Elisa Tamarkin

Elisa Tamarkin

Berkeley Book Chats

Before 1800 nothing was irrelevant. So argues Elisa Tamarkin (English) in her study of a key shift in consciousness: the arrival of relevance as the means to grasp how something that was once disregarded, unvalued, or lost to us becomes interesting and important.

Relevance, Tamarkin shows, was an Anglo-American concept embodying a struggle for recognition, especially in the worlds of literature, art, and criticism. Derived from a word meaning “to raise or to lift up again” and also “to give relief,” the idea of relevance engaged the attention of major intellectual figures.

A searching philosophical and poetic study, Apropos of Something (Chicago, 2022) explores relevance as a concept calling for shifts in both attention and perceptions of importance that carry important social stakes. 

She is joined by Samuel Otter (English).