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Critical Conversations Meeting Three: The Society of the Spectacle

Thu January 12 @ 19 h 00 - 20 h 30

Meeting three of Critical Conversations, an expert-led discussion series that allows Library members to ponder the most important issues of our time. This season: a reflection on how to lead a contemplative, vital, and unmediated life in an ever-faster digital world.

In La société du spectacle (1967), French philosopher and avant-gardist Guy Debord describes an image-saturated world overtaken by the market economy. He writes, “The Spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images. … The more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own life and his own desires.”

What challenges or limitations does a society of spectacle inflict on its members? And, without abandoning all digital interaction, how can individuals and communities invite more direct experience into their lives while keeping the spectacle at bay?

In partnership with Analog Sea, an offline publisher of printed books, we’re delighted to announce the fourth season of Critical Conversations, an expert-led discussion series that allows Library members to ponder the most important issues of our time. This season, we will reflect on how to lead a contemplative, vital, and unmediated life in an ever-faster digital world. We will discuss questions such as: What do we gain from disconnecting, and how can we do it? How can we sharpen our senses and redirect our attention in order to change our thoughts and actions? And most of all, how can we live in contemporary society with nuance and intention?

The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset writes that agitation dazzles, blinds, and compels us to act mechanically, like “frenetic sleepwalkers.” To address the perils of today is, first of all, to name them. Whether distraction, compulsion, and isolation, or noise, bright light, and convenience, during meetings one, two, and three, we will identify and begin to understand the snares of today’s increasingly digital world.

Some details: The 2022–23 series will unfold over nine sessions, from November 2022 to July 2023. Conversations will begin at 19h00 CET and run for ninety minutes, in person, at the Library; technology of all description is happily forbidden. Each participant will receive copies of all four Analog Sea Review volumes published so far. Course reading and discussion will, for the most part, be based on work published in The Analog Sea Review. Jonathan Simons, founding editor of Analog Sea, will begin each meeting with some opening remarks, before guiding a group discussion.

About Critical Conversations: Whether in France or America, debate is central to healthy democracy. Critical Conversations encourages both disagreement and agreement through thinking, talking, reading, and actively participating in community. Since the series’ inception in 2020, we have tackled race in America, the climate crisis, and migration. Across seasons, participants have challenged themselves, their peers, and the world in which we live. Please write to Emilie Biggs at biggs@americanlibraryinparis.org with any questions.

About the Critical Conversations 2022-23 leader:

Jonathan Simons is the founding editor of offline publishing house Analog Sea and its literary journal, The Analog Sea Review. As a poet and essayist, he has written for publications including The London Magazine, PN Review, El País, subTerrain Magazine, and The Analog Sea Review. His work has been covered by, among others, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Washington Post and La Vanguardia. He researched Buddhist poetics at Naropa University and McGill University and was formerly a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Humans and Machines, in Berlin.

Attendance at this event constitutes permission for your photograph or video to be taken at the event and used by the American Library in Paris for marketing, promotional, pedagogical, or other purposes.


Thu January 12
19 h 00 min - 20 h 30 min
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