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Simon Gikandi: On Art and Suffering

Robert Schirmer Professor of English; 2018-19 Old Dominion Research Professor

February 13, 2019 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 010 East Pyne

Old Dominion Public Lecture Series in the Humanities Council
J. M. W. Turner, The Slave Ship (1840; originally entitled "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon coming on")

The Humanities Council invites the campus community to join us for a new series of public lectures given by the Council’s Old Dominion Research Professors for 2018-19.

Simon Gikandi (Robert Schirmer Professor of English and Old Dominion Research Professor 2018-19) will deliver the second lecture in the series entitled “On Art and Suffering,” on how the practice of art has come to be defined by anxieties about ownership, appropriation, and identification, often at odds with the universal claims made for the aesthetic experience for most of the modern period.

In the age of technological reproduction, we no longer seem to value art as either a conduit for freedom, universal sensibility, or as a mode for dealing with the suffering of others. We are no longer sure that there can be an aesthetic ideology that might enable us to cope with experiences that are not part of the orbit of our own affliction.

This lecture is motivated by the following questions: Can there be an adequate aesthetic response to the problem of suffering? What exactly is the human condition that the aesthetic is asked to respond to? Do works of art help us understand the tragic experiences of others, or are they always complicitous with the afflictions that they seek to represent?



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