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Summer Seminar 2015

Day 1 - May 13

Location: Richard Daley Conference Room

12:45-1 Welcome and Seminar Information

1-2:00 Introductory Lecture I: Michał Markowski, Slavic and Baltic Studies
Inevitable Clash of Values: from Nietzsche to Mapplethorpe and Back to Modernism.
Nietzsche was the first philosopher to see culture as a space of conflicting value-sets related to different positions occupied by free agents in the world and to different life interests. For him the ultimate test for the validation of values was “life affirmation”; as such, this criterion seems to be very ambiguous and needs specification. Starting with Nietzsche, I move to one significant episode from contemporary American culture wars, the clash over photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, and return to a Polish Modernist reader of Nietzsche, Stanisław Brzozowski, in order to suggest what could be an ultimate test for choosing one set of values over another, if, of course, such a choice can ever be legitimately made.

2-2:30 Moderated Discussion of Markowski’s Presentation—Julia Vaingurt, Slavic and Baltic Studies

2:3-3 Hosted Coffee Break

3-4:00 Introductory Lecture II: Steve Marsh, Hispanic and Italian Studies
Periodization, History, and Heterogeneity: The Films of Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo and the Spanish Transition
Between 1976 and 1982 Gonzalo García Pelayo made five films that until recently had either been forgotten or ignored by critics. Often constructed as strange conflictive combinations of essay film with graphic sexual content, they also incorporate other improbable filmic forms, such as ethnography and the road movie. All these films were shot on location in Andalusia and are permeated with the traces of regional culture, particularly music. García Pelayo’s films constitute hybrid generic experiments whose musical and filmic technologies chafe against the naturalism of their surroundings.
In this paper I will locate Pelayo’s films in the turbulent context of the political changes underway at the time of their making. I argue that while the production of these films would have been impossible were it not for the Transition, they are not allegories of that period but rather stand in counterpoint to it. This, I suggest, is perhaps one of the reasons his inconvenient voice has been silenced for so long. The forced consensus—the set of pacts, social contracts and negotiated agreements—resulting from the transitional period contrasts with the formal, generic disruption and social-sexual conflict proposed by García Pelayo.

4-4:30 Moderated Discussion of Marsh’s Presentation—Heidi Schlipphacke, Germanic Studies

4:30-6:00 Hosted Reception

Day 2 - May 14

Location: Richard Daley Conference Room

9-9:30 Hosted Coffee and Pastries

9:30-11 Walter Benn Michaels, Department of English
Forms of Conflict: Culture, Class and Art.
This talk is about different kinds of conflict, about why American society today prefers some kinds to others, and about the role ambitious art can play in depicting and producing conflict but not in resolving it.

11:30-1 Nick Brown, Department of African American Studies and English
Choosing Sides
Aesthetic judgments are, in the first instance, the determinate negation, the necessary other, of market judgments. As Adam Smith was already aware, markets work the way they do precisely because market judgments are non-normative. Aesthetic judgments are, as Kant was already aware, normative. Normative, but without a conceptual basis, which means that while agreement is presupposed, disagreement is inevitable. Further, when the market claims authority over the aesthetic — when the work of art renounces or is stripped of its claim to be something more or less than a commodity like any other — aesthetic judgment finds itself to be necessarily in opposition to market judgments, and it therefore to entail a kind of politics. On this account, what is political about the work of art is not that it promises utopia, prefigures an emancipatory practice, or holds out the hope of a community to come — much less any contingent political content, which at this late date would only represent a marketable point of social identification, like a lapel pin – but rather that it requires us to take sides.

1-2:30 Hosted Lunch

2:30-4 Marina Mogilner, Department of History
The languages of conflict in history writing: problematizing the “scandal paradigm” (from the Russian imperial perspective).
Conflict permeates modern historical inquiry. Think about war history; the history that explores the relationships between labor and capital, or between competing versions of modernity; the history of revolution; the history inspired by the model of the “clash of civilizations”; historical studies of forms of direct and indirect domination (especially colonial domination). As long as history deals with power relations and social and cultural dynamics, it is bound to rely on the language of conflict and on conflict as a dominant explanatory paradigm. “Scandal” is one of the most extreme, politicized and morally charged versions of this paradigm. On the most immediate level, it implies that the very historical phenomenon under consideration is understood as a “scandal”, and the historical inquiry is focused on a scandalous event viewed as paradigmatic for a more general phenomenon. The classical example of such an approach would be Nicholas Dirks, The Scandal of Empire. India and the Creation of Imperial Britain (Cambridge, MA, 2006), focused on one scandalous legal case that explicates and reduces imperialism to a “scandal”/crime/abuse and manipulation. The book by Dirks became a sort of “scandal” by itself in the context of historiography and current political debates. The nature of this scandal is comparable to the epistemological and political “scandal” produced by the accumulated body of postcolonial critique of traditional historical approaches. In my lecture, I am trying to use the scandal paradigm differently – on both levels. Following Dirks, I am focusing on two paradigmatic scandalous events – two legal cases of ritual murder that took place in the Russian empire at the turn of the twentieth century. However instead of employing the language of conflict to frame Russian imperialism as a political and moral “scandal”, I am asking questions influenced by postcolonial critique and pertaining to the role of scientific and legal discourses in enabling modern forms of domination and control.
At the same time, instead of imposing postcolonial definitions and dichotomies upon the actors of the two historical “scandals” presented in my lecture, I propose to focus on their own languages of conflict and reconstruct the contextualized meanings of these scandals, as these meanings had been produced inside specific imperial situations of their participants. I will try to show how such historical problematization of the language of conflict can rehabilitate “scandal” as a useful research paradigm.

4:30-6 Rachel Havrelock, Religious Studies Program and English
How We Got to Gaza: History, Territory, Flows
In many ways, each new war between Israel and the Palestinians represents the continuation of an ongoing war. This talk considers the role of national history, ideas about legitimate and contested territory, and the status of underground flows such as water and natural gas. How does each front contribute to continual conflict and where might there be room for deescalation.

Day 3 - May 15

Location: Institute for the Humanities

9-9:30 Hosted Coffee and Pastries

9:30-11 Workshop on Discourses of Conflict and Interpretation. Led by Imke Meyer

11:30-1 Workshop on Discourses of Conflict and Representation. Led by Rosie Hernández.

1-2:30 Hosted Lunch

Afternoon Session—LCSL Graduate Student Presentations

2:30-6 pm Graduate students offer ten-minute presentations where they connect their own (thesis) research to the topic of the Summer Seminar. Students would have been notified in advance of this opportunity and would have been selected to present in advance.

6:30 to ….. End of the Event Potluck

  • School of Literatures, Cultural Studies, and Linguistics
  • Institute for the Humanities
  • Department of English
  • Department of African American Studies