Berkeley Book Chats

The Townsend Center presents a lunchtime series celebrating the intellectual and artistic endeavors of the UC Berkeley faculty. Each Berkeley Book Chat features a faculty member engaged in conversation about a recently completed publication, performance, or recording. The series highlights the extraordinary breadth and depth of Berkeley’s academic community.

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Approaching the seven-day week as an artificial construction of modern society, David Henkin explores its role as a dominant organizational principle that shapes our understanding and experience of time.

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Edward Tyerman explores the role of China in the 1920s as the key site for Soviet debates over how the political project of socialist internationalism should be expressed through literature, film, and theater.

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SanSan Kwan explores how dance — based in body-to-body interaction on the stage — serves as a revelatory site, and ultimately carries the potential to model everyday encounters across difference in the world.

Homer: The Very Idea

James Porter
Berkeley Book Chats
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The identity of Homer is shrouded in mystery, including doubts that he was an actual person. James Porter explores Homer’s mystique, approaching the poet not as a man, but as a cultural invention.

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What might behaviorism, that debunked school of psychology, tell us about literature? Joshua Gang argues for its enormous critical value for thinking about why language is so good at creating illusions of mental life.

Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History

Timothy Hampton
Berkeley Book Chats
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Exploring cheerfulness as a theme and structuring element in the work of major artists, Timothy Hampton (Comparative Literature and French) casts new light on literary history, the intersections of culture and psychology, and the history of emotions.

Past Events

Image Objects: An Archaeology of Computer Graphics

Jacob Gaboury
Berkeley Book Chats
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Jacob Gaboury argues for the fundamental role of computer graphics as the force that transformed the computer from a calculating machine into an interactive medium.

Arts of Connection: Poetry, History, Epochality

Karen Feldman
Berkeley Book Chats
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Working at the intersection of literary theory, philosophy of history, and phenomenology, Karen Feldman explores the representation of connections between events in literary, historical, and philosophical narratives.

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In the first major study of the language of historical French newspapers and periodicals, Mairi McLaughlin sheds light on our understanding both of the history of French and of language variation and change. The conversation will be conducted in English.

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Critics have largely neglected description as a feature of novelistic innovation during the 20th century. Dora Zhang argues that descriptive practices were in fact a crucial site of attention and experimentation for a number of modernist writers.

The Value of Poetry

Eric Falci
Berkeley Book Chats
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Exploring the literary, cultural, and political value of poetry in the twenty-first century, Eric Falci shows how poems matter, and what they offer to readers in the contemporary world.

Ark of Martyrs: An Autobiography of V

Allan deSouza
Berkeley Book Chats
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Allan deSouza’s rewriting of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness substitutes Conrad’s words with ones that loosely rhyme, creating a linguistically and psychologically complex portrait of dystopian contemporary life.

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Anneka Lenssen explores how artists developed new kinds of painting as a means to agitate against the imposed identities and intersubjective relations that accompanied the making of modern Syria.

Proust, Photography, and the Time of Life

Suzanne Guerlac
Berkeley Book Chats
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Placing Remembrance of Things Past within a complex philosophical and aesthetic context, Suzanne Guerlac approaches Proust’s novel as a text whose true subject is the adventure of living in time.

Under the Dome: Walks with Paul Celan by Jean Daive

Introduction by Robert Kaufman and Philip Gerard
Berkeley Book Chats
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In their introduction to the English translation of Jean Daive’s memoir, Robert Kaufman and Philip Gerard provide critical, historical, and cultural context for Daive's account of his friendship with the German-language poet Paul Celan.