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2016 – Older Talks

Date: December 20, 2016

Speaker: Cory Stockwell
Academic Affiliation: CCI, Bilkent University
Title: On Stars and the Exhaustion of Destiny in Bolaño

Description: We find stars at work in several key moments in Bolaño’s novels and stories; unsurprisingly, given the symbolic value of the stars in our cultures and traditions, these stars – whether they are signs of the zodiac, proper names, portents or bad omens – often have a distinctly hermetic resonance. This paper proposes to examine a pair of stars that are found in Bolaño’s 1996 novel Distant Star, arguing that these stars, in this deeply political novel, open onto the problem of destiny, in ways that make us think the concept anew – keeping destiny alive, while at the same time impoverishing it.

Date: November 29, 2016

Speaker: Athena Hadji
Academic Affiliation: CCI and Architecture, Bilkent University
Title: The formative years: archaeology, politics and the emergence of Amedeo Maiuri in early 20th century Rhodes

Description: This talk traces the trajectory of the history of archaeology and official attitudes toward antiquities and monuments during the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese (1912-1945). The main research goal is to shed light on an aspect of Italian cultural imperialism during the aforementioned period drawing on resources that have not been studied previously.
One of the first official acts performed by the Italian governance of the Dodecanese was the restoration of the Hospital of the Knights in the medieval city of the island of Rhodes and the foundation of the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes on its premises.
A major part of the project was the removal of later Ottoman additions to the 15th c. medieval edifice. The new museum was inaugurated in early 1916. This act was most indicative of the attitude of the new regime toward the occupied population as well as their future plans and intentions. A key to its interpretation is the exploitation of the connection with the past and archaeological research as a means of political persuasion.
Methodologically, the present lecture is the outcome of a three-year research project in the State Archives of the Prefecture of the Dodecanese, stored on the island of Rhodes. A focal point of the talk is the purchase of antiquities on behalf of the museum, especially during the directorship of Amedeo Maiuri in the first formative years of the Italian Administration.

Date:  May 13, 2016

Speaker: Sharif Youseff
Academic Affiliation: Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College
Title: Refugees and the Rise of the Novel

Description: The refugee is a literary invention. How is it that Anglo-American literature conceptualized the refugee first and with greater complexity than law did? Sharif Youssef turns to eighteenth-century texts such as Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year and J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur’s Letters from an American Farmer to trace how the concept of the refugee emerges together with the idea of the liberal nation-state. The figure of the refugee initiates a crisis for the state, requiring ethically complex decision-making and revealing the limits of political governance.

Date: April 28, 2016

Speaker: Daniel Leonard
Academic Affiliation: Bilkent University, CCI
Title: From Fetish to Idol: Figurism and Humanist Ideology in Charles de Brosses’s On the Worship of Fetish Gods

Description: Best known for coining the term “fetishism” in his On the Worship of Fetish Gods (1760), Charles de Brosses also developed another neologism, “figurism,” into a critical concept. Whereas fetish worship is the symptom of a primitive subjection to matter, figurism is a machination of reason that disavows the material origins of belief by inventing allegories of spiritual progress. According to de Brosses, figurists are deluded idealists who refuse to recognize that religion began with the direct worship of material things.

In this talk, I will explore how de Brosses’s critique of figurism widens to encompass a broad range of ideologies—not just religious, but also philosophical. From modern Europeans’ idealization of the ancients as exalted forbears to a more general humanism that projects a universal rational essence on all the world’s religions, figurism designates a violence of thought that refuses historical and geographical difference. Behind the exalted myths of Enlightenment itself, de Brosses discerns the real conditions of history: a cunning reason dangerously ignorant of its own operations, intent on denying that passions and power define truth. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the rise of historicism and theoretically sophisticated accounts of ideology would further displace the ideal of self-sufficient reason. At the same time, the age of Enlightenment was condemned for a fatal lack of self-conscious critical reflection. In line with recent scholarship, I offer a case study to challenge this enduring stereotype.

Date: March 23, 2016

Speaker: Dorothy Kim
Academic Affiliation: Vassar College
Title: Disrupting the Digital Archive

Description: A workshop in remediating medieval materiality to digital materiality. Subjects addressed in the workshop will include book history and codicology; digital humanities; interface design for manuscript digitisation. The event is co-organized by BilMEM (Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Bilkent University), the Program in Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas, the Department of History, and the Department of English Language and Literature.

Date: March 22, 2016

Speaker: Dorothy Kim
Academic Affiliation: Vassar College
Title: Jewish / Christian Relations and the Egerton Hours

Description: In examining the relationship of Ancrene Wisse and the Egerton Hours, both of thirteenth-century provenance, this talk concerns itself with the entangled worlds of female Christian readers, male Christian book producers and illuminators, and the Jews living in their midst. It will examine especially the Egerton Hours, a thirteenth-century Oxford Book of Hours (c. 1270) and its production history in 
relation to the William of Devon Group. In
 particular, it will raise questions about how we can
 conceptualize the entangled medieval process
 whereby Christian devotional art is realized and recalibrated in relation to Jewishness. As well as
 accounting for the gender dynamics in texts such as
 these—especially within the triangulated relation 
between female reader and (often) commissioner,
 male scribe and illuminator, and the image of male
 Jewishness—this article will draw upon the theories
 of entanglement and ‘intra- action’, as posited by Karen Barad, to deconstruct the totalizing idea of a
 ‘grotesque hall’ of antisemitic images, particularly those appearing in the Egerton Hours. Finally, it will evaluate how the interactions of these groups gather together for moments of ‘intra-action’ on the manuscript page in order to produce Christian material devotion for female lay communities.

Date: March 11, 2016  

Speaker: Thomas Manganaro
Academic Affiliation: Duke University
Title: Akrasia in the Age of Reason

Description: This talk focuses on the condition of acting against better judgment, or failing to do what you know you ought to do — a condition classically called “akrasia” by the ancient Greeks. This phenomenon becomes particularly interesting in the philosophy and literature of the eighteenth century — the “age of reason.” As philosophy in this period increasingly depicts minds and bodies like systems or machines, it has difficulty describing akrasia — namely, how someone can want to do something and yet not be able to get themselves to do it. Because it is so difficult to explain, akrasia becomes a very rich topic for literary experimentation in this period; we see this in particular in narratives by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Laurence Sterne.

Date: March 8, 2016

Speaker: Rhema Hokama
Academic Affiliation: Harvard University
Title: Donne’s Idolatrous Devotion: Iconoclasm and Iconophilia in the Holy Sonnets

Description: In my current book project, Poetry, Desire, and Devotional Performance from Shakespeare to Milton, I argue that changing devotional practices in post-Reformation England gave rise to new cultural views of intimacy. These religious developments affected not just how people thought about their relationship and access to God; equally important, they changed the way people thought about how they could express devotion and desire to earthly lovers. In my talk, I shall look at how Donne’s Holy Sonnets embody seventeenth-century England’s deep suspicion of outward signs of inner affect—one that that coexisted with an equally powerful impulse to venerate those very outward markers of grace.

Date: March 4, 2016    

Speaker: Aaron J. Wendland
Academic Affiliation: University of Tartu, Estonia
Title: Authenticity, Truth, and Cultural Transformation

Description: Against existentialist interpreters who read Heidegger’s account of authenticity as a theory of human freedom, John Haugeland takes Heidegger’s talk of authenticity to be a key feature of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology: i.e., Heidegger’s attempt to determine the meaning of being through an analysis of Dasein or human beings. Briefly, Haugeland argues that the self-understanding achieved when we take responsibility for our existence by choosing a particular way of life involves understanding what it means for entities to be within that way of life. ‘In knowing how to be me,’ as he puts it, ‘I must know how to deal with the entities amidst which I work and live.’ Thus, authenticity entails ‘getting the entities themselves right.’ Haugeland also claims that taking responsibility for our existence entails the possibility of giving up our current way of life when it fails to get entities right, and therefore he sees authenticity as the basis of cultural transformation. Given the unorthodoxy of Haugeland’s ontological interpretation of authenticity, I begin this paper with a sketch of Haugeland’s position but then put forward several objections to it. Specifically, I argue that Haugeland’s emphasis on ‘getting entities right’ fails to appreciate the type of truth at stake in our authentic existence, and thus fails to adequately describe the basis of cultural transformation. Finally, I offer an alternative to Haugeland’s ontological interpretation of authenticity and cultural transformation through an existential-ontological reading of Thomas Kuhn.

Date: Februrary 16, 2016

Speaker: Spencer Hawkins
Academic Affiliation: Bilkent CCI
Title: Freudian Translation and the Translation of Freud

Description: In an essay from 1908, Sigmund Freud argues that “we can never give anything up; we only exchange one thing for another.” This describes the essence of Freud’s theory of transference: we unconsciously regard new objects with the same feelings we felt for old ones, such as when we fall in love with someone who reminds us of a sibling, or begin to love a psychotherapist like a parent.

The German word we customarily render as “transference” (Übertragung) can also mean “translation” of the free, poetic variety. Even more akin to transference, moreover, is retranslation, which repeats the act of translation, just as transference involves a subject experiencing an old cocktail of desires for new objects. The New Penguin Freud translation project first launched in 2000 offers a convenient case study of Freudian transference in translation. The translators’ diction expresses their explicit desire to alter Freud’s Anglophone reception, presenting a more “literary” and less “scientific” Freud. The new translations also contain modifications that do not easily map onto the literary-scientific scale. Since accidents serve Freud as the main signs of the unconscious, I will consider Freud’s axiom (elaborated for instance in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life) that accidental behaviors often reveal unconscious motivations. Could this be the case for the re-translators as well?

Streaming Multimedia

Streaming Multimedia: Hydraulic Automata and the Arts of Perception in Descartes’ Treatise on Man

Recent scholarship on the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment has focused on the mediation of knowledge in material cultures, linking text production, information organization and scientific investigation to other domains such as the fine arts and popular entertainment. The traditional history of ideas has given way to studies of how such mediations inevitably shape – and often constitute – concepts previously seen as foundations: the conditions of possibility for thought itself. In my reading of Descartes’ natural philosophy, I argue that the textual and material mediations of his physiology of perception open up “non-Cartesian” prospects for knowledge. Appropriating the hydraulic automata and musical instruments of garden grottoes, Descartes creates a space of baroque theater that displaces familiar dualisms such as mind vs. body, self vs. world, reality vs. illusion. Instead of rigid clockwork and repetitive automata, I propose an alternative view of Cartesian mechanism – an imaginative and provocative story of the surprising things machines can do.

Date: Thursday, 08 May 2014, at 16.45 in G-160.

Daniel Leonard is a member of the CCI Program at Bilkent University.

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