Session III


Vision and Communism / Smart Museum Tour

Vision and Communism. Discover the aggressive, emotionally charged work of Soviet artist and designer Viktor Koretsky (1909–1998). Featuring more than ninety posters, photographs, and maquettes—the majority of which date from the heart of the Cold War—this exhibition reveals a Communist vision of the world that is utterly unlike that of conventional propaganda. This exhibit is part of the Soviet Arts Experience, a 16-month-long showcase of works by artists who created under (and in response to) the Politburo of the Soviet Union.

Walden’s Carbon Footprint: How People, Plants, Animals, and Machines Created an Environmental Classic

Modern Americans associate Henry David Thoreau’s masterpiece with solitude, manual labor, idealist philosophy, and the natural world. This talk will blend environmental, labor, and literary history while revisiting the crowded, industrial, material world of the global nineteenth-century marketplace, where Thoreau’s book first took physical form.

Oy ♥ Noo Yawk (But Maybe Not Da Tawk a’ Da Town)!

Successful New York City “accent eradication,” as it is termed by speech therapists, while sought by many upwardly mobile clients, nevertheless engenders a kind of panic at the thought of being phonetically deracinated, verbally uprooted, and sonically removed from kith and kin. This talk examines the changing landscape of urban and regional accent here through the lens of a recent report in the digital pages of “Da Noo Yawk Toyms” that caused an instant uproar – in many different accents.

Schematic Passion: Charles Le Brun and his Conference on Expression

As founder of the French Academy and court painter to Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun (1619-90) influenced an era of visual art practice. His Conference on Expression detailed, along the lines established in Descartes's theory of the inner emotional passions, a visual guide for artists to follow as emotive states became manifest on the surface of the body. These instructive lectures and his drawing albums of diagrammatic facial expression formed a theoretical and practical base to be contended with through modern time.

Ethics, Poverty, and the Humanities

The University of Chicago has a long and illustrious history of promoting the humanities. In recent years, this legacy has provided support for new and provocative defenses of the value of the humanities, not only as crucial to the education needed by citizens of a democracy but as providing effective tools for antipoverty programs worldwide.

Freud and Proust

Freud and Marcel Proust were contemporaries, each writing from (very) different perspectives on memory and time. In this lecture, we will be considering two texts. The first is "Note on a Mystic Writing Pad," a very short text by Freud in which he uses a child's toy as a model of how the mind remembers. The second will be parts of the famous "tea and madeleine" episode in the first volume of Proust's Recherche. The two texts are remarkably similar, and open up considerations on how literature and psychoanalysis use metaphors and myths to explicate abstract notions.

Preserving the Spell: Fairy Tales and the Future of Storytelling

According to the Brothers Grimm, the seventeenth-century Italian book titled The Tale of Tales by Giovan Battista Basile was the first and most important collection of oral fairy tales. This book contains the first versions of famous tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The Grimms believed that "The Tale of Tales," written in the Neapolitan dialect, echoed the original myths of the Italian people who, according to the Grimms, were closer to ancient history.

The Arts of Enslavement in Colonial Cuba

Coercion and violence over body and soul were not the only mechanisms deployed at the dawn of the Cuban slaveholding plantation system to extract obedience and subjugation from uprooted African captives. In their efforts to pedagogically incite some sort of “willingness” to submit, Cuban masters also engaged theatrical performances and the visual arts. In this talk we will examine some examples of these artistic forms and the unintended, and rather paradoxical, effects they had over the lives of slaves.

Drinking and the Culture of Play in Ancient China

The play element in human culture is often agonistic: winning the game demonstrates the winner’s superior power over other players. Marcel Granet (d. 1940), French sociologist and sinologist, used the motif of drinking as an agonistic activity to analyze society and culture at the beginning of Chinese civilization in his final, unfinished work, Le roi boit.

Cotton, Gender, and Revolution in Twentieth-century China

The socialist revolution promised to transform the everyday life of China’s rural inhabitants by bringing new objects and technologies – “two-storey brick houses, electric light, and telephones” (loushang louxia, diandeng dianhua) – to the countryside. How people experienced socialism at the grassroots levels depended as much on such changes in material life as on the political campaigns that are usually at the center of analysis. Few changes were as momentous as those related to how rural people clothed themselves.


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