Form and Reform Conference

Representations editorial board member Ian Duncan will be presenting a keynote lecture at the upcoming Form and Reform conference on 19th-century literature, art, and history.

 

The conference will be held at UC Santa Cruz from July 27-29, 2017, and is free and open to the public. Duncan’s lecture, on the topic of “The Natural History of Form: From Aesthetic Education to Sexual Selection,” will take place at 8pm on Friday, July 28th. For more information, visit the conference website.

 

The Art of Friendship in France

The Art of Friendship in France / L’Art de l’amitié en France, 1789-1914

at Maison Francaise d’Oxford

Oxford, UK, July 19-20

Representations editor Michael Lucey and authors Sharon Marcus and Maurice Samuels with be participating in this two-day conference sponsored by Cambridge University’s The Art of Friendship in France project.

From the project’s description:

Friendship is everywhere. It is almost impossible to imagine a society or culture without it. Yet for a concept that is so immediately, intuitively meaningful to virtually all human beings, friendship has been a famously intractable scholarly problem. Unofficial, uncodified and unregulated (not to mention, very often, unspoken), friendship does not lend itself to clear theoretical definition; nor do the friendships of the past necessarily leave traces that might allow us to elaborate a model of historical friendship from evidence. It is doubtless both the challenge and the possibilities promised by these problematic aspects of friendship that have made it such a productive field of research, across a number of disciplines, in the last twenty years.

An Episode in the Histories of Realism and Emotion

Prosaic Suffering: Bourgeois Tragedy and the Aesthetics of the Ordinary

by Alex Eric Hernandez

The essay begins: 

In 1778, Samuel Johnson was asked to weigh in on the prose of a new bourgeois tragedy, The Female Gamester. Its author, Gorges Edmond Howard, was a Dublin-based lawyer and literary dabbler whose attempt at domestic drama might have been wholly forgotten were it not for the fragment of Johnsoniana he preserved in its preface. Having originally written the play in a mixture of prose and verse, Howard had been advised by “several of [his] literary acquaintance” that his “not much exalted” prose was much more suitable to the “scene . . . laid in private life, and chiefly among those of middling rank.” For many, it seems, the bourgeoisie suffered in prose. But Johnson, Howard recalls, would have none of this:

Having communicated this to Dr. Samuel Johnson, his words (as well as I remember) were, “That he could hardly consider a prose Tragedy as dramatic . . . that let it be either in the middling or in low life, it may, though in metre and spirited, be properly familiar and colloquial; that, many in the middling rank are not without erudition; that they have the feelings and sensations of nature, and every emotion in consequence thereof, as well as the great, and that even the lowest, when impassioned, raise their language.”

Johnson’s argument tweaked the older, neoclassical assumption that poetic decorum mandates a correspondence between the language and social rank of a drama’s principal figures. Here a tragedy’s verse style has less to do with the nobility of those represented—as had been the case for John Dryden in An Essay on Dramatick Poesie (1668), where heroic rhyme’s “exalt[ation] above . . . common converse” images “the minds and fortunes of noble persons . . . exactly”than with the intensity of the depicted afflictions. Tragedy needs verse not because its “elevation” allegorizes the status of its heroes, but because it corresponds to the magnitude of the drama’s subject matter, quite literally inscribing an emotional richness otherwise lost in the flatness of prose.

Johnson’s intervention plays out a mid-eighteenth-century discussion of the representation of emotion on the tragic stage, disclosing an unease with the degrading (if not also disenchanting) effects of prosaic suffering. Contemporaries in the period worried that prose was “fine and nervous,” disconcertingly “artless,” and “offensive,” while at the same time mere “trifling,” “below the dignity of Tragedy,” and even, for that reason, somehow “unnatural” in its expression. Consider, for example, that Johnson himself asserts that affliction “raises [one’s] language,” lapsing—naturally, he suggests—out of the grittiness of prose into the elegance of the poetic. A sort of poetry in the raw, suffering reaches after what’s already aesthetic and universal to misfortune, while prose trivializes and bogs down in the particular, rendering a tragedy “hardly dramatic,” untrue to the genre and affliction it purports to represent. Writing a few years later, Henry Mackenzie saw the genre’s strength as its ability to simulate those very same particulars, “the ordinary feelings and exertions of life” that nevertheless remained in tension with the tragic. In his view, suffering of this sort was if anything too true, its realism overburdening one’s perception. “Real distress, coming in a homely and unornamented state,” he concludes, “disgusts the eye.” Obscuring its art with disturbing efficacy, the outward formlessness of prosaic suffering threatened to neutralize the pleasures of the tragic.

These concerns spoke to a moment of renewed interest in bourgeois and domestic tragedy, capping a period of formal experimentation in Britain, France, and Germany that Peter Gay claims was crucial to the Enlightenment’s “emancipation of art.” Beginning around the production of George Lillo’s landmark 1731 tragedy The London Merchant, a series of important works fashioned a new aesthetic idiom calibrated to “the ordinary feelings and exertions of life” by working through varieties of verse, prose, and the visual arts. Scholars have long cited Denis Diderot’s Le Fils naturel (1757) and Discours sur la poésie dramatique (1757) as well as G. E. Lessing’s Miss Sara Sampson (1755), Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767–69), and Emilia Galotti (1772) as key moments in the drama’s modernization. But a variety of lesser-known works such as Charles Johnson’s prose Caelia; or The Perjur’d Lover (1732), Lillo’s 1736 encore to The London Merchant, Fatal Curiosity (which contemporaries claimed produced domestic interiors to horrifying effect in the cramped Little Haymarket theater), and Trauerspiele like Clementina von Poretta (1760; by Christoph Martin Wieland) and Clarissa (Johann Heinrich Steffens’s 1765 dramatization of Samuel Richardson’s novel) played with the representational mechanics of what one might call “ordinary suffering,” inhabiting familiar spaces and embodied emotion in ways that contemporaries took to be radical departures from established tragic convention. Among the most revolutionary of these innovations was the sustained use of prose, which until then had been largely confined to the domain of comedy. Indeed, in London, the 1770s and ’80s alone saw the production and publication of a number of prose tragedies, including notable revivals of The London Merchant and Edward Moore’s The Gamester (1753), curious adaptations such as The Fatal Interview (1782; a domestic tragic sequel to Pamela), quasi-gothic meditations on domestic violence like Richard Cumberland’s The Mysterious Husband (1783), as well as drames bourgeois in the form of Diderot’s 1758 Le Père de famille (translated “by a lady” as The Family Picture in 1781) and Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s L’Indigent (1772; translated in London and Edinburgh as The Distressed Family in 1787). Despite the concerns of those like Johnson and Mackenzie, by the latter half of the century, a deft use of prose on the stage could render the theater uncannily intimate, calling forth a space where private woe played out for all to see.

In what follows, I want to explore the affective stakes of this turn to prosaic suffering. Or rather more precisely, I want to trace a line through the contested process by which suffering became prosaic in eighteenth-century bourgeois and domestic drama in order to draw some implications for the history of emotion and the dialectics of realism at midcentury. My claim is that the emergence of prosaic suffering on the period’s tragic stage helps to imagine modern forms of affliction, thereby navigating a range of confessedly “ordinary” feelings by evoking and engaging and testing them across page and stage. Unlike the “heroick suffering” of classical, pathetic, or otherwise “high” tragic forms prevalent at the earlier part of the century, prosaic suffering performed its grief with troubling immediacy and a raw intensity, in ways that were personal and familiar, absorptive rather than theatrical, and provocatively disenchanted in their implications. Prosaic suffering presents the tragic figure as an emblem of abandonment, in which (as Georg Lukács claimed of the novel) everyday life is experienced as simultaneously leaden and trivial. I anchor my discussion in a close reading of Moore’s The Gamester, a drama whose importance to the development of realism was well known in the eighteenth century, and whose use of prose at midcentury tracks this shift in suffering most clearly, though by no means exclusively (as will become clear). Adapting the novel’s “writing to the moment” for the theater, (a method almost certainly absorbed in Moore’s reading of Clarissa and correspondence with Richardson on the novel’s formal effects), prose conferred a lively presence upon the performance of suffering, in ways that denied its spectators the sort of rhetorical elevation that stood in for transcendence. In making this case, therefore, I place the practices of British bourgeois tragedy in dialogue with contemporary performance and aesthetic theory so as to reconstruct the terrain of emotion’s exploration onstage. If, as one critic has claimed, versification serves to beautify the experience of suffering, prose insists on its crude intolerability, its reality and resistance to poetic gilding. Continue reading …

This essay looks to bourgeois tragedy’s use of prose in the mid-eighteenth century as an episode in the histories of realism and emotion, arguing that the emergence of prosaic suffering on the period’s tragic stage helps to imagine modern forms of affliction. Taking Edward Moore’s 1753 drama The Gamester as emblematic of this shift, and situating the text in its performative and aesthetic contexts, I trace the “emotional practices” that navigated a range of confessedly “ordinary” feelings by evoking, engaging, and testing them across page and stage. Performing its grief with troubling immediacy and a raw intensity, in ways that were personal and familiar, absorptive rather than theatrical, and provocatively disenchanted, bourgeois tragedy thereby embodied a middling mode of existence in which the prosaic qualified not only the drama’s form but also, ultimately, its content.

ALEX ERIC HERNANDEZ is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he works on Restoration and eighteenth-century literature and culture. This essay is part of his book in progress titled Modernity and Affliction: The Making of British Bourgeois Tragedy.

 

Radical Staging

Representations‘ editor Mary Ann Smart and authors Laura Tunbridge and Lydia Goehr on opera in Stockholm this weekend:

30 June 2017, 9.30 AM – 01 July 2017, 4.00 PM 
Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Frescativägen 22B-26, Stockholm University
After the much-noted “performative turn” in the humanities, the diverse field of opera studies seemed destined to move into a new paradigm. Widely read studies like Tom Sutcliffe’s Believing in Opera (1997) and David Levin’s Unsettling Opera (2007) promised a more refined approach to operatic production, dramaturgy and mise-en-scène, while Carolyn Abbate, Elisabeth LeGuin and others argued for the necessity of making bodily presence and liveness the key concern of opera scholarship. Against this background, the conference “Opera and Performance” aims to map a wide array of current positions in opera studies: To what extent have the concerns and methodologies of performance studies impacted current research on opera? Have notions of performance and event replaced the traditional focus on the operatic work, or have these perspectives merged into new syntheses? What is the current state of the debate pitting liveness and presence against meaning and interpretation? What is the role of the body and its movements in scholarship that emphasizes dance, gesture and choreography as vital components of operatic performance? What status do concepts of media and mediation have in opera studies today? Furthermore, how do these methodological issues relate to recent developments in the art of opera, such as stagings that operate beyond the dichotomous clichés of Werktreue and Regietheater; experimental forms of music theatre that take place outside the grand institutions of mainstream opera; and operas intended to be experienced through digital media?

July Conference on Feminism and Contemporary Art

Local/Global Dynamics in Feminism and Contemporary Art

July 3 2017, Middlesex University London

A research conference open to artists, academics and curators interested in feminism and contemporary art.

Organized by Katy Deepwell (founder and editor of n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal and Professor of Contemporary Art, Theory and Criticism, Middlesex University) and featuring panel discussions and presentations of current feminist research by:

Giulia Lamoni (art historian, Investigadora FCT, Instituto de Historio de Arte, Lisbon)

Ebru Yetiskin (curator, Associate Professor in Sociology, Media Theory, Digital Humanities. Istanbul Technical University)

Emanuela de Cecco (art critic/art historian, University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy)

Martina Pachmanova (art historian, Associate Professor, Katedra teorie a dejin umení, VŠUP/UMPRUM v Praze, Department of Art Theory and History, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague)

QUESTIONS EXPLORED

Writing in 1990, Elspeth Probyn argued that it was important to differentiate the concepts of locale, location and the local in order to address the broader questions of knowledge production and subject position in “where and how we may speak” – as well as a means to draw on a rich legacy of feminist thought from Adrienne Rich to Gayatri Spivak. In the production of artworks and in the analysis and presentation of the works of women artists in an international art world where globalisation, post-colonialism and a diasporic cultural politics have been predominant for two decades, this differentiation provides a starting point for this conference. Feminist questions about the politics of location; feminism’s role in countering “objective”/ “dominant” forms of knowledge, canons and historical agendas; as well as differentiating between speaking as women or Woman (as split and non-identitarian in her identifications) will be considered. Feminism has, for some time, argued that it can progress by “acting locally, thinking globally” in tackling women’s issues, often bypassing the question of the national en route to global comparisons on a world stage or by directing its critique at localised forms of nationalism.

Feminism nevertheless has also to counter perceptions of itself as homogeneous, when it is actually heterogeneous and scattered in how the position of women artists is theorised globally, and how women artists as subjects, both represented and representative and neither singular nor stereotypical, are written about. Acknowledging that individually we may speak from a location, about a locale and address local concerns requires more than personal caveats, it necessitates a commitment to dialogue and exchange as well as to hearing and engaging with other voices in the world who represent different realities/locations as well as diverse theoretical positions to our own.

This conference has been organised with the aim of building new and shared understandings across generations and geographies to think about where feminist debate in the visual arts is positioned today, especially given the current “popularity” of women artists in museums, biennales and galleries, as well as its directions for the future. The conference aims to address how different local concerns appear internationally and how locales may produce different understandings (locations) which may be productive for a stronger local and global dynamics within and across feminism(s).

All of the above approaches have been central to the work of the journal, n.paradoxa, for the last 20 years and this conference addresses the work of feminists, artists and researchers who have helped to create n.paradoxa: an international feminist art journal in a visual display of former contributors’ comments. The conference coincides with Volume 40 of n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal (July 2017) on the theme of Ends and Beginnings. In its 20 years of publication, over 400 women artists, writers and curators from more than 80 countries have contributed.

INVITATION TO ATTENDEES

All attendees, in the spirit of exchanging work and ideas, are invited to bring a poster outlining their own research work on feminism and contemporary art. The poster can represent a current art project, a research project, a thesis proposal or a plan for an article, chapter or book. The poster can be speculative, a proposition or a projection of future work. Part of the extended lunch time will be given over to attendees to discuss / present their poster displays.

Organiser: Katy Deepwell  K.Deepwell@mdx.ac.uk <mailto:K.Deepwell@mdx.ac.uk> or katy@ktpress.co.uk <mailto:katy@ktpress.co.uk>

Thinking about Utopia – Religious and Secular: Five Interventions

Workshop | April 21 | 11 a.m.-3 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley

Join Representations editorial co-chair Niklaus Largier in this half-day workshop sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, the Department of German, and the Department of Comparative Literature.

Harsha Ram (UC Berkeley), Revolutionary Utopia: Tatlin and Khlebnikov

Niklaus Largier (UC Berkeley), Against Projects: The Utopia of Essayism in Musil and
Lukács

Amy Hollywood (Harvard University), Antinomian A-topia: Writing Manuscript Textuality in the Poetry and Prose of Susan Howe

Kirill Chepurin (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow), The Utopian No – or, Idealism and Utopia

Alex Dubilet (Vanderbilt University), Ground(lessness) and Utopia

The Trump Brand and the Biographical Imaginary

Trump L’Oeil and the Art of the @Real, with Michael Silverstein

UC Berkeley Folklore Program’s 2017 Alan Dundes Lecture

Tuesday April 18, 5 – 7 pm
Geballe Room, Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

SilversteinLecture3

We might view both the course of the recent US presidential election and the subsequent efforts of the current Executive Branch administration through the lens of political “message,” in order to gain some understanding both of what happened in the former and what is transpiring, in an ever-shifting way, in the latter. “Message” for political figures, much like “brand” in the franker consumerist markets, creates an essentially folkloric biographical imaginary designed to resonate with as wide a segment of the electorate as is necessary for success, whether that message is positive (for oneself) or negative (against opponents) in the agon of adversarial politics. Mr. Trump’s positive message, long in creation, won an electoral victory at the margin while benefitting from a long-term, cumulative negative message centered in Congress and successfully communicated about Secretary Clinton. At the same time, the current administration has to work overtime to keep its message positive in the face of numerous, continuing setbacks and a media onslaught of derisive attention and eruptions of public disaffection.

MICHAEL SILVERSTEIN, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, has done linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork with Native North Americans in the US Pacific Northwest and among Aboriginal people in Australia’s Northern Kimberley, Western Australia. His essay “The Fieldwork Encounter and the Colonized Voice of Indigeneity” appears in the current number of Representations, the special issue Language-In-Use and the Literary Artifact. Silverstein’s other recent work has addressed mass-mediatization, as it shapes – and is shaped by – language and its use in our own society’s discursive universe. His recent Creatures of Politics (Indiana) focuses on US presidential communication.

Book Chat with D. A. Miller

Join a discussion with Berkeley professor D. A. Miller about his recent book Hidden Hitchcock 

Wednesday, Mar 8, 2017 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Presented by the Townsend Center for the Humanities

No filmmaker has more successfully courted mass-audience understanding than Alfred Hitchcock, and none has been studied more intensively by scholars. In Hidden Hitchcock, D. A. Miller discovers what has remained unseen in Hitchcock’s movies, a secret style that imbues his films with a radical duplicity.

Focusing on three films—Strangers on a Train, Rope, and The Wrong Man—Miller shows how Hitchcock anticipates, even demands, what he terms a “Too-Close Viewer.” Dwelling within us all and vigilant even when everything appears to be in good order, this “Too-Close Viewer” attempts to see more than the director points out.

author photo in colorD. A. Miller is Professor of the Graduate School and the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley. His recent books include 8 ½ and Jane Austen, or the Secret of Style. In 2013, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Miller has published on Hitchcock twice in Representations: “Hitchcock’s Understyle: A Too-Close View of Rope“ (121, Winter 2013) and “Anal Rope“ (31, Fall 1990).

Talk on the Future of the Public University

The Future of the Public University – Christopher Newfield and Carol Christ in Conversation

Sibley Auditorium, UC Berkeley, 2-4 pm, February 1, 2017

Presented by the Berkeley Faculty Association

Open to the Public

The public university is facing unprecedented challenges: mounting budgetary pressures and a more hostile political climate. Two distinguished commentators will discuss the path the public university has taken so far, and possible roads ahead.

CHRISTOPHER NEWFIELD is Professor of Literature and American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His most recent book, The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them, focuses on the post-2008 struggles of public universities to rebuild their social mission.

CAROL CHRIST is the Interim Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the University of California, Berkeley. A Professor of English specializing in Victorian literature, she is Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

For more on the issues facing the public university, see our special issue The Humanities and the Crisis of the Public University (Representations 116), edited by Christopher Newfield, Colleen Lye, and James Vernon, and in particular see their critical introduction “Humanists and the Public University.”

“Time Zones” Launch Event

MINDING TIME: HOLIDAY CELEBRATION OF TIME ZONES

A UC Berkeley Arts Research Center Upcoming Event

You’re Invited! Sunday, December 4, 2016
3:00pm to 6:30pm

3pm: Tour of Mind over Matter Exhibition
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Galleries 

4:00-5:30pm: Celebrating Time Zones
Dwinelle Annex, Room 126, UC Berkeley campus

5:30pm: West Coast Preview of In Terms of Performance Website
and Holiday Reception
Dwinelle Annex, Room 126, UC Berkeley campus

Join a time-based (and time-sensitive) tour of Mind over Matter at the Berkeley Art Museum with curator Constance Lewallen.

Converse with Shannon Jackson and Julia Bryan-Wilson about their special issue of Representations, “Time Zones: Durational Art and Its Contexts,” including substantive essays on contemporary Croatian dance practice, Uruguayan art under dictatorship, the work of the Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica, and the visual and sound arts of China, along with reflections on durational art by Berkeley faculty, including Natalia Brizuela, Jeffrey Skoller, Suzanne Guerlac, Winnie Wong, and more.

Engage with the Arts Research Center’s new online anthology of keywords in contemporary art and performance, In Terms of Performance, coproduced with Paula Marincola and the Pew Center for Art & Heritage, with contributions from a range of Bay Area artists, critics, and curators such as Rudolf Frieling, Paul Dresher, Judith Butler, and Claudia La Rocca.

Launch the holiday season with a celebration of the Arts Research Center as a think tank for the arts, at Berkeley and beyond. See the full afternoon program here.