In 1955, Theodor Adorno declared that “to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric.” He questioned the value of metaphor after a tragedy as unfathomable as the Holocaust. Past and present, some dismiss the arts as bourgeois pastimes, out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people. Given the climate emergency and our many other global problems, many today ask what value there is in pretty pictures and fictional stories.
In this seminar, we will discuss the purpose of art during dark times—ecological and political crises, war, genocide. Before the Romantic revolution, music and art helped to organize society and structure meaning. In contrast, is art today only about pleasure? Or might the arts and letters play an integral role in nourishing civil society and democracy? What is the role of the writer and artist under authoritarianism, under tyranny? Even if they eschew conventional activism, can artists nonetheless help maintain not only healthy minds but healthy societies too?
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?
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 two hours, 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 email@example.com 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.
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