Art in a State of Siege

A series of events with Joseph Leo Koerner
March 15, 16, & 17
sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities
at UC Berkeley


Lecture: Art in a State of Siege: Bosch in Retrospect

Thursday, Mar 15, 2018 | 5:00 pm
Morrison Reading Room, 101 Doe Library, UC Berkeley

In this lecture, Koerner examines Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Delights — a work notorious for its portrayal of nude men and women cavorting with beasts in a verdant landscape. He approaches the painting as a representation of a world without history and without law, whose imagery attracted significant attention during similarly lawless historical periods. 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.

Joseph Leo Koerner, Thomas Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Senior Fellow, Society of Fellows at Harvard University, is the author of Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape and Dürer’s Hands. He wrote and presented the three-part television series Northern Renaissance and the documentary Vienna: City of Dreams, both produced by the BBC. Koerner’s work has been influential for decades; his essay “The Mortification of the Image: Death as a Hermenuetic in Hans Baldung Grien” appeared in Representations 10 (1985).

Symposium on Art in a State of Siege

Friday, Mar 16, 2018 | 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Joseph Leo Koerner, joins a panel of scholars to discuss the role of art in a society in which freedom is radically curtailed, such as Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. Panelists engage with audience members in lively discussion about creative expression under an emergency “state of siege.”

[image credit]

Participants: Whitney Davis, History of Art, UC Berkeley; Joseph Leo Koerner, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University; James Porter, Classics and Rhetoric, UC Berkeley; and Jane Taylor, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape

Film Screening: The Burning Child

Saturday, Mar 17, 2018 | 4:00 pm
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
2155 Center Street, Berkeley

Joseph Leo Koerner screens a preview of his documentary film The Burning Child (2017, 120 mins). Through interviews, testimony, and archival footage, the film explores Koerner’s return to Vienna, the birthplace of his father, painter Henry Koerner, and is a meditation on the concepts of home and homemaking that emerged amidst the turbulence of 20th-century Vienna. With Q+A to follow moderated by Winnie Wong.

Tickets available at the BAMPFA boxoffice or at

Book Chat with Peter Sahlins

Join Peter Sahlins for a discussion of his recent book

1668: The Year of the Animal in France

In the Berkeley Book Chat Series sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

In his new book, Sahlins explores the “animal moment” in and around 1668, in which authors, anatomists, painters, sculptors, and especially the young Louis XIV — with his Royal Menagerie in the gardens of Versailles — turned their attention to nonhuman beings. 1668: The Year of the Animal in France (MIT, 2017) shows the importance of animals to the dramatic rethinking of governance, nature, and the human that took place in the late 17th century, and which had a profound effect on the formation of French cultural identity.
After a brief introduction, Sahlins will speak about his work and open the floor for discussion.
Peter Sahlins is Professor of History at UC Berkeley. His work has spanned France and Spain from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, focusing on questions of boundaries and identities; immigration, naturalization, and citizenship; the history of forests and forestry in France; and most recently, human-animal relations. His essay “The Beast Within: Animals in the First Xenotransfusion Experiments in France, ca. 1667-68” appeared in Representations 129 (Winter 2015)

Hilton Als in Conversation with Stephen Best

Hear Pulitzer Prize-Winning Writer HILTON ALS

Thursday, February 8, 2018, 7:30 pm
Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St., San Francisco
(Rebroadcast on KQED fm, March 18, 2018)

Hilton Als began contributing to The New Yorker in 1989, writing pieces for “The Talk of the Town.” He became a staff writer in 1994, theater critic in 2002, and lead theater critic in 2012. Week after week, he brings to the magazine a rigorous, sharp, and lyrical perspective on acting, playwriting, and directing. With his deep knowledge of the history of performance—not only in theater but also in dance, music, and visual art—he shows us how to view a production and how to place its director, its author, and its performers in the ongoing continuum of dramatic art. His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theater, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America.

Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. Als edited the catalog for the 1994-95 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art.” His first book, The Women, was published in 1996. His most recent book, White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014 and winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Non-fiction, discusses various narratives of race and gender. He also wrote the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of The Early Stories of Truman Capote.  Als is currently working on an exploration of the literary luminary that is James Baldwin–his influences, his aspirations, and his relationships to the literary world and to himself.

Stephen Michael Best is an associate professor of English at University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Representations editorial board. He is the author of The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession, and is currently at work on a book about rumor, promiscuous speech, and slavery’s archive.

Sponsored by San Francisco’s City Arts & Lectures Series


Book Chat with David Marno

Join David Marno for a discussion of his recent book

Death Be Not Proud: The Art of Holy Attention

Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

The seventeenth-century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche thought that philosophy could learn a valuable lesson from prayer, which teaches us how to attend to, await, and be open for what might happen next. In his book Death Be Not Proud (Chicago, 2016), Marno explores the precedents of Malebranche’s advice by reading John Donne’s poetic prayers in the context of what Marno calls the “art of holy attention.”

The event is one in a series of lunchtime Book Chats sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities at Berkeley.

After an introduction by Representations editorial board co-chair Niklaus Largier, Marno will speak briefly about his work and then open the floor for discussion.

David Marno, Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley, has recently joined the Representations editorial board. He has published on religious and secular concepts of attention, on apocalypse as a literary and political figure, and on philosophy of history and comparative literature. His current project focuses on prayer in the aftermath of the Reformation.

“Sound, Media, and Literature in the Americas”: A Conversation with Tom McEnaney

Tom McEnaney, assistant professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese at the University of California, Berkeley, will participate in an upcoming event in celebration of his new book, Acoustic Properties: Radio, Narrative, and the New Neighborhood of the Americas. The event features McEnaney in conversation with José Quiroga (Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature, Emory University) and Freya Schiwy (Associate Professor of Media and Culture Studies, UC Riverside).

The conversation will take place on Monday, December 4, at 5pm, in the Morrison Library (101 Doe Library) at UC Berkeley.

McEnaney is the co-editor, with Michael Lucey and Tristram Wolff, of the Representations special issue “Language in Use and the Literary Artifact” (Winter 2017). Read McEnaney and Lucey’s introduction to the special issue here and read McEnaney’s essay, “Real-to-Reel: Social Indexicality, Sonic Materiality, and Literary Media Theory in Eduardo Costa’s Tape Works” here.

“‘Splendid Propaganda’: Henry V at War,” A Public Lecture by Kent Puckett

Kent Puckett, associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and member of the Representations editorial board, will speak at an upcoming event co-sponsored by the Institute on World War II and the Human experience and Fordham University Press. His lecture, “‘Splendid Propaganda’: Henry V at War,” will focus on Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film Henry V in the context of British cinematic style, wartime writing about Shakespeare, and the philosophy of propaganda and its effects on the British homefront.

The public lecture will take place on Thursday, November 9, from 6-8pm, at the Lowenstein 12th Floor Lounge (113 West 60th Street) in New York City.

Puckett’s most recent contribution to Representations was his edited “Search Forum,” which appeared in Representations 127 (Summer 2014). Read his introduction here.

Representations at ASAP

ASAP/9 starts today in Oakland!

The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present presents a jam-packed schedule at the Oakland Marriott City Center beginning on Thursday, October 26, and running through Sunday, October 29.

A quick glance at the schedule shows that no fewer than 24 of the conference presenters have published in, organized special issues of, or worked on the staff of Representations:

Charles Altieri

Weihong Bao

Natalia Brizuela

Sarah Brouillette

Julia Bryan-Wilson

Christopher Chen

Joshua Clover

Christopher Fan

Shannon Jackson

Peter Hitchcock

Joseph Jeon

SanSan Kwan

Colleen Lye

Theodore Martin

Annie McClanahan

Tom McEnaney

Mark McGurl

Christopher Miller

Debarati Sanyal

Jeffrey Skoller

Michael Szalay

Rebecca Walkowitz

Barrett Watten

Dora Zhang

The Rhetoric of Hiddenness in Traditional Chinese Culture

BERKELEY BOOK CHATS at the Townsend Center

Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Editor Paula Varsano talks about this collection of essays exploring the role of hiddenness  in the history of cultural production in China from the Warring States Period (403–221 BCE) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1911) and beyond.

After an introduction by Michael Nylan, Varsano will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion. 

Paula Varsano is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures at UC Berkeley, where she specializes in classical Chinese poetry and poetics from the third through the eleventh centuries. She is the author of Tracking the Banished Immortal: The Poetry of Li Bo and its Critical Reception, and is currently at work on a book tentatively titled Coming to Our Senses: Locating the Subject in Traditional Chinese Literary Writing. Her essay “Disappearing Objects/Elusive Subjects: Writing Mirrors in Early and Medieval China” was published in Representations 124.

On Race in Art

Black Futures: On Race in Art, Curation, and Digital Engagement 
with Kimberly Drew in conversation with Stephen Best

Arts + Design Mondays @ BAMPFA
Monday, October 16, 6:30pm


2155 Center Street, Berkeley

Kimberly Drew has been dubbed an “international tastemaker in contemporary art” on account of her Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art and her Instagram @museummammy. As social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she has been pivotal in moving that venerated institution in directions both democratic and dialogical. Drew will discuss curation, social media, race, and institutions with UC Berkeley professor Stephen Best.

Kimberly Drew is a writer and curator based in New York City. Drew received her BA from Smith College in art history and African-American studies, with a concentration in museum studies. She first experienced the art world as an intern in the director’s office of the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she was inspired her to start her blog and to pursue her interest in social media as it relates to the arts.

A member of the Representations editorial board, Stephen Best is an associate professor of English at UC Berkeley and the author of The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession, a study of property, poetics, and legal hermeneutics in nineteenth-century American literary and legal culture. He co-convened a research group at the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute on “Redress in Law, Literature, and Social Thought” that led, in part, to the special issue “Redress” in 2005. He is also the co-editor of the 2009 special issue “The Way We Read Now” and the 2016 volume “Description Across Disciplines.”

Talk About Pleasing Everyone

Berkeley Book Chats
at the Townsend Center for the Humanities
presents Jeffrey Knapp talking about his book

Pleasing Everyone: Mass Entertainment in Renaissance London and Golden-Age Hollywood

12:00 pm to 1:00 pm Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Shakespeare’s plays were immensely popular in their own day yet history refuses to think of them as mass entertainment. In Pleasing Everyone, Professor of English Jeffrey Knapp highlights the uncanny resemblance between Renaissance drama and the incontrovertibly mass medium of Golden-Age Hollywood cinema. Through explorations of such famous plays as HamletThe Roaring Girl, and The Alchemist, and such celebrated films as Citizen KaneThe Jazz Singer, and City Lights, Knapp challenges some of our most basic assumptions about the relationship between art and mass audiences and encourages us to resist the prejudice that mass entertainment necessarily simplifies and cheapens.

After an introduction, Knapp will speak briefly about his book and then open the floor for discussion.

JEFFREY KNAPP is the Eggers Professor of English at UC Berkeley and author of An Empire Nowhere: England and America from Utopia to The Tempest (1992); Shakespeare’s Tribe: Church, Nation, and Theater in Renaissance England (2002); Shakespeare Only (2009); and Pleasing Everyone: Mass Entertainment in Renaissance London and Golden-Age Hollywood, published this year by Oxford University Press. The chapter “Throw That Junk!” in Pleasing Everyone was first published in Representations 122 (Spring 2013). An advance version of his new essay “Selma and the Place of Fiction in Historical Films” will be posted here in early October.