Spring 2018

Thursday Lecture Series are open to Columbia faculty, students, and guests. Special Events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Johann Weyer and the Emotions of Witchcraft

In this talk, Tom Robisheaux explores the emotions of witchcraft in sixteenth-century Europe through one of the most astute and critical commentators on witchcraft and the witch trials: Johann Weyer.   A German Protestant-leaning physician who often visited women accused of witchcraft, Weyer was the first to treat the emotions of witchcraft comprehensively as witch trials began to surge in the last half of the sixteenth century. In a magisterial and widely read treatise on witchcraft, Weyer argued that human emotions were porous, and resulted from both natural and medical causes as well as preternatural manipulations by demons.  An individual’s feelings could therefore never be understood as internally generated or self-contained, but instead were connected to forces that saturated the natural and preternatural world.  Weyer’s views sharply challenged jurists, magistrates and theologians with simpler views on the emotions of witchcraft. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Scandalous Genres and Monstrous Race(s): Black Writing, the Gothic and the Question of Whiteness

By now critics have clearly recognized the ways in which foundational Gothic texts such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula¸ and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter among numerous others are rife with discourses and debates on racial otherness.  Critical studies such as H.L. Malchow’s Gothic Images of Race in the Nineteenth Century and Teresa Goddu’s Gothic America have done much to explore the appearance and conjunction of racial otherness and monstrosity in British and American Gothic Literature.        >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Romantic Music and the Transmigration of Soul

The survival of musical works as participants in cultural life depends upon the reenactment of patterned sounds through performance or (in the era of mechanical reproduction) playback. But what precisely is reproduced for listeners in such transhistorical resoundings?  Music has at least since the Romantic era been conceived of as, among other things, a stimulus to feeling, whether in the form of a generalized “aesthetic experience” or as the transmission of emotions.  Are the feelings and experiences inspired by music, then, communicable across time, exhibiting as much (and as little) stability as the patterned sounds that occasion them? >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Moralizing ‘High Gods’ Historical Chinese Religion & the Alleged Origins of Cooperation in East Asia

The paper has two goals. The first is to provide a data-centered, epistemically justified judgment about the status of moralizing high god theory’s contested ability to explain the origins of cooperation in China. The second is to demonstrate the utility of new quantitative methods for the potential disconfirmation or confirmation of close reading interpretations (or at least of those that are operationalizeable and falsifiable). Central to ongoing debate about the role of gods on cooperation is a widening difference of scholarly opinion on what have come to be identified as ‘Moralizing High God Theory’ and ‘Broad Supernatural Punishment Theory.’ We introduce an automated technique for association mining for the humanities and operationalize the moralizing high gods theory in the context of an ancient Chinese corpus. Both theories argue that supernatural agents with certain traits bear a special relationship to cooperation.  >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Luther, Death and Popery

In 1546, as Luther lay dying, he made one last sally against the Pope: ‘Living I was your plague, Dead I will be your death, O Pope!’ This imprecation was faithfully recorded in the published accounts of Luther’s death by his followers. Why did Luther curse the Pope at such a time? How could this outburst become part of Lutheran memorial culture? >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Supernatural

Our Lady of the Alt-Right: Catholic Traditionalism, Russian Orthodoxy, & the Theology of Nationalism

Full Title: Our Lady of the Alt-Right: Catholic Traditionalism, Russian Orthodoxy, and the Theology of White Nationalism Within the toxic brew of ideologies and interests fueling white supremacist nationalism, observers have detected the ominous persistence of neo-Confederate infatuation with Catholic traditionalism and, increasingly, its eastern variant, Russian Orthodoxy. In publications and through privately funded ideological centers, the Old Right and the Southern Agrarian tradition were kept alive during the 1980s and 1990s for those conservatives underwhelmed by the fusion of American Catholics and evangelicals in the New Christian Right. These rock-ribbed traditionalists saw in the GOP of the Reagan years and the 1994 Contract with America not the triumph of conservatism but “the increasing secularism, hedonism, and carnal and material self-indulgence of the dominant culture.” The Republican Party, these paleoconservatives believed, had capitulated to a soft and shallow version of family values, trading the substance of a robust Anglo-Saxon-Celtic political and cultural tradition for the shadow of a telegenic frenzy about sexy movies and prayer in the schools. The enduring romance between a certain strain of Catholic traditionalism and the white supremacist attachment to its vision of the Old South today reaches wider audiences in the form of on-line communities and a renewed movement for the “Church Militant.” Perhaps even more startling has been the rise of Eastern Orthodoxy as the home church of white nationalism in the U.S. as well as around the world. Periodically, the status of the Orthodox Communion has come into vogue as the uncorrupted church—the “Third Rome,” as Russians call Moscow, to which the true faith retreated while Western Christianity succumbed to Roman domination, Enlightenment corruption, and eventually to the liberalization of Vatican II. With Pope Francis widely perceived on the Right as the first gay communist pope, and with international awareness of the robust anti-gay, anti-feminist, and pro-white agendas of Orthodox flag-wavers like Vladimir Putin and Greece’s Golden Dawn, Russian Orthodoxy is growing in the U.S., albeit sometimes in the shadows of the institutional church. Through a network of institutions, publications, conferences, and political action, then, Confederate romanticism joins right-wing Catholic anti-modernism and Russian traditionalism to offer spiritual succor to a new “nationalist international” in the age of Trump. >>