Data and Literature

Modeling Perspective and Parallax to Tell the Story of Genre Fiction
Ted Underwood
Thursday, November 8th, 2018
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Townsend Center, 220 Stephens Hall (Geballe Room), UC Berkeley

In this talk Ted Underwood will use science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and the Gothic to explore the advantages of an approach that asks data science to contribute to the humanities by adding perspectival flexibility, rather than sheer scale. Underwood trained predictive models of these genres using ground truth drawn from various sources and periods (19c reviewers, early 20c bibliographies, contemporary librarians), in order to explore how implicit assumptions about genre consolidate or change across time.

Ted Underwood teaches in the School of Information Sciences and the English Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He was trained as a Romanticist and now applies machine learning to large digital collections. His most recent book, Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (University of Chicago, Spring 2019) addresses new perspectives opened up by large digital libraries. Underwood’s contributions to Representations include Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago and Stories of Parallel Lives and the Status Anxieties of Contemporary Historicism.

The Screen in Sound

A Lecture by Rey chow:

The Screen in Sound: Toward a Theory of Listening

October 18 | 4-6 p.m. | 370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley

This lecture is drawn from Rey Chow’s chapter in the anthology Sound Objects (Duke UP, forthcoming), co-edited by Chow and James A. Steintrager. By foregrounding crucial connections among sound studies, poststructuralist theory, and contemporary acousmatic experiences, the lecture presents listening as a trans-disciplinary problematic through which different fields of study resonate in fascinating ways.

Rey Chow’s research comprises theoretical, interdisciplinary, and textual analyses. Since her years as a graduate student at Stanford University, she has specialized in the making of cultural forms such as literature and film (with particular attention to East Asia, Western Europe, and North America), and in the discursive encounters among modernity, sexuality, postcoloniality, and ethnicity. In her current work, Chow is concerned with the legacies of poststructuralist theory (in particular the work of Michel Foucault), the politics of language as a postcolonial phenomenon, and the shifting paradigms for knowledge and lived experience in the age of visual technologies and digital media.

REY CHOW is Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature at Duke University. In addition to her work on Sound Objects, she is the author of numerous influential monographs, including 2014’s Not Like a Native Speaker: On Languaging as a Postcolonial Experience. Her most recent publication in Representations is “The Hitchcockian Nudge; or, An Aesthetics of Deception,” written with Markos Hadjioannou, published in number 140, Fall 2017.

The Tar Baby: A Global History

Join Bryan Wagner for a discussion of his recent book

The Tar Baby: A Global History

Weds., Oct. 17, 2018 | noon to 1:00, Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

In The Tar Baby: A Global History (Princeton, 2017), Bryan Wagner explores how the tar baby tale, thought to have originated in Africa, came to exist in hundreds of forms on five continents. Examining the fable’s variation, reception, and dispersal over time, he argues that this story of a fox, a rabbit, and a doll made of tar and turpentine is best understood not merely as a folktale but as a collective work in political philosophy. Circulating at the same time and in the same places as new ideas about property and politics developed in colonial law and political economy, the tar baby comes to embody an understanding of the interlocking systems of slavery, colonialism, and global trade.

Bryan Wagner is Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on African American expression in the context of slavery and its aftermath. In addition to The Tar Baby, he is the author of Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery. His essay “Disarmed and Dangerous: The Strange Career of Bras-Coupé” appeared in Representations 92.

Slang, Argot, Dialect & Jargon

STRANGE VERNACULARS

A Colloquium on the UC Berkeley Campus
Thursday, October 4, 4:30-6:30
315 Wheeler Hall (Maude Fife Room)

Featuring presentations by Janet Sorensen, Celeste Langan, Deidre Shauna Lynch, Maureen McLane, and Daniel Tiffany

While eighteenth-century efforts to standardize the English language have long been studied—from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary to grammar and elocution books of the period—less well-known are the era’s popular collections of odd slang, criminal argots, provincial dialects, and nautical jargon. Strange Vernaculars delves into how these published works presented the supposed lexicons of the “common people” and traces the ways these languages, once shunned and associated with outsiders, became objects of fascination in printed glossaries—from The New Canting Dictionary to Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue—and in novels, poems, and songs, including works by Daniel Defoe, John Gay, Samuel Richardson, Robert Burns, and others.

Maureen McLane’s essay Compositionism: Plants, Poetics, Possibilities; or, Two Cheers for Fallacies, Especially Pathetic Ones! appears in our recent Fallacies special issue.

Sweet Science

Join Amanda Jo Goldstein for a discussion of her Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life

Wednesday, Apr 11, 2018 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in the Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Today we do not expect poems to carry scientifically valid information — but this was not always the case. In Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Logics of Life (Chicago, 2017),  Amanda Jo Goldstein explores how Romantic poetry served as an important tool for scientific inquiry. She argues that the work of authors such as William Blake and Percy Shelley makes a compelling case for poetry’s role in the perception and communication of empirical realities.

Amanda Jo Goldstein is Assistant Professor of English at UC Berkeley specializing in Enlightenment and Romantic literature and science, with particular interests in rhetoric and poetics, pre-Darwinian biology, and materialist theories of history, poetry, and nature. A version of her Sweet Science chapter “Growing Old Together: Lucretian Materialism in Shelley’s The Triumph of Life” was first published in Representations in 2014.

Presented by the Townsend Center for the Humanities

Is literary criticism political?

The Politics of Literary Criticism Now

A Panel on Joseph North’s Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History

April 5 | 6-8 pm | 315 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley

With Stephen Best, Catherine Gallagher, David Marno, Joseph North, and Namwali Serpell

People in today’s literature departments often assume that their work is politically progressive, especially when compared with the work of early- and mid-twentieth-century critics. In Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History, Joseph North argues that when understood in relation to the longer arc of the discipline, the current historicist and contextualist mode in literary studies represents a step lo the Right. Since the global turn to neoliberalism in the late 1970s, all the major movements within literary studies have been diagnostic rather than interventionist in character; scholars have developed sophisticated techniques for analyzing culture, but they have retreated from systematic attempts to transform it. In this respect, the political potential of current literary scholarship compares poorly with that of earlier critical modes, which, for all their faults, at least had a programmatic commitment to cultural change. Yet neoliberalism is now in crisis – a crisis that presents opportunities as well as dangers. The creation of a genuinely interventionist criticism is one of the central tasks facing those on the Left of the discipline today.

Art in a State of Siege

A series of events with Joseph Leo Koerner
March 15, 16, & 17
sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities
at UC Berkeley

ART IN A STATE OF SIEGE

Lecture: Art in a State of Siege: Bosch in Retrospect

Thursday, Mar 15, 2018 | 5:00 pm
Morrison Reading Room, 101 Doe Library, UC Berkeley

In this lecture, Koerner examines Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Delights — a work notorious for its portrayal of nude men and women cavorting with beasts in a verdant landscape. He approaches the painting as a representation of a world without history and without law, whose imagery attracted significant attention during similarly lawless historical periods. The discussion emerges from a larger project in which Koerner explores the relationship between art and freedom under a range of emergency “states of siege,” including apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

Joseph Leo Koerner, Thomas Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Senior Fellow, Society of Fellows at Harvard University, is the author of Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape and Dürer’s Hands. He wrote and presented the three-part television series Northern Renaissance and the documentary Vienna: City of Dreams, both produced by the BBC. Koerner’s work has been influential for decades; his essay “The Mortification of the Image: Death as a Hermenuetic in Hans Baldung Grien” appeared in Representations 10 (1985).

Symposium on Art in a State of Siege

Friday, Mar 16, 2018 | 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Joseph Leo Koerner, joins a panel of scholars to discuss the role of art in a society in which freedom is radically curtailed, such as Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. Panelists engage with audience members in lively discussion about creative expression under an emergency “state of siege.”

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Participants: Whitney Davis, History of Art, UC Berkeley; Joseph Leo Koerner, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University; James Porter, Classics and Rhetoric, UC Berkeley; and Jane Taylor, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape

Film Screening: The Burning Child

Saturday, Mar 17, 2018 | 4:00 pm
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
2155 Center Street, Berkeley

Joseph Leo Koerner screens a preview of his documentary film The Burning Child (2017, 120 mins). Through interviews, testimony, and archival footage, the film explores Koerner’s return to Vienna, the birthplace of his father, painter Henry Koerner, and is a meditation on the concepts of home and homemaking that emerged amidst the turbulence of 20th-century Vienna. With Q+A to follow moderated by Winnie Wong.

Tickets available at the BAMPFA boxoffice or at bampfa.org.

Book Chat with Peter Sahlins

Join Peter Sahlins for a discussion of his recent book

1668: The Year of the Animal in France

In the Berkeley Book Chat Series sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

In his new book, Sahlins explores the “animal moment” in and around 1668, in which authors, anatomists, painters, sculptors, and especially the young Louis XIV — with his Royal Menagerie in the gardens of Versailles — turned their attention to nonhuman beings. 1668: The Year of the Animal in France (MIT, 2017) shows the importance of animals to the dramatic rethinking of governance, nature, and the human that took place in the late 17th century, and which had a profound effect on the formation of French cultural identity.
After a brief introduction, Sahlins will speak about his work and open the floor for discussion.
Peter Sahlins is Professor of History at UC Berkeley. His work has spanned France and Spain from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, focusing on questions of boundaries and identities; immigration, naturalization, and citizenship; the history of forests and forestry in France; and most recently, human-animal relations. His essay “The Beast Within: Animals in the First Xenotransfusion Experiments in France, ca. 1667-68” appeared in Representations 129 (Winter 2015)