nietzsche. Perhaps more than many other critical theorists, Deleuze’s thought was highly influenced by Nietzsche, and Deleuze’s name is inextricably linked to Nietzsche’s through his two signature books. In this session, we will focus on these two important works. We will also situate Deleuze within the context of the 1960s, which witnessed an explosion of interest in Nietzsche, infusing his writings and thought into anti-colonial and May ’68 protests. Several important markers included the 1964 international philosophical colloquium of Royaumont titled “Nietzsche,” the publication of a number of books on Nietzsche, including those of Deleuze and Klossowski and others. The 1964 gathering at Royaumont symbolized a revival of interest in Nietzsche among critical thinkers and brought together thinkers including Jean Wahl, Karl Löwith, Pierre Klossowski, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault. Several years later, in 1977, Semiotext(e) published an issue of its review dedicated to “Nietzsche’s Return,” with excerpts and articles by Deleuze, as well as Bataille, Cage, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Lotringer, and Rajchman. >>
In a celebrated essay on insanity from 1816, renowned French psychiatrist Étienne Esquirol reported on his experience of accompanying patients to the opera: “I once accompanied a young convalescent to a Comic Opera. He everywhere saw his wife conversing with men. Another, after the space of a quarter of an hour, felt the heat in his head increasing—and says, let us go out, or I shall relapse. A young lady, being at the Opera, and seeing the actors armed with sabres, believed that they were going to assail her.” Esquirol’s account of the dangers of the opera on the mentally ill foreshadows subsequent debates around the pathological effects of the music of Giacomo Meyerbeer, Richard Wagner, and others. These discourses played out within psychiatry as well, where the presence of musical and theatrical entertainment in insane asylums became both increasingly prominent and contested. >>
At the end of her life, Hannah Arendt was writing a series of volumes on The Life of the Mind, the second of which engaged the thought of Nietzsche. This session will explore her engagement with Nietzsche. >>
A pristine and hovering marble cube punctuated by a few deep openings, the Civil Government Building (b.1956-64) in Tarragona, Spain, stands as the “tour de force of poetic abstraction” of Spanish modern architecture. The elegant transition from polished stone to glass in the façade, the opaque articulation of public bureaucracy and private housing in the program, and the rigorous solution of its every detail have made the building a canonical representative of a period so-far characterized by its “silence,” that is, by the distancing of architects and their designs from ideological agendas and political symbolism in lieu of masterful abstraction. Yet the building was erected at the peak of Francisco Franco’s regime (1939-1975) and for purposes of housing the policing infrastructure of the dictatorship. >>
This talk investigates a subject that was of critical importance during the era of the American Civil War: material aid for the formerly-enslaved black poor. Beginning soon after the Civil War’s outbreak in 1861 and continuing through the war’s end in 1865, American military officials and, especially, a range of American and British activists strove not only to extract labor from but also to provide assistance to African-American freedpeople. >>
Classics in the Community: Philosophy for ESL Students >>