Video / Audio  Heyman Center For Humanities

In The Mediterranean Incarnate, anthropologist Naor Ben-Yehoyada takes us aboard the Naumachos for a thirty-seven-day voyage in the fishing grounds between Sicily and Tunisia. He also takes us on a historical exploration of the past eighty years to show how the Mediterranean has reemerged as a modern transnational region. From Sicilian poaching in North African territory to the construction of the TransMediterranean gas pipeline, Ben-Yehoyada examines the transformation of political action, imaginaries, and relations in the central Mediterranean while detailing the remarkable bonds that have formed between the Sicilians and Tunisians who live on its waters. The book centers on the town of Mazara del Vallo, located on the southwestern tip of Sicily some ninety nautical miles northeast of the African shore. Ben-Yehoyada intertwines the town’s recent turbulent history—which has been fraught with conflicts over fishing rights, development projects, and how the Mediterranean should figure in Italian politics at large—with deep accounts of life aboard the Naumacho, linking ethnography with historical anthropology and political-economic analysis. Through this sophisticated approach, he crafts a new viewpoint on the historical processes of transnational region formation, one offered by these moving ships as they weave together new social and political constellations.

Join Fintan O’Toole as he explores Shaw’s ambivalent relationship with Ireland and Irish nationalism. “George Bernard Shaw described Irish nationalist fervour in 1913 as ‘a burning fire shut up in the bones, a pain, a protest against shame and defeat, a morbid condition which a healthy man must shake off if he is to keep sane’. The only cure was national independence. Shaw always remained a paradoxical nationalist, arguing simultaneously that Irish freedom would do no good in itself and that it must be gained in order for the Irish to be able to think about other things.” Extracted from his new book Judging Shaw, Fintan O’Toole is a columnist and literary editor with The Irish Times and Leonard L. Milberg lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University. He has written books on Irish history, politics, society and culture. He has been awarded the European Press Prize 2017 and the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2017.

Shaw, Our Contemporary? George Bernard Shaw was the most famous Irishman in the world for much of his life – yet, for many, the prodigious nature and quality of his output is forgotten. As well as being a prolific writer and polymath, he was one of the first global celebrities who carefully created and managed his brand. With his passionate interest in social justice and poverty, in human rights, in public discourse and in entertainment, he was a man with much to say to our times. Join us for a panel discussion where academics, archivists, publishers, theatre makers debate the relevance of Shaw today on stage, in the classroom and in print. Speakers: Catriona Crowe, Ruth Hegarty, Barry Houlihan, Lucy McDiarmid, Adrian Paterson, and Keri Walsh.

This talk traces a genealogy of affect theory from the early modern era through to the present day, establishing the central significance of music for this history. It demonstrates that the theory of affect we have inherited today has its origins in eighteenth-century aesthetic debates concerning music’s capacity to function as a sign and to move its listeners. In the early modern era, the affects were important components of an elaborate semiotic system that sought to explain the impact of art. Today, by stark contrast, affect is often explicitly opposed to theories of the sign and of representation; theorists describe affect as corporeal and immediate, working on our autonomic systems. The genealogy elaborated in this paper shows how affect theories became separated from theories of representation, and it illustrates the central and surprising role that music played in this separation.

Celebrating Recent Work by Rebecca Woods, Matthew Jones, and William Deringer

Richard Prum, author of The Evolution of Beauty discusses his book, its implications and its problems, with the philosopher Philip Kitcher, the historian of science Deborah R. Coen, and the literary scholar George Levine. Prum's book, listed by the New York Times as one of the best of 2017, attempts to restore Darwin's theory of sexual selection, not only explaining through Prum's own original work in ornithology how it works, but also making a powerful case for the explanatory inadequacy of the popular "Darwinian" adaptationist paradigm in evolutionary biology. Sexual selection, particularly mate choice, Prum argues, accounts not only for the gorgeous plumage of male birds, but also for the splitting of humans from their simian cousins. Working independently of and often in conflict with natural selection, sexual selection leads us to a new definition and understanding of aesthetics. Perhaps even more strikingly, it leads Prum to a very strong feminist theory, with intellectually revolutionary implications.