MAPH Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series


MAPH Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series


October 14th, 2014

Eric Santner

Philip and Ida Ronberg Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Germanic Studies, Professor of Germanic Studies, Committee on Jewish Studies, and the College; Director of Graduate Studies

"The Weight of All Flesh: On the Subject-Matter of Political Economy"

The lecture builds on previous work, The Royal Remains (2011), which demonstrates to what extent modernism may be read as an attempt to grapple with the sublime “flesh” that formerly resided in the person of the King but now has been dispersed among the People. Following upon Ernst Kantorowicz’s analysis of the “king’s two bodies,” that work focuses on how the sovereign’s glorious body is dispersed in the aftermath of secularization, how this uncanny “material” becomes a “surplus of immanence” that required new paradigms of knowledge and power. Whereas in the previous book, I concentrate particularly on forms of “governmentality” and the development of psychoanalysis—that is, on modes of engagement explicated by Foucault and Freud—in the my present work I turn to Marx’s critique of political economy as yet another response to the excessive material that comes to circulate on the plane of immanence. The lecture addresses, among other things, the famous “pound of flesh” from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as a “primal scene” of the shift from the political theology of sovereignty to the political economy of the wealth of nations. For Marx, this is the emergence of what he called the “spectral materiality” of the commodity.

Classics 110 at 4:30pm


November 3rd, 2014

Lauren Berlant

George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English Language and Literature

"Living in Ellipsis: On Biopolitics and the Attachment to Life"

Co-sponsored by 3CT

This talk is located in a shattered, formally inconsistent, yet intelligible zone defined by "being in life without wanting the world." Reading with Claudia Rankine (Don’t Let Me Be Lonely), the novel and film of A Single Man (Christopher Isherwood, 1964; Tom Ford, 2009), and Harryette Mullen (Sleeping with the Dictionary), it describes an aesthetics and a subjectivity shaped on one side by suicide and on the other by a life drive that is also, paradoxically, negative, in that it turns toward life by turning away from the world of injury, negation, and contingency that endure as an defining presence for biopolitically-defined subjects. It suggests attending to and developing a dissociative poetics. The talk will be less abstract than this abstract.

Classics 110 at 4:00pm



February 4th, 2015

Christine Mehring

Department Chair and Professor of Art History and the College

"Concrete Traffic"

On January 15, 1970, the German Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell (1932-1998) had a 1957 Cadillac DeVille covered in ca. 16 tons of concrete to be exhibited as an 'event sculpture' in a parking lot on Ontario Street outside of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. Today, 'Concrete Traffic' counts as one of the most significant public art works not only in the university's collection but in the history of 20th century art. Supported by the Neubauer Collegium in partnership with the Gray Center, Christine Mehring has been collaborating with New York based conservator Christian Scheidemann and others to conserve the sculpture and return it to campus. She will discuss the work's significance, making, and conservation process.

Cochrane-Woods Art Center 157 at 4:30pm




April 14, 2015

Bill Brown

Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture, Department of English Language and Literature

A Little History of Light (Dan Flavin / Gaston Bachelard)

How do we understand the materiality of an art work when it exceeds the object form? This talk approaches the question through an historical coincidence. In the last book that he published in his lifetime, The Flame of a Candle (1961), Bachelard bemoaned the loss of poetic candle light and gas light, demonizing the advent of "administered light." In the same year, Flavin began to develop the idea of using fluorescent tubes as a sculptural medium--to introduce a poetics of administered light.  The specificity of that coincidence (within the history of electrical lighting) hardly prevents it from illuminating much broader topics, such as the role art plays in teaching us about the object world and our place within it.  

Classics 110 at 4:30pm