Videos uploaded by user “Townsend Center for the Humanities”
Christopher Bollas: Mental Pain
Christopher Bollas, the most influential psychoanalyst writing in English today, asserts that mental life is innately hazardous. The steps we take through childhood are marked by mentally painful episodes that constitute ordinary breakdowns in the self. Adolescence stands as the most painful such period, during which some of the major disturbances of self arise, including anorexia, schizophrenia, bipolarity, and sociopathy. Rather than approaching mental pain as a condition to be ignored, minimized, or suppressed through medication, Bollas examines it as a constitutive element of human psychic development.
Freud's Helplessness
Formerly the principal child psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital in London, Adam Phillips writes regularly for the New York Times, The Observer, and The London Review of Books. He is also General Editor of the new Penguin Modern Classics Freud translations. The New York Public Library, noting his “stylish brilliance,” has hailed Phillips as “one of the very best essayists at work today.” His books include Side Effects; Going Sane: Maps of Happiness; On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; On Flirtation; Houdini's Box; and Equals.
If Gardens are the Answer, What is the Question?
Rebecca Solnit is the best-selling author of numerous books, including A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Wanderlust: A History of Walking; Hope in the Dark; and Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics. A contributing editor to Harper's, columnist for Orion, and frequent contributor Tomdispatch.com, she often writes on topics of the environment, politics, place, and art. Labeled “indispensible” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Solnit’s work has frequently been compared to the writing of Joan Didion and Susan Sontag. She is a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award, the Wired Rave Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In Conversation
Debuting with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 16, Leon Fleisher’s career as a pianist was on a smooth upward trajectory for many years; he performed all over the world with every major orchestra and conductor and recorded several classic albums. But at the age of only 37, Fleisher was forced to “retire” when two fingers of his right hand became immobile in 1965. In the nearly 40 years since Leon Fleisher's keyboard career was so suddenly curtailed, he has followed two parallel careers—as conductor and teacher—while learning to play the extensive but limiting repertoire of compositions for left-hand piano. Recently, with treatments that finally helped relieve the neurological affliction that had been plaguing him, Fleisher has begun playing with both hands again. Before this recovery, Mr. Fleisher's reputation as a conductor was quickly established when he founded the Theatre Chamber Players at the Kennedy Center in 1967 and became Music Director of the Annapolis Symphony in 1970. As a revered pedagogue, he has held the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the Peabody Conservatory of Music since 1959, and he serves on the faculties of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Religion and the Art of the Novel
Marilynne Robinson is joined in conversation by Dorothy Hale, Jonathan Sheehan, and Robert Haas.
Learning from the Absurd: Avenali Lecture
With an innovative use of charcoal drawing, prints, collages, stop-animation, film and theater, South African artist William Kentridge’s work continues to attract international recognition. Especially distinctive are his hand-drawn films, which are created using a technique he calls "stone-age filmmaking.” Through a painstaking process of photographing his successive charcoal marks and erasures on a page, Kentridge creates a mysterious and subtle moving picture. In both these “drawings for projection” and his other work, Kentridge explores themes of apartheid, colonialism, social conflict, and both personal and cultural memory. While much of his early art centered on his own homeland, the artist’s newer work expands to address similar themes in different contexts, such as colonialism in Namibia and Ethiopia, or the cultural history of post-revolutionary Russia. Kentridge has also directed and designed many theater productions and operas, including Mozart’s The Magic Flute for La Monnaie and Shostakovich’s The Nose for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and the Carnegie Medal. His appointment as Avenali Chair in the Humanities coincided with the March 14th, 2009 premier of William Kentridge: Five Themes at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
We Are What We Say
Anna Deavere Smith's work in the theater explores American character and national identity by combining the journalistic technique of interviewing subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. This work has been described as "a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” Ms. Smith’s award-winning plays include Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Fires in the Mirror; House Arrest; andLet Me Down Easy. Ms. Smith has appeared on such television shows as Presidio Med; The West Wing; The Practice; and Nurse Jackie. Her films include The American President; Dave; and The Human Stain. Ms. Smith has received two Obie Awards, two Tony nominations, the MacArthur Award, the Americans for the Arts National Arts Award, and the Mayor’s Award in New York City. She is on the faculty at New York University in the Tisch School of the Arts, and is founder and director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue.
Odysseus' Changed Soul
French Philosopher Catherine Malabou teaches at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University in London. She is the author of The Future of Hegel (2005), What Should We Do with Our Brain? (2008), Plasticity at the Eve of Writing (2009) and Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience (2013). Her work has created the foundation for a wide range of current research focusing on the intersections between neuro- and biological science and the humanities. Her Una's lecture, "Odysseus' Changed Soul," will offer a contemporary reading of Plato’s myth of Er (Republic, Book 10).
Memory, a Remedy for Evil?
From his earliest publications on literary theory in the mid 1960s to his moral inquiries into identity, responsibility, and ethics in his more recent historical studies, Tzvetan Todorov continues to be one of the foremost contemporary European literary and cultural theorists. While the fields of literary criticism and cultural history continue to relax their boundaries, thereby increasingly accommodating and influencing each other, Todorov ranks among the finest of writers whose works have moved easily between literary theory and its application in critical readings of important historical narratives. His written work has been translated into over twenty-five languages; among his books are The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre; Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps; The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other; and Theories of the Symbol. Todorov is Director of Research at the National Social Sciences Research Center (CNRS) in Paris.
Freedom and the Arts of Dissent
Svetlana Boym is a Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literatures at Harvard University and the Associate of Harvard School of Design and Architecture. Writer, theorist and media artist, she is the author of many books including The Future of Nostalgia (2001), Architecture of the Off-Modern (2008), Territories of Terror: Memory and Mythology of Gulag (exhibit and catalogue 2006), and the novel Ninochka (2003). Her newest book, Another Freedom: The Alternative History of an Idea(Chicago University Press, 2010), spans from Greek tragedy to contemporary art scandals, and explores cross-cultural conceptions of freedom and the relationship between aesthetics and politics. Professor Boym is interested in exploring “third-way” thinking and alternative cultural geneologies that she calls “off-modern.” She has written broadly on literary and cultural myths in Russia and Eastern Europe, on modern conspiracy theories and the space of freedom, as well as on conceptual art and architecture for Harper's Magazine, Frieze Projects(London), Representations, Slavic Review, Poetics Today and Critical Inquiry, as well asArtforum and Artmargins. As a practicing artist she exhibited her work widely in New York, Berlin, Copenhagen, Ljubljana and Glasgow. In her recent work that combines political philosophy and aesthetics, Boym examines the relationship between utopia and kitsch, memory and modernity, homesickness and sickness of home.
Shakespeare: The Question of Audience
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson isa professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. Her Avenali Lecture is followed by a response from Jeffrey Knapp.
Learning from the Absurd: A Panel with William Kentridge
Panel Discussants: Kaja Silverman (Rhetoric and Film Studies), Larry Rinder (Berkeley Art Museum) and Mark Rosenthal (Norton Museum of Art) Moderator: Anthony J. Cascardi (Townsend Center Director)
Tongue-Tied: The Prince of Sansevero and the Secret Language of the Incas
In his lecture, Alberto Manguel considers the implications of the eighteenth-century work of Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, on a curious system of communication employed by the Incas consisting of rows of colored knots. Raimondo di Sangro was an eccentric inventor, printer, and visionary who imagined a method for deciphering this language and opened questions about the use of memory and the transmission of meaning.
The Theory of the Accomplished Fact
In his Avenali Lecture, Runia offers a fresh understanding of how cultural evolution works.
A Typology of Convergences: Towards a Unified Field Theory of Cultural Transmission
In this illustrated lecture, Lawrence Weschler will build on his award-winning book, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences, to consider a spectrum of such convergent effects, from apophenia (the tendency of humans to see patterns where none exist), co-causation, fractalization, influence (forward and backward, direct and unconscious), homage, apprenticeship, allusion, quotation, appropriation, cryptomnesia (verbatim appropriation without realizing you’re doing so), through outright plagiarism.
Robert Reich On Writing
Art of Writing director Ramona Naddaff in conversation with Robert Reich about writing across platforms to incite multigenerational audiences to think, act, and laugh.
Borges and Post-pop Populism
Beatriz Sarlo is a scholar of Latin American literature and culture and one of the most important Argentine literary and cultural critics of the last 40 years. Her Una’s Lecture examines populism in relation to Borges’ work, to the paintings of the distinguished artist Daniel Santoro, and to its most recent avatar, found in post-pop political populism.
The Inner Life of Dust: A Bottom-Up View of South Asia
There is no dearth of dust in India, or for that matter in South Asian literature. Once one begins to pay attention to it, dust is everywhere, in a vast array of configurations and modes. In Shulman's view, entire villages might be said to be made up primarily of dust—a remarkably creative and generative form of life (even perhaps of conscious life), easily lending itself to lyrical descriptions on the part of poets and to philosophical speculations by the metaphysically minded and never classified as dirt. Yet it seems that no one has offered a satisfying analytical exposition of what dust—or its close analogues, such as pollen, ashes, powder of various kinds, motes of light, shreds of gold, and the reddish stuff of passion—might mean in major cultural contexts of South Asian civilization. Dust's strong link with eroticism and no less powerful theological implications are set out in remarkable detail in classical and medieval sources. This lecture takes South Asian dust seriously as the malleable, omnipresent, non-dual stuff of reality and a privileged medium of knowledge and awareness for human beings and in the dusty world of the gods. http://townsendcenter.berkeley.edu/ev...
A Conversation on Music & Virtuosity
The Townsend Center brings together a selection of eminent figures in the field of music to explore what we mean when we talk about virtuosity. Who earns the distinction of being called a virtuoso? Is it a fruitful or a limiting concept? What assumptions underlie its use, and how successfully does the idea of virtuosity travel across different genres and cultures? Panelists include Kim Kashkashian, Ken Ueno, and John Santos. Ben Ratliff moderates.
Rights and Relativity: The Interplay of Cultures - Panel
Writer, playwright and poet, Wole Soyinka was the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. Soyinka is known as an outspoken critic of many Nigerian military dictators and of political tyrannies worldwide. At the beginning of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, Mr. Soyinka was jailed without trial for twenty-seven months. He has also lived in exile at three points in his life, most notably during the government of General Sani Abacha. These personal and national hardships have been at the heart of Soyinka’s work, which includes a sequence of remarkable plays, novels, poetry, polemical writings, critical essays, and memoirs. Soyinka is involved in numerous international artistic and human rights organizations, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the International Parliament of Writers. In 1994, he was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the promotion of African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media and communication.
Balancing Acts: Truths, Boasts, and Videotape
Una’s Lecturer Jane Taylor will consider the arts of memory and the will to reconciliation in recent history. Drawing on texts ranging from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Diderot’s The Paradox of the Actor to Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, Taylor will discuss obligations of sincerity and authenticity, values staged in the western tradition.
Una's Lecture with Ben Ratliff
For 20 years, music critic and author Ben Ratliff was a jazz and pop critic at the New York Times. His articles have appeared in the New York Review of Books, Esquire, Slate, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere. He teaches cultural criticism at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. In Ratliff’s own words, this talk discusses “ways in which virtuosity, in classical and popular music, is not everything, not an end in itself, and a deeply flawed idea — and yet is a crucial way to understand how music is understood and valued by musicians, critics, and listeners.”
Joseph Koerner: Art in a State of Seige
2018 Avenali Lecturer Joseph Koerner examines Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Delights—approaching the painting as a representation of a world without history and without law. 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.