Spring Term: Session 4

Coming to terms with the digital

A discussion on representations of the digital in contemporary American culture

6-8pm, Wednesday 7th March
Senate House, Room 261

This session will take the form of a seminar introduced and led by Zara Dinnen (PhD candidate, Birkbeck). The title of the session is a play on the title of a 2011 Guardian article by the American author and critic, Laura Miller. The article, 'How novels came to terms with the internet', thinks through some of the reasons why digital culture (particularly the Internet) is so conspicuously absent from recent American fiction -- (excl. SF, or SF-themed novels). The aim of this seminar is to expand and reify the terms Miller calls to account. The central question being asked then is, how is American culture representing its own encounters with the digital? Up for discussion are what the terms of this question actually denote; how might we begin to define and limit such terms as: ‘American culture’, ‘digital era’, ‘digital culture’, ‘contemporary America’, ‘new media’? Whilst no definitive answers are likely please come and join the discussion!

Suggested reading:

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G., Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008). PDF of the introduction available here.

Miller, Laura, 'How novels came to terms with the internet,' Guardian (15th Jan 2011). Available here.

Worden, Daniel, 'Late Postmodernism' [a review of Phillip E. Wegner's book Life Between Two Deaths, 1989-2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009)]. Available here.


Spring Term: Session 3

Examined Life
DVD Screening

6pm, Wednesday 15th February
Senate House,
*** Room G35 (please note room change) ***

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Examined Life pulls philosophy out of academic journals and classrooms, and puts it back on the streets...

In Examined Life, filmmaker Astra Taylor accompanies some of today’s most influential thinkers on a series of unique excursions through places and spaces that hold particular resonance for them and their ideas.

Peter Singer’s thoughts on the ethics of consumption are amplified against the backdrop of Fifth Avenue’s posh boutiques. Slavoj Zizek questions current beliefs about the environment while sifting through a garbage dump. Michael Hardt ponders the nature of revolution while surrounded by symbols of wealth and leisure. Judith Butler and a friend stroll through San Francisco’s Mission District questioning our culture’s fixation on individualism. And while driving through Manhattan, Cornel West—perhaps America’s best-known public intellectual—compares philosophy to jazz and blues, reminding us how intense and invigorating a life of the mind can be. Offering privileged moments with great thinkers from fields ranging from moral philosophy to cultural theory, Examined Life reveals philosophy’s power to transform the way we see the world around us and imagine our place in it.

Featuring Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor.

All are welcome to attend.