Fall 2016

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?

Special Events

Nietzsche 13/13: Martin Heidegger (1/13)

  • Taylor Carman, Professor, Barnard College
  • Babette Babich, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Fordham University
  • Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco, Professor and Chair of the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Columbia University

This is the first seminar in the Nietzsche 13/13 seminar series. 1/13: Heidegger.  >>

Special Events

Nietzsche 13/13: Georges Bataille (2/13)

  • Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
  • Denis Hollier, Professor, Department of French, New York University
  • Anthony Vidler, Professor, The Cooper Union

This is the second seminar in the Nietzsche 13/13 seminar series. 2/13: Georges Bataille. >>

Special Events

Publishing Scholarly Books Successfully in the 21st Century

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.  >>

Special Events

Nietzsche 13/13: Maurice Blanchot

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. >>

Special Events

Nietzsche 13/13: Gilles Deleuze

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. >>

Special Events

Nietzsche 13/13: Hannah Arendt (5/13)

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. >>