Video / Audio  Writing Lives Series

What is death? And what comes after? The end of life. The end of this life. Heaven. Nothingness. Ghosts, real and imagined. Such questions, and answers, have often been understood as quintessentially religious and quintessentially philosophical. They are also social, cultural, and political. Academic and affective. In this year-long series, IRCPL will feature a range of events and speakers, including leading scholars in history and anthropology, as well as film makers, artists, journalists, and social activists. The purpose of the series is to explore a range of topics and issues, from the history of burial and mourning practices to contemporary debates over cryogenics, the political dimensions of urban violence, and the role that music can play in the process of grieving. We will stage lectures, screen films, and feature artists in conversation and in performance. The series will conclude with a “death café” in late April, and showcasing of the year’s events in the on-line review, Public Books.

"To teach correct Latin and to explain the poets" were the two standard duties of Roman teachers. Not only was a command of literary Latin a prerequisite for political and social advancement, but a sense of Latin's history and importance contributed to the Romans' understanding of their own cultural identity. Put plainly, philology-the study of language and texts-was important at Rome. Critics, Compilers, and Commentators is the first comprehensive introduction to the history, forms, and texts of Roman philology. James Zetzel traces the changing role and status of Latin as revealed in the ways it was explained and taught by the Romans themselves. In addition, he provides a descriptive bibliography of hundreds of scholarly texts from antiquity, listing editions, translations, and secondary literature. Recovering a neglected but crucial area of Roman intellectual life, this book will be an essential resource for students of Roman literature and intellectual history, medievalists, and historians of education and language science.

Almost fifty years ago, Jean-Louis Comolli and Jean Narboni published the manifesto “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” helping to set the agenda for a generation of film theory that used cinema as a means of critiquing capitalist ideology. In recent decades, film studies has moved away from politicized theory, abandoning the productive ways in which theory understands the relationship between cinema, politics, and art. In Cinema/Politics/Philosophy, Nico Baumbach revisits the much-maligned tradition of seventies film theory to reconsider: What does it mean to call cinema political?

An anonymous book appeared in Venice in 1547 titled L'Alcorano di Macometto, and, according to the title page, it contained "the doctrine, life, customs, and laws [of Mohammed] . . . newly translated from Arabic into the Italian language." Were this true, L'Alcorano di Macometto would have been the first printed direct translation of the Qur'an in a European vernacular language. The truth, however, was otherwise. As soon became clear, the Qur'anic sections of the book—about half the volume—were in fact translations of a twelfth-century Latin translation that had appeared in print in Basel in 1543. The other half included commentary that balanced anti-Islamic rhetoric with new interpretations of Muhammad's life and political role in pre-Islamic Arabia. Despite having been discredited almost immediately, the Alcorano was affordable, accessible, and widely distributed. In The Venetian Qur'an, Pier Mattia Tommasino uncovers the volume's mysterious origins, its previously unidentified author, and its broad, lasting influence.

Transnational Patriotism in the Mediterranean investigates the long process of transition from a world of empires to a world of nation-states by narrating the biographies of a group of people who were born within empires but came of age surrounded by the emerging vocabulary of nationalism, much of which they themselves created. It is the story of a generation of intellectuals and political thinkers from the Ionian Islands who experienced the collapse of the Republic of Venice and the dissolution of the common cultural and political space of the Adriatic, and who contributed to the creation of Italian and Greek nationalisms. By uncovering this forgotten intellectual universe, Transnational Patriotism in the Mediterranean retrieves a world characterized by multiple cultural, intellectual, and political affiliations that have since been buried by the conventional narrative of the formation of nation-states.

n this book, Hamid Dabashi brings the Shahnameh to renewed global attention, encapsulating a lifetime of learning and teaching the Persian epic for a new generation of readers. Dabashi insightfully traces the epic’s history, authorship, poetic significance, complicated legacy of political uses and abuses, and enduring significance in colonial and postcolonial contexts. In addition to explaining and celebrating what makes the Shahnameh such a distinctive literary work, he also considers the poem in the context of other epics, such as the Aeneid or the Odyssey, and critical debates over the concept of world literature. Arguing that Ferdowsi’s epic and its reception broached an idea of world literature long before nineteenth-century Western literary criticism, Dabashi makes a powerful case that we need to rethink the very notion of “world literature” in light of his reading of the Persian epic.

A case study in the textual architecture of the venerable legal and ethical tradition at the center of the Islamic experience, Sharīʿa Scripts is a work of historical anthropology focused on Yemen in the early twentieth century. There—while colonial regimes, late Ottoman reformers, and early nationalists wrought decisive changes to the legal status of the sharīʿa, significantly narrowing its sphere of relevance—the Zaydī school of jurisprudence, rooted in highland Yemen for a millennium, still held sway.

In the first episode of "The Trilling Tapes," the scholar Lauren Berlant talks live about her new project: an analysis about the affect of humorlessness in politics. Featuring the scholar Bruce Robbins as a guest interlocutor and host Olivia Rutigliano. The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University is home to the Lionel Trilling Seminars, established in 1976 to honor one of the most prominent cultural critics of the twentieth century and his decades-long career at Columbia. Trilling's legacy represents a broad-ranging critical engagement with literature and culture. Speakers in the series include such formidable public intellectuals as Noam Chomsky, Martha Nussbaum, and Amartya Sen, among many others. In this podcast series, Olivia Rutigliano mines the recorded archives--the Trilling Tapes--to uncover and contextualize more than forty years of exceptional critical thought.