J. M. Coetzee, New Fiction: December 2012 Reading, University of Cape Town (Video)

I had the pleasure of meeting with a handful of students yesterday– first-years in the college, ten of them back-to-back, to discuss their recent papers on Hamlet.  As wonderful as these meetings were (I would write ‘thrilling,’ save that I’m afraid of being read as sarcastic), they unsurprisingly wore me out.  Home for the night, exhausted, I thought to re-watch J. M. Coetzee’s 2003 Nobel Lecture, “He and His Man” — a characteristically strange and beautiful inversion of Defoe and Crusoe’s relationship which opens up onto questions of intersubjectivity, imagination, the profligacy of thought.  Searching for the clip, I came upon new footage (posted just last month) of the following reading at the University of Cape Town.  Perhaps because I spent so much of my day on the choreography of Claims / Evidence / Reasons, or, from the other direction, perhaps because the old man of the story is right, to read is to submit, even as the child of the story is right, there are holes between the pages, the stars, the numbers, between each of us and every other, and then perhaps because  there’s something of these twin truths in almost every interaction with students . . .  Whatever the reason, I find it quite extraordinary.

I find it quite extraordinary, and would love to hear what you think.


Amir Khan: “Michael Jackson’s Ressentiment: Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal in Conversation with Fred Astaire”

We wanted to draw your attention to a newly published essay by Amir Khan (Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, University of Ottawa), entitled “Michael Jackson’s Ressentiment: Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal in Conversation with Fred Astaire“. The essay appears in a new issue of the journal Popular Music and Society, a special issue devoted to the late Michael Jackson. Khan attended the October 14-16, 2010 conference at Harvard on Cavell and literary studies, and he’s the person who took these photos of the event.

According to Khan, his essay’s reading of Jackson is an extension of Cavell’s original discussion of Fred Astaire (two moments of which we’ve cited, with video clips, here and here).

To access Khan’s essay online, please click here. Here is its abstract:

Little attempt is made at juxtaposing Michael Jackson’s art against that of his cultural predecessors. Reading Billie Jean (1983) and Smooth Criminal (1988) in conversation with Fred Astaire’s popular 1953 musical, The Band Wagon, for example, exposes all sorts of intertwining threads of significance and ressentiment, particularly in terms of race relations and cultural appropriation. Yet my purpose in this paper is not to assign the last word to either Michael Jackson or Fred Astaire, but to analyze what sort of ramifications their dialogue may have for American popular imagination.

Videos: “Simone de Beauvoir Today” (PAL @ Duke Univ., 9/23/2011)

We wanted to let you know that video recordings of the Simone de Beauvoir Today Symposium — which was hosted by the Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature at Duke University — are now available for free on iTunes. For a brief account of the event, written by ones of the participants, please click here. To access the free video recordings, please click here.

Video: about the Wittgenstein and Photography Exhibition at the University of Cambridge

Via the PHILOS-L listserv, here is a note from Constantinos Athanasopoulos that we thought some of you would find of interest:

Fans of Wittgenstein and scholars on Wittgenstein Studies might find interesting the video presentation [embedded above] of the Wittgenstein and Photography Exhibition at the University of Cambridge- July and August 2011 (PandIS) at the BWS website:


There is also an interesting account in a pdf file of a previous Exhibition at Clare Hall (Cambridge) by Michael Nedo below the video at the same site.

Best regards,

Dr. C. Athanasopoulos, FHEA

Editor, BWS

Video: Harvard Humanities Center event celebrating the publication of Cavell’s “Little Did I Know”

I’m delighted to be able to post a video of the Harvard Humanities Center event celebrating the publication of Stanley Cavell’s autobiography, Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory (Stanford University Press), which took place October 14, 2010 in Harvard University’s Fong Auditorium (the kick-off event for a 2-day conference on “Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies”).

This panel — introduced by Homi Bhabha (Director of the Humanities Center) and moderated by Nancy Bauer (Tufts University) — featured presentations by Norton Batkin (Bard College), James Conant (University of Chicago), Arnold Davidson (University of Chicago and University of Pisa), Paul Franks (University of Toronto), and Sandra Laugier (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne). In the video, the speakers occasionally refer to selected passages from Little Did I Know and other texts that were reproduced on a handout which was distributed to members of the audience; to read the passages each speaker selected, please click on his or her hyperlinked name (in the list above).

My deep thanks to Prof. Bhabha and the Humanities Center for generously hosting this wonderful event and for allowing us to post this video here. Enjoy!

Here is part 1 of the video (which includes the introductions by Homi Bhabha and Nancy Bauer, and the presentations by Norton Batkin, Paul Franks, Arnold Davidson, and Sandra Laugier):

And here is part 2 (which includes the presentation by Jim Conant and the Q&A period):


“The Great Debate” at ASU: can science tell us right from wrong?

We thought some of our readers would be interested in a symposium devoted to neuroscience and ethics that was held recently at Arizona State University. Here is a description of the event:

The Great Debate, held at Arizona State University on November 6, brought together a renowned group of scientists, philosophers, and public intellectuals to discuss whether advances in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have significantly impacted how we understand the concept of morality. Panelists Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, Patricia Churchland, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, and Peter Singer were joined by The Science Network’s Roger Bingham for a wonderful night of discussion and questions from the audience.

Click here to see videos of the discussion.

Videos: Talks from the 2nd and 3rd Annual BWS Conferences

We wanted to let our readers know that the British Wittgenstein Society has made available streaming videos of a number of lectures given during their 2nd and 3rd Annual Conferences (the 2nd Annual Conference, held in 2009, was devoted to the topic of “Wittgenstein and Naturalism” and the 3rd Annual Conference was on the topic of “Wittgenstein and Aesthetics”). To access the videos, please click here.

There are recordings of talks by the following scholars: Noel Carroll, Jean-Pierre Cometti, Stephen Davies, Richard Eldridge, John Gibson, Garry Hagberg, Bernard Harrison, Alex Neil, Aaron Ridley, Dawn Phillips, Roger Scruton, Ben Tilghman, John Searle, Lynne Rudder Baker, David Papineau, Anthony Kenny, Meredith Williams.

Forthcoming book: Michael Fried’s “Four Honest Outlaws”

We’ve just learned that Michael Fried (Johns Hopkins University) has a new book coming out next April, from Yale University Press. Entitled Four Honest Outlaws, it looks wonderful, and we wanted to be sure our readers knew of it. To visit the publisher’s webpage for the book, please click here.

Here is the press’ description of the forthcoming volume:

In this strongly argued and characteristically original book, Michael Fried considers the work of four contemporary artists–video artist and photographer Anri Sala, sculptor Charles Ray, painter Joseph Marioni, and video artist and intervener in movies Douglas Gordon. He shows how their respective projects are best understood as engaging in a variety of ways with some of the core themes and issues associated with high modernism, and indeed with its prehistory in French painting and art criticism from Diderot on. Four Honest Outlaws thus continues the author’s exploration of the critical and philosophical territory opened up by his earlier book, the magisterial Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before. It presents a vision of the most important contemporary art as not only not repudiating modernism in the name of postmodernism in any of the latter’s many forms and manifestations, but also actually as committed to dialectically renewing certain crucial qualities and values that modernism and premodernism brought to the fore, above all those of presentness and anti-theatricality.

Four Honest Outlaws takes its title from a line in a Bob Dylan song, “To live outside the law you must be honest,” meaning in this case that each of the four artists has found his own unsanctioned path to extraordinary accomplishment, in part by defying the ordinary norms and expectations of the contemporary art world. Filled with stunning images throughout and accompanied by a DVD illustrating works by Sala and Gordon discussed in its pages, Four Honest Outlaws is sure to provoke controversy even as it makes a dramatic bid to further transform the terms in which the art of the present should be understood.

Audio: J.L. Austin’s voice

I’ve finally had a chance to watch a few of the Logic Lane episodes that we recently posted, and I was delighted to discover that the 5th part of the episode on Oxford philosophy of the 1930s (featuring a conversation between Isaiah Berlin and Stuart Hampshire) includes a brief audio clip of J.L. Austin lecturing. I wanted to draw it to your attention, in case, like me, you too have never heard Austin’s voice before.

[Note: see Nat Hansen’s comment below for more about this recording of Austin lecturing]

The clip begins about 1 minute into the 5th section of the film (which, for your convenience, I’ll embed again below):