March 29th: Michael Rutherglen (PhD student, Committee on Social Thought), “Intermittency, Transparency, & Parody: On Eliot’s Rhymes” (Foster 305)
Although T.S. Eliot is most often thought of as helping to make that crucial, high-modernist heave of “breaking the pentameter,” it is less frequently remarked how rhyme allowed for its continuing spectral existence “behind the arras” of his freer lines. This essay tries to draw out the features of his particular kind of rhyming, all of which were established in his early poems: its prosody-sustaining intermittency, sonic thickness, and basically parodic tonality. In turn, it argues for rhyme’s uniformity across his corpus and for this uniformity as a problem for his later and increasingly purist conception of his own poetics.
April 19th (RESCHEDULED FROM 4/12): Chenxin Jiang (PhD candidate, Committee on Social Thought), “Aesthetic Education with Chinese Characteristics” (Foster 505)
The only lasting policy change implemented by the education minister of the newly established Chinese republic in 1912 was an official commitment to “aesthetic education.” Cai Yuanpei (1863-1940) derived his notions of aesthetics and aesthetic education from Kant and Schiller, developing them in the context of his remit to overhaul school education nationwide. This essay reconstructs Cai’s less-known aesthetics in order to develop a new reading of his influential later proposal to “replace religion with aesthetic education.”
N.B. Instead of the paper, a selection from Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man and related writings of Cai Yuanpei will be circulated for advance reading.
April 26th: Silke-Maria Weineck, (Professor of German and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan) “The Irony Monster” (Foster 505)
This talk will present the concept of irony as a form of monstrous agency that retains the power of divinity in a post-theist world. Irony emerges as the mechanism that allows radical contingency to be made meaningful in complex processes of Nachtraeglichkeit. The gestures we identify as superstitious, I will argue, are actually micro-sacrifices to the irony monster not despite but precisely because they are meaningless in the non-ironic world of scientism.
May 10th: Ethan Blass, (PhD candidate, German) “Romance as a Way of Seeing in Goethe and Hitchcock” (Foster 305)
Romance is often thought of as a kind of literature that is formulaic, patently unbelievable, and perhaps not all that worth reading. In this paper, I attempt to rethink what exactly romance is by suggesting that it might be thought of as a particular way of reading or seeing. The argument begins by first bringing romance in dialogue with the particular way of seeing nature that Goethe argues for in his scientific writings. It then moves into the realm of literary romance proper, dwelling on the implications of an extended comparison of Goethe’s poem “The Bride of Corinth” with Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt.
May 31st: Aparna Ravilochan (PhD student, Committee on Social Thought), “Objects as Vessels of Human Meaning in Ozu’s Late Spring” (Foster 505)
From his carefully positioned tea kettles to the famous vase in Kyoto, the items that surround characters in their homes are an especial focus of Yasujiro Ozu’s, used most notably in his characteristic “pillow shots.” This paper explores the use and significance of household objects in the masterwork Late Spring. I argue that these objects transcend illustration and representation, serving through their juxtaposition with the characters not to isolate them, but instead to continue the human drama through their own gestural dynamism.
N.B. There will be a showing of Ozu’s Late Spring on 5/30 at 6:30 p.m. in Foster 103.