Critical Conversations

The second season of Critical Conversations, an expert-led discussion series that allows Library members to delve deeper into pressing topics, concluded in November 2021. We believe open debate is vital to a healthy democracy, and the aim of Critical Conversations is to foster a sense of community while also promoting civic discourse and engagement. Our hope is that participants will join us to educate and challenge themselves—through reading and dialogue. Programs Manager Alice McCrum continues to shape the series, and looks forward to hearing your feedback.

Theme and Format for 2021: The Environmental Crisis

The program began on Thursday 28th October with the urgent issue of the environmental crisis. Critical Conversations participants attended a series of three, ninety-minute sessions, with short readings distributed in advance. Wenzel began each meeting with some opening remarks, before guiding a group discussion. The series was held in-person at the Library. Series size was capped at twenty participants to encourage meaningful participation across the group.

Meeting* dates and topics:

(Thursday 28th October) Meeting 1: Groundwork

What is happening to the earth, the sky, and the oceans? How do we know, and what can we do? How can writers and artists help us to think about these crises?

(Wednesday 10th November) Meeting 2: Running out of Gas; How to Read for Oil

This week we read three short stories about running out of gas, the end of oil, the end of the world, and how the world of fossil fuels may have other futures in mind.

(Thursday 18th November) Meeting 3: The New Normal? What Futures do We Want?

Finally we read several brief non-fiction essays that contemplate what the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic mean for our daily lives, for the places and people we love, and for our beliefs about what makes a good or ethical life.

*All meetings began at 19h CET and ran for 90 minutes.

How to join this Critical Conversation
[Registration is now closed.]

This series was hosted in-person at the Library and was limited to Library members.

Advance payment and registration was required:

Regular rate: 50€ per participant
Reduced rate: 25€  (exclusively for students/seniors/unemployed)

Please email Alice McCrum, Programs Manager, with any questions.

About Jennifer Wenzel, the 2021 series leader:

The series leader for 2021 was Jennifer Wenzel, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University in the City of New York. Wenzel is a scholar of postcolonial studies and environmental and energy humanities. Her new book, The Disposition of Nature: Environmental Crisis and World Literature (Fordham 2020)was shortlisted for the 2020 Book Prize awarded by the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. With Imre Szeman and Patricia Yaeger, she co-edited Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (Fordham 2017). Her first book, Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond (Chicago and KwaZulu-Natal, 2009), was awarded Honorable Mention for the Perkins Prize by the International Society for the Study of Narrative. Her current research examines the fossil-fueled imagination, in literature, visual culture, and public life.