Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate

Ain’t no use

…to sit and wonder why Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature yesterday. In the words of Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, he is honored for having “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Timothy Hampton, author of  “Absolutely Modern” Dylan, Rimbaud, and Visionary Song” (Representations 132, Fall 2015), would certainly agree. As Hampton shows in this recent essay, the new Nobel Laureate is not just an American bard but also a modernist visionary. “Dylan’s work during the mid-1960s,” writes Hampton, “might be seen as a search for a set of forms that would keep faith with Rimbaud’s famous axiom, ‘One must be absolutely modern.’…Dylan’s version of Rimbaud’s modernism involves processing an entire phantasmagoria of raw material previously unexplored in American songwriting—movies, history, literature, legend, travel, exotica, cartoons, and so on. And Dylan’s self-creation in music includes the struggle to marshal this material. Thus we might posit Dylan, not as some mere ‘genius’ who simply outpaces the competition (though he certainly does that), but as a kind of site at which a newly complex image world is engaged and managed” (2-3).

Read more about this essay here.

 

“Maroons and World History”

maroon-web-urlRepresentations board members Stephen Best and Elisa Tamarkin, Associate Professors of English at UC Berkeley, will participate in an upcoming conference on “Maroons and World History.” The conference will take place on Thursday, May 5, at the Bancroft Hotel. Papers will be pre-circulated and registration is free, but required. More information and schedule details can be found here.

 

Other participants in the conference include Bryan Wagner (Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley), whose essay “Disarmed and Dangerous: The Strange Career of Bras-Coupéé” appeared in Representations 92 (Fall 2005).

 

Algorithms in Culture events

In this undated photo made available by Google, Denise Harwood diagnoses an overheated computer processor at Google’s data center in The Dalles, Ore. Google uses these data centers to store email, photos, video, calendar entries and other information shared by its users. These centers also process the hundreds of millions of searches that Internet users make on Google each day. (AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou)

(AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou)

Supported by a joint grant from Representations and the Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society presents a discussion on the topic of “Algorithms in Culture.” At this event, an interdisciplinary faculty working group will share their reflections about the place of algorithms in their disciplines and research. The discussion will take place on Friday, April 29, at 10:30am in 470 Stevens Hall, UC Berkeley. The event inaugurates an ongoing conversation that will be pursued further in a day-long workshop on May 13.

While algorithms are a foundational concept in computer science, there is increasing interest about the roles algorithms play in politics, media, science, organizations, and identity in everyday life. As algorithms become more prevalent and visible in contemporary life, issues around their development and deployment will continue to rise, both in academia and public discourse. In recent years, there has been a growing academic literature taking algorithms as an object of cultural inquiry, as well as many conferences and workshops focused on studying algorithms from a more social scientific or humanistic perspective. In response to this growing approach to algorithms as culture, this interdisciplinary group of scholars will take up algorithms as an object of study in order to examine them as computation, culture and their role in the construction of the self in this event to develop a special section of a journal that explores this topic.

“Difference/Distance: Picturing Race Across Oceans in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”

Pirogue-de-lIle-de-Paque.

Todd Olson, Professor of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley and member of the Representations Editorial Board, will participate in a conference on “Difference/Distance: Picturing Race Across Oceans in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.” The conference will take place on April 15 in 308A Doe Library, UC Berkeley; further schedule details can be found here.

 

In addition, the conference will feature papers by Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (Professor of Art History at UC Berkeley) and Krista Thompson (Professor of Art History at Northwestern University). Grigsby and Thompson published related work in the Representations 113 special issue “New World Slavery and the Matter of the Visual” (Winter 2011), which they co-edited with Huey Copeland (Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University).

Representations’ Stephen Greenblatt wins 2016 Holberg Prize

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Stephen Greenblatt, founding co-editor of Representations and John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, has been named the 2016 Holberg Prize Laureate. The prize, awarded annually by the Norwegian government, is given to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the arts and humanities, social science, law or theology. Previous laureates include Julia Kristeva, Jürgen Habermas, Natalie Zemon Davis, Manuel Castells, Bruno Latour, and Marina Warner.

“His scholarship has had an immeasurable impact on the practices of literary studies, history and cultural criticism, well beyond his own field of expertise,” noted the Holberg Committee. “Greenblatt has provided us a vocabulary through which we can approach the task of understanding our times and its history. His work has been animated by the idea of life as art, and art as revealing something important about life.”

An award ceremony will take place in Bergen, Norway, in June 2016, to honor both Greenblatt as the Holberg Prize Laureate, and Nils Klim Prize laureate, Sanja Bogojević, Senior Lecturer at Lund University.

Representations’ Beate Fricke on “Making Marvels, Faking Matter”

Beate Fricke, Associate Professor of Art History and member of the Representations Editorial Board, will participate in a conference on “Christianity and Capitalism.” Organized by the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies with support from the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, the conference will take place in the Geballe Room of the Townsend Center (UC Berkeley) on Friday, March 11 and Saturday, March 12.

 

More details about the schedule can be found here. Other participants include Aden Kumler (University of Chicago), Mark Peterson (UC Berkeley), David Hawkes (Arizona State University), Carl Wennerlind (Barnard), Ivonne del Valle (UC Berkeley), Shannon Stimson (Georgetown), John Martin (Duke), Ethan Shagan (UC Berkeley), and Elizabeth Honig (UC Berkeley).

Images at Work: A Special Issue, Representations 133

NOW AVAILABLE

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Guest Editors

Ittai Weinryb, Assistant Professor of Medieval Art and Material Culture,

Bard Graduate Center

Hannah Baader, Senior Research Scholar, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence

Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence

According to legend, the poet Virgil made a fly out of bronze and perched it above the gates of Naples. The fly’s sole purpose was to prevent other flies from entering the city. This Representations special issue explores the intention, function, and reception of images like Virgil’s fly: images made to influence the natural world. The essays collected here examine the theories behind the construction of these operative images, question the way the production of apotropaic images related to the production of art, and consider how such working images helped to fashion a world.

The aim of the volume is to find the connection between historical moments and theories relating to efficacy as ascribed to objects or things. Each essay included does this a little differently: from Finbarr B. Flood’s thinking about the anthropomorphic eye and hand patterns in medieval Iran to Persis Berlekamp’s illumination of the protective dragons of 13th-century Syria, and from Tanja Klemm’s explication of Renaissance medical iconography to Christopher Wood’s theorizing on the artwork’s paradoxical lack in the face of anthropomorphism, and finally, in the last essay, to Gerhard Wolf’s witty engagement with thing theory and the material turn. Together these essays analyze the material artifact in light of historical circumstance, and the historical circumstance is in turn illuminated by the artifact.

Contributions to the volume both reflect and respond to recent shifts among art historians and anthropologists in the historical understanding of the material object, building on and furthering debates begun by David Freedberg, Jane Bennett, Horst Bredekamp, Lorraine Daston, Alfred Gell, Bruno Latour, and others. Notable contributors include guest editor Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, and Finbarr B. Flood, Professor of the Humanities at New York University and author of the prize-winning Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter.

Featured Articles

Images at Work: On Efficacy and Historical Interpretation*
HANNAH BAADER AND ITTAI WEINRYB

*For a limited time only, this article is available for free.

Animal, Vegetal, and Mineral: Ambiguity and Efficacy in the Nishapur Wall Paintings
FINBARR B. FLOOD

Symmetry, Sympathy, and Sensation: Talismanic Efficacy and Slippery Iconographies in Early Thirteenth-Century Iraq, Syria, and Anatolia
PERSIS BERLEKAMP

Life from Within: Physiology and Talismanic Efficacy in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita (1498)
TANJA KLEMM

Image and Thing, A Modern Romance
CHRISTOPHER S. WOOD

Image, Object, Art: Talking to a Chinese Jar on Two Human Feet
GERHARD WOLF

Ross Posnock presents “Fighting Words: Challenging ‘Surface’ and ‘Reading’ via William James, Susan Sontag, and J. D. Salinger”

Idea 1Ross Posnock, Anna Garbedian Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, will present a talk at UC Berkeley entitled “Fighting Words: Challenging ‘Surface’ and ‘Reading’ via William James, Susan Sontag, and J. D. Salinger.” The event will take place on Thursday, February 25, from 5 to 7pm in 300 Wheeler Hall.

Posnock’s essay, “’Don’t think, but look!’: W. G. Sebald, Wittgenstein, and Cosmopolitan Poverty,” can be found in Representations 112. Part of a special issue on “The Way We Read Now,” Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus’s theory of surface reading can be found in “Surface Reading: An Introduction” (Representations 108).

Nicholas Mathew on Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Etoiles

Dept-Photo-150x226Nicholas Mathew, Associate Professor of Music at UC Berkeley, will discuss Olivier Messiaen’s Des canyons aux etoiles (1974) with Shannon Jackson, Cyrus and Michelle Hadidi Chair in the Humanities at UC Berkeley. The event, part of the Big Ideas series featured at the newly re-opened BAMPFA, will take place at noon on February 3.

 

Mathew is the author, with Representations co-chair Mary Ann Smart, of “Elephants in the Room: The Future of Quirk Historicism,” an introduction to the recent Representations forum on Quirk Historicism (132).

 

Books of 2015: Editorial Board Round-Up

David Bates, ed. (with Nima Bassiri), Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject, Fordham University Press and the Townsend Center for the Humanities

9780823266135_23This collection of essays brings together a diverse range of scholars to investigate how the “neural subject” of the twenty-first century came to be. Taking approaches both historical and theoretical, they probe the possibilities and limits of neuroscientific understandings of human experience. Topics include landmark studies in the history of neuroscience, the relationship between neural and technological “pathologies,” and analyses of contemporary concepts of plasticity and pathology in cognitive neuroscience. Central to the volume is a critical examination of the relationship between pathology and plasticity. Because pathology is often the occasion for neural reorganization and adaptation, it exists not in opposition to the brain’s “normal” operation but instead as something intimately connected to our ways of being and understanding.

9780199844715

 

Dan Blanton, Epic Negation: The Dialectical Poetics of Late Modernism, Oxford University Press

Jahan Ramazani (University of Virginia): “Intricately studying allusion and intergeneric relations in late modernism, C. D. Blanton’s capacious and deeply thoughtful Epic Negation traces how extrinsic voices, historical forces, and forms snake their way into even seemingly closed poems. With its fusion of sinuous close readings and lively theoretical analysis, Blanton’s book makes a serious contribution to twentieth-century poetry studies.”

 

41rpXeBKT0L._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_Beate Fricke (English trans. of 2007 book), Fallen Idols, Risen Saints: Sainte Foy of Conques and the Revival of Monumental Sculpture in Medieval Art, Brepols Publishers

This book investigates the origins and transformations of medieval image culture and its reflections in theology, hagiography, historiography and art. It deals with a remarkable phenomenon: the fact that, after a period of 500 years of absence, the tenth century sees a revival of monumental sculpture in the Latin West. . . . Drawing on the historical investigation of specific objects and texts between the ninth and the eleventh century, the book outlines an occidental history of image culture, visuality and fiction, claiming that only images possess modes of visualizing what in the discourse of medieval theology can never be addressed and revealed.
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Beate Fricke, ed. (with  Urte Krass), The Public in the Picture: Involving the Beholder in Antique, Islamic, Byzantine, Western Medieval and Renaissance Art, University of Chicago Press

The act of including bystanders within the scene of an artwork has marked an important shift in the ways artists addressed the beholder, as well as a significant transformation of the relationship between images and their viewership. In such works, the “public” in the picture could be seen as a mediating between different times, people, and contents.

 

Steve Justice, Adam Usk’s Secret, University of Pennsylvania Press

Andrew Galloway (Cornell University): “In prose that is 15368extraordinarily alive both to its subject and to its own suspenseful disclosures, Steven Justice teaches us to read a Latin chronicle as a piece of written craft, and few have sustained that attention this far or this finely. More importantly, Justice assesses and advances major principles of narrative interpretation, concerning how narratives relate to contexts, how rhetorical traditions foster or undermine particular visions of history, and how the discipline of literary analysis maintains a delicate balance between rigorous adherence to its established tenets and wider connections to other questions and explanations—matters that must surely energize discussion among humanities scholars of all periods.”

 

Tom Laqueur, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Princeton University Press

k10535The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? In The Work of the Dead, acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected Diogenes’s argument. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters—for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.

 

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Saba Mahmood, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report, Princeton University Press

The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East is often attributed to the failure of secularism to take root in the region. Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges this assessment by examining four cornerstones of secularism—political and civil equality, minority rights, religious freedom, and the legal separation of private and public domains.

 

 

9780226248509Saba Mahmood, ed. (with Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, and Peter G. Danchin), Politics of Religious Freedom, U of Chicago Press

Talal Asad (CUNY Graduate Center): “The principle of religious freedom, central to the liberal politics of the modern world, is increasingly becoming an object of critical reflection. This collection, edited by four distinguished scholars, is a welcome contribution to this important topic. I have learnt something from each of these thoughtful essays. Everyone interested in recent debates on secularism will benefit from reading them.”