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Past Events

Formalism and Its Discontents, An Interdisciplinary Conference

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Recent turns in the humanities, including affect theory, the digital humanities, and surface reading, have often been understood as moving past a “hermeneutics of suspicion.” If affect theory examines immediate, automatic, or emotional reactions to a text, it puts less stock in the analytic decoding of that text. Much of the digital humanities depends on that reading which computers can execute, and computers (the argument goes) compute rather than interpret. Surface reading seeks not to disclose hidden meaning, but to attend to evident meaning, examining that which is perceptible and apprehensible in the surface of the text. In music studies and art history, hermeneutical criticism and iconology have also given way to approaches that explore the various modes in which we visualize objects and experience performances. In rejecting the hermeneutic notion that meaning must be excavated, all of these methodologies assert that meaning in art and other cultural objects can manifest itself immediately. In other words, content lies on the outside, and form is no ideal abstraction but something easily within reach.

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Political Economies of Global Neoliberalism

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The symposium explores complicated and long histories of how neoliberal economic transformations shaped global and local political economies and political and economic ideas.  With scholarship from India to Africa and from the United States to Eastern Europe, the symposium examines how classical and neoclassical economic theory both molded and responded to global economic change, and how new regimes of labor, wages and racial hierarchy reshaped both local and global political economies.


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The Culture of Experience: Pragmatism and Early-Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature

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This conference investigates the wide cultural and aesthetic reach of pragmatist thought in the early twentieth century. From the experimental art practices at Black Mountain College to social scientific techniques in the New Negro Movement, from the formation of the “history of ideas” and literary studies as academic disciplines to modernist poetic practice and the social thought of W. E. B. Du Bois, pragmatism played a profound yet understudied role in the styles and institutions of U.S. culture. Using the rubric of the “culture of experience,” we hope to expand the understanding of what pragmatism was—as a philosophy, as a set of cultural tendencies, as a network of institutions and people—and how it helped to define the production and reception of modern U.S. literature.


Read more: The Culture of Experience: Pragmatism and Early-Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature

10/6-7/2016 - 19th Century Workshop: Population

The nineteenth century turned the very old concept of “population” into a newly central actor in the realms of politics, arts, and science. This workshop aims to answer several pertinent questions: How did the concept vary in different national and professional contexts, and how did it interact with other rubrics of organization like race, nation, class, and gender? How did population cut across or reinforce the ideology and practice of slavery and empire? How adequately do our current theories account for nineteenth-century realities? And what legacies of nineteenth-century theories of populations are still with us today?

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Cultural Analysis, the Americanist Seminar, the Rutgers British Studies Center, the Department of English, the Department of History, and the Program in Comparative Literature.

2016 19th Century Workshop Brochure

12/06/2016 - Kara Walker in Conversation with Evie Shockley

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