Video / Audio  Literature

Last Works: Lessons in Leaving by Mark Taylor. Living in the shadow of death may enhance the gift of life. In 2006, Taylor (Religion/Columbia Univ.; Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left, 2014, etc.) developed an infection after a biopsy, resulting in septic shock that took a month to stabilize; five months later, he underwent surgery for cancer. That life-threatening experience, he reflects, was like “dying without dying,” and the last 10 years have seemed like “life after death for me,” a reprieve that made him feel unexpectedly liberated. Trying to make sense of the experience, he turned to writers whose works he has read, taught, and cherished during his long career. The result is an erudite intellectual autobiography focused on 11 writers’ insights about the end of life: several (Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, and Freud) committed suicide; two (Nietzsche, Poe) died in delirium; and two (Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida) are likely to be unfamiliar to readers without a background in philosophy. Kierkegaard, Melville, and Thoreau round out the cast. None could be characterized as bright spirits but rather echo the abiding depression that Taylor believes he inherited from his mother. “In one way or another,” he admits, “everything I have written over the years has been an effort to overcome the melancholy of unhappy consciousness.” From his father, however, a science teacher, poet, and artist, he inherited an uplifting love of nature and artistic talent. Living in New England, Taylor senses the ghosts of Melville and Thoreau close at hand. As he watches the sun rise each morning over the Berkshires, he is struck by the moment before light appears and “reality remains virtual and all things seem possible.” As an artist, “exploring ways of writing without words,” he has created large-scale land art from steel, stone, and bone that depict letters from the signatures of Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. They stand as impressive homages to a trinity of beloved philosophers. Taylor’s personal recollections emerge as the most engaging passages, punctuating analyses of often challenging works.

About forty years ago, historians of women began to claim a place for their subject as a distinct scholarly field.  This movement emerged particularly powerfully in Britain, its early preoccupations and questions shaped by the Feminist Movement, the New Left, and especially by Thompsonian social history.  This conference will convene more than 30 historians to reflect on "The Moment of British Women's History."

Robert Alter presented the next installment of the Lionel Trilling Seminar on March 7, 2016.  Herbert Marks and Michael Wood served as respondents. The David story and Stendhal's Charterhouse of Parma, the first narrative very early and the other relatively late in the Western literary tradition, are deeply instructive instances of how the vehicle of fiction can provide insights into the realm of politics. Each in its own way shows the role individual character plays in the gaining and maintaining of power and how the exercise of power affects or distorts character.  The biblical story is compellingly grave, Stendhal's novel satiric and sometimes comic, but both manifest an unblinking vision of man as a political animal.

Poets talk about the scholarly resources that inspire them, including poetry anthologies, rhyming dictionaries, standard dictionaries, handbooks of poetic forms, and other resources, such as the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (the latest edition of which was published in 2013). Participants include --Dorothea Lasky, Assistant Professor in the School of the Arts at Columbia University --Tan Lin, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at New Jersey City University --Nada Gordon, Instructor of English at Pratt Institute --Bob Perelman, Professor of English at University of Pennsylvania --Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Associate Professor of English at State University of New York, Stony Brook. Co-sponsored by Public Books. www.publicbooks.org

Poets Tom Pickard, August Kleinzahler, and Maureen McLane read from new and published work in the continuation of the Poets at the Heyman Center series. Orlando Reade, PhD candidate in the Department of English at Princeton University, chaired the discussion.

Poets Tom Pickard, August Kleinzahler, and Maureen McLane read from new and published work in the continuation of the Poets at the Heyman Center series. Orlando Reade, PhD candidate in the Department of English at Princeton University, chaired the discussion.

Raja Shehadeh’s lecture on the 10th anniversary of Edward Said’s death will reflect on the cages of categorization that imprison Palestinians in contemporary Palestine perhaps more than even the physical matrix of borders, checkpoints, and the Wall. Shehadeh will explore how Palestinians themselves deploy these categories in a language of despair in our post-Oslo landscape, as well as a search for a new language, remembering as Edward Said noted in one of his most moving and lyrical texts, After the Last Sky, that “We are more than someone else’s object.”

Raja Shehadeh’s lecture on the 10th anniversary of Edward Said’s death will reflect on the cages of categorization that imprison Palestinians in contemporary Palestine perhaps more than even the physical matrix of borders, checkpoints, and the Wall. Shehadeh will explore how Palestinians themselves deploy these categories in a language of despair in our post-Oslo landscape, as well as a search for a new language, remembering as Edward Said noted in one of his most moving and lyrical texts, After the Last Sky, that “We are more than someone else’s object.”