The Humanities Council’s Gauss Seminars in Criticism hosted renowned philosopher and social theorist Alenka Zupančič (The Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts) on April 19-20, 2022 at Princeton University. Her visit, under the general title “Back to the Future of the End,” featured a public lecture and a lunch seminar.
“It’s really wonderful to get the Gauss up and running again,” said Andrew Cole, Wilson Professor of Literature in the Department of English and director of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism. The program, which was instituted in 1949 to provide a focus for discussion, study, and the exchange of ideas in the humanities, has been on hiatus since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, April 19, Zupančič delivered a wide-ranging lecture entitled “Dead Ends,” which explored the psychological and social dynamics involved in denial and disavowal—with particular focus on the writings of René Descartes, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Octave Mannoni.
Esther Schor, Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Professor of American Jewish Studies and Professor of English and chair of the Humanities Council, welcomed the crowd to Betts Auditorium in her opening remarks. Cole then introduced Zupančič, “a daring, brilliant, formidably funny and superbly original thinker.”
The lecture was attended by graduate students, staff and faculty from the University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the community at large.
The two-day event continued with a lunch seminar entitled “The Apocalypse is Disappointing?” on Wednesday, April 20. During the in-depth discussion, moderated by Cole, Zupančič developed ideas from the works of Maurice Blanchot and Karl Jaspers to describe responses to the current geopolitical and environmental crises, and illustrate the ways in which many people disavow the impending global catastrophes.