Every previous major disaster in human history, from the Black Plague to the Great Depression, has elicited a reimagination of the world, a reinvention of collective life through culture. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. The arts and humanities—two areas of inquiry that focus on value and meaning—provide crucial resources for reconceptualizing our lives together during, and after, our current crisis.
The series (Re)making Sense: The Humanities and Pandemic Culture examines the utility of the arts and humanities for helping us navigate the ethical challenges and practical reinventions that lie before us. Top scholars, writers, and artists at UC Berkeley discuss how their disciplines, and the skills and abilities fostered by their fields, can help in our efforts to reimagine and rebuild.
The pandemic has underscored the need to attend to the life of the spirit. In the fifth event of this series, we explore the relationship between spirit and art. What is the duty of the poet or artist toward the world of spirit? How do poetry and prayer intertwine? What is the spiritual responsibility of the critic or scholar? How can we mobilize the many intersections between the worlds of art and spirit as we move forward? What can spiritual practices teach the artist or critic?
Professor of Music and Representations board member Nicholas Mathew studies the relationship between music and politics, including the ways in which music produces social attachments and collective identity. He is the author of Political Beethoven and has completed a new book project on the deep history of music and markets in the long eighteenth century.
Laura Pérez is professor of ethnic studies and chair of the Latinx Research Center. Her recent book, Eros Ideologies: Writings on Art, Spirituality, and the Decolonial, examines art as a laboratory for creating, imagining, and experiencing new forms of decolonial thought.
John Shoptaw teaches poetry in the Department of English. His 2015 poetry collection, Times Beach, a meditation on the cultural and environmental history of the Mississippi watershed, won the Notre Dame Review Book Prize and the Northern California Book Award in Poetry.
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The most recent issue of Representations, a special issue on Practices of Devotion, takes up a question that dovetails with those underlying these talk. For thinking more about the intertwining of poetry and prayer, see Robert Glenn Davis’s “Prayer and the Art of Literature in Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion.“