Over the course of the last year, the Program in Poetics and Theory organized and hosted a range of events, representative of the diversity of the research interests of the faculty and students involved in the Program. On November 20, 2015, the Pro-gram hosted the conference “The Standpoint of Reproduction: Questions for Con-temporary Materialist Thought,” organized by Ph.D. candidates Siarhei Biareishyk and Charles Gelman, featuring presentations by, among others, Gopal Balakrishnan (UCSC), Emanuela Bianchi (NYU), Jacques Lezra (NYU), Vittorio Morfino (Milano-Bicocca), and Linda M. G. Zerilli (Chicago), and concluding with a keynote address by Étienne Balibar (Paris X and Columbia). In addition, the Program hosted Homay King (Bryn Mawr), who gave a talk based on her recent book Virtual Memory: Time-Based Art and the Dream of Digitality, with a response from Giuseppe Bianco, a visit-ing fellow at the Remarque Institute, NYU; Anna Yampolskaya, of the Centre for Phe-nomenological Philosophy at the Russian State University for the Humanities, who presented her research on the connections between phenomenological reduction in the thought of Edmund Husserl and the theory of “estrangement” developed by Vik-tor Shklovsky; contemporary poet, translator, and scholar Pierre Alfieri, who deli-vered a lecture entitled “Brief: short stories today,” a genealogy of the rhetorical and literary virtue of brevitas; and a seminar with distinguished guest Werner Hamacher (Frankfurt a.-M.), “Le sans de l’être: Some Items from Derrida’s Work.” Finally, the Program also celebrated the publication of Lucretius and Modernity: Epicurean En-counters Across Time and Disciplines, edited by Jacques Lezra and Program alumna Liza Blake (Toronto), the product of “Lucretius and Modernity,” the 2011 Ranieri Colloquium in Ancient Studies, at an event cosponsored by the NYU Center for the Humanities.
NYU Comparative Literature PhD alum Michiel Bot has accepted a tenure-track assistant professorship at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. He looks forward to beginning his appointment later this year.
Political Concepts Conference
This last spring, the “Political Concepts” conference returned to New York University after three years alternating between Columbia, The New School, and Brown, with additional stops at Tel Aviv University and Queen’s University in Belfast. Headed by Emily Apter, the Department of Comparative Literature hosted the conference at NYU’s Center for the Humanities from April 1-2.
“Political Concepts” is a two-part endeavor, consisting of a bi-annual meeting of papers and the web-based multidisciplinary journal Political Concepts: A Political Lexicon (http://www.politicalconcepts.org/). The website serves as an active platform which collects some of the essays delivered at the conferences and publishes other submissions as well. Both of the project’s trajectories grow out of its commitment to extend conversation across diverse fields in the humanities and social sciences. Its aim, broadly speaking, is to rethink the political in the widest sense of the term through the critical examination of concepts pertinent to the conjuncture in which we find ourselves today. To thus question the political and subsequently reframe political discourse requires sustained inquiry of that which remains unthought within the specificity of the concept. The critical lexicon, then, is critical in the sense that it seeks to dismantle and refashion the concept under question without taking for granted its generally agreed upon definition, along with its conventional relations to the forces, affects, problems, and structures constitutive of contemporary social life and thought.
The collaborative and small-scale format of the “Political Concepts” conference is designed in order to facilitate open exchange between the grouping of speakers and attendees. The event that took place this spring at NYU was no different, benefiting from a thought-provoking mix of papers whose pairings resonated with one another in unexpected ways. The first day of presentations included Ann Stoler (NSSR) on “Sentiment” and Ben Baer(Princeton) on “Primitive Accumulation”; Emanuele Coccia (EHESS) on “Micro-ontology” and Ali Benmakhloufon “Sharia/Law”; Sandra Laugier (Paris 1/CNRS) on “Care” and Kendall Thomas (Columbia) on “Marriage.” The second day of presentations included Gary Wilder (CUNY) on “Anticipation” and Peter Nicholls (NYU) on “Skepticism”; Peter Szendy (Paris-Nanterre) on “Usure” and Gabriela Basterra (NYU) on “Autonomy”; Felicity Scott (Columbia) on “Outlaw Territories” and Ariella Azoulay (Brown) on “Sovereignty.” In addition, Jacques Lezra (NYU), Omar Berrada (Dar al-Ma’mûn Library), Susan Buck-Morss (CUNY), Stathis Gourgouris(Columbia), Adi Ophir (Brown), and Emanuela Bianchi (NYU) presided over the lively and at times heated debates. If you were unable to attend this time around, the “Political Concepts” website has you covered with archived video recordings as well as information on the next event at Brown in the winter.
All of Them Witches: A Symposium Celebrating Rosemary's Baby
When it comes to planning parenthood, no one does it better than Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. Roman Polanski’s film Rosemary’s Baby is an extensive meditation on the technologies of domestic surveillance, the violence of marriage, hysterical-parasitical pregnancies, and the satanic obsession with political sedition. Emerging in the summer of ’68 in the wake of the publication of Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. Manifesto, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and student protests across the world, the film stages the antagonisms of a society pregnant with unspeakable fears, arguably the greatest of which was the Nietzschean proclamation of the ends of God and Man. Rosemary’s Baby manifests these fears in the figure of the young mother, who grapples with these overwhelming tensions through various pharmaceutical and/or oral-sadistic mitigation strategies. We feel the film’s political legacy today in the form of relentless assaults by the Right against Planned Parenthood and the anxious struggle for domination over reproductive systems.
In light of these fears (and others!), two brave Americans took it upon themselves to do something about it. Cecilia Corrigan and Andrew Ragni, both housed in Comparative Literature, launched a merger between the wicked witches of the West (NYU) and the East (Swiss Institute) to make our nightmares a reality. On April 8th and 9th, 2016, All of Them Witches, the brainchild of Ms. Corrigan and Mr. Ragni, was born. On the 8th, C&R presented a screening of the film in the Swiss Institute gallery followed by a reception with beverages furnished by Stella Artois.
The following day, invited speakers from the worlds of art, literature, cinema, and academia convened at Swiss Institute to analyze the film’s pulse points and contingent foundations. The panelists presented to a full house of audience members from the general public, who joined the discussion with questions at the close of each panel.