Program in Cultures, Civilization and Ideas

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Conscience after Darwin
    (Cambridge University Press, 2022-12-01) Fessenbecker, Patrick; Nottelmann, N.; Griffiths, D.; Kreisel, D.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Estranging Adorno: the dialectics of alienation in Leonard Michaels's "I would have saved them if I could"
    (Penn State University Press, 2023-03-03) Coker, William Norman
    Reflecting on his relatives’ deaths in the Shoah, Leonard Michaels lets their story unfold through a meditation on how not to tell it. He resists both the consolatory aestheticism he finds in Jorge Luis Borges and the teleological closure of Hegelian-Marxist history. Both modes press something positive out of Auschwitz’s absolute negativity. Yet Michaels finds he cannot do without Borges and Marx. As his standpoint emerges from theirs, light falls on what both tacitly teach: the necessity of alienation. Enabling a new reading of this key Marxian term, Michaels’s story complements and challenges the revisionary Marxism of Theodor W. Adorno. Adorno’s late works convey the awareness that a certain alienation inheres in subjectivity and that emancipation requires us to accept our own self-estrangement. In Michaels’s story, Borges and Marx appear as figures for the “nonidentity,” the internal contradiction, that every self must own in order to achieve an identity. By foregrounding the mismatch between narrative forms and their content, Michaels affirms narrative itself as “nonidentical.” Only through the alienation implicit to literature as self-conscious artifice, he finds, can one hope to grasp an experience in either its singularity or its universality.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Governing the Byzantine Empire
    (Routledge, 2023-09-06) Leidholm, Nathan; Raffensperger, Christian
    This chapter seeks to move the conversation surrounding governance and administration in the medieval Roman Empire away from the emperor and his court, instead examining the administrative system at multiple levels, both in Constantinople and in the more remote provinces. It therefore offers an introduction to the mechanisms of medieval Byzantine government and administration through a series of four distinct case studies, each intended to illuminate different aspects of the system of governance that allowed Byzantium to function between the ninth and twelfth centuries. The medieval Byzantine Empire is notable for having produced an abundance of source material for the study of Byzantine governance, but few theoretical treatments of its own political system or ideologies, including even the position of the emperor. Case studies like those presented here can therefore be a useful way to approach Byzantine modes of governance and administration, thereby playing to the particular strengths of those sources that do survive.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Eusebius’ knowledge of Thucydides
    (Duke University * Department of Classical Studies, 2023-03-31) Devore, David J.; Kennedy, Scott
    Eusebius’ two named citations of Thucydides imply extensive knowledge of other parts of the History, and his comments show awareness of the Thucydidean commentary tradition of the imperial era.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Surrounding and surrounded: toward a conceptual history of environment
    (The University of Chicago Press, 2023) Sprenger, Florian; Born, Erik; Stoltz, Matthew Thomas
    At this historical moment, few terms are as charged and powerful as the omnipresent term environment. It has become a strategic tool for politics and theories alike, crossed the borders of the disciplines of biology and ecology, and left the manifold field of environmentalism. This article explores the first steps on this path of expansion, in which the term becomes an argumentative resource and achieves a plausibility that transforms it into a universal tool. It is not self-evident to describe ubiquitous media, cinematic spaces, or augmented realities as environments. To understand how the term gained this plausibility, it is necessary to distinguish it from two other terms: the French milieu and the German Umwelt. When these three terms substitute one another and are used as translations, they lose their historical specificity and depth, and three different theoretical and philosophical traditions merge into indifference. Consequently, a conceptual history of the term environment and its relation to milieu and Umwelt—as well as terms such as medium, atmosphere, ambiance, and climate—can help us to understand the potentials and dangers of the term’s plausibility. In this sense, the article argues for a new perspective on epistemologies of surrounding that relate that which surrounds to that which is surrounded.
  • ItemEmbargo
    In flagrante delicto: on the legal implications of sight
    (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023-12-01) de Boer, Luuk
  • ItemOpen Access
    Thucydides in Byzantium
    (Cambridge University Press, 2023-07-06) Kennedy, Scott; Kaldellis, A.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The famine and Plague of Maximinus (311 to 312): Between Ekphrasis, Polemic, and Historical Reality in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History
    (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023) Kennedy, Scott; Devore, D. J.
    In Book 9.8 of his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius of Caesarea describes a horrific famine and plague that ravaged the eastern Roman empire. Hith-erto, scholars have generally treated this as an exaggerated but truthful account of these catastrophes. In this paper, we question the veracity of this account. We first demonstrate how Eusebius masterfully models his account on Thucydides’s plague and Josephus’s account of famine during the siege of Jerusalem in order to dismantle Maximinus Daia’s regime and affirm the superiority of Christian philanthropy. While Eusebius’s knowledge of Thucydides has often been disputed, this paper shows that he used not only Thucydides but also the Thucydidean commentary from the rhetorical tradition for his polemicizing against pagans. Having shown how Eusebius used his models, this paper then questions the veracity of Eusebius’s famine and plague, suggesting that it was probably a fairly unimportant localized event, which Eusebius catastrophized to serve the Ecclesiastical History’s polemical aims against Christian persecutors.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Remote theater Review
    (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022) Del Balzo, Angelina
  • ItemEmbargo
    Antonio’s sad flesh
    (British Shakespeare Association, 2022-08-18) Lenthe, Victor
    This article examines different meanings attached to the adjective ‘sad’ in the 1590s in order to reinterpret the sexual politics of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The play’s title character Antonio famously proclaims that he performs ‘a sad [part]’ on the world’s ‘stage’. Critics have related this apparent declaration of melancholy to Antonio’s love for Bassanio and the heartbreak he may experience when the latter marries Portia. However, by examining the word's largely forgotten physiological meanings, I show that ‘sad’ was also a non-judgmental term for a man who lacks interest in procreation. Antonio’s embrace of this label has implications both for the play’s sexual politics and for its representation of putatively non-generative market economics.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Arab conquestin Byzantine historical memory: The long view
    (Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2022-04-12) Kennedy, Scott
    In recent decades, historians of the Arab conquest have increasingly turned away from positivist reconstructions of the events of the Arab conquest. Through thematic analysis of conquest narratives, scholars have illustrated how the early Islamic community articulated its identity. Byzantine narratives of the Arab conquest have generally not been considered from this perspective. This paper takes the long view of the Arab conquest illustrating how centuries of Byzantine writers and chroniclers articulated and rearticulated this memory, as their identity shifted along with their political and diplomatic relationships.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Siren's song: Senophon's Anabasis in Byzantium
    (De Gruyter, 2022-10-24) Kennedy, Scott; Rood, Tim; Tamiolaki, Melina
    Frequently known as the Attic bee or the Siren’s song, Xenophon and his Anabasis had an enduring influence in the Eastern Roman empire. Whereas a number of popular ancient authors such as Callimachus and Menander lost their canonical status or alternatively lost their cultural influence while remaining canonical (e.g., Thucydides), Xenophon’s Anabasis never ceased to fascinate Byzantine readers as it had their ancient predecessors. Over more than 1000 years while most Westerners were ignorant of the name Xenophon, Xenophon sparked not only the curiosity of Byzantine readers but also their creativity, as they reshaped the ancient text to glorify themselves and even justify some of the first rumblings of Hellenic proto-nationalism in Byzantium’s final years. ‘Where now is the Siren of Xenophon?’ exclaimed the Byzantine rhetor Manuel Holobolos in his panegyric of his emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (1262–1282), summoning the hypnotic and tempting qualities of Xenophon to bewitch his audience.1 Frequently compared in Byzantium to a bee or a Siren’s song, Xenophon had an enduring influence on Byzantine culture throughout the more than 1,000 year period of Roman history, which we conventually designate as Byzantine. This paper explores how and why Xenophon’s Siren song continued to entice Byzantine intellectuals to engage with the Anabasis. Unlike other classical texts such as Callimachus and Menander, whose magic faded and eventually disappeared in Byzantium, or Thucydides, whose use contracted between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, Xenophon’s readership never diminished between antiquity and Byzantium. Throughout Byzantine history, Xenophon sparked not only the curiosity of Byzantine readers but also their creativity, as they reshaped the ancient text to glorify themselves and even justify some of the first rumblings of Hellenic proto-nationalism in Byzantium’s final years.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Worlding in Georgi Gospodinov’s There, where we are not
    (Springer, 2022-12-27) Harper, Mihaela P.
    This article proposes that rather than a concern with safeguarding a national identity, Georgi Gospodinov’s poetry collection There, where we are not (2016) exposes the relationship of self and world as coextensive and mutually constitutive. His poems undertake the remaking of the world as they reconfigure the self with language at the heart of this undertaking—words and meanings in flux, at play in bringing forth selves through a plurality of multitemporal, decentered worlds. Heeding Pheng Cheah’s critique that the “world” in world literature discourse has received little attention, I take up Jean-Luc Nancy’s notion of the “singular plural” to illuminate and further the argument that Gospodinov’s collection worlds by juggling a multiplicity of specific geographic locations and attending to the plural singularity of a moment, of an event or rather of a non-event. In a section titled, The Sundays of the world, “there where we are not” becomes a plurality of worlds, singular and shared, uninhabited and teeming with life, worlds observed and observing, worlds that have familiar names—Berlin, Vienna, Ljubljana, Paris, Rome, Kraków, Sofia—and yet each makes up “a world crammed full of absences.” Ultimately, the collection neither recedes into the national nor dissipates into the global but seeks out a path in-between through which to world laterally, anew. © 2022, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Herodotus and history
    (Cambridge University Press, 2022-06-17) Bruzzone, Rachel
  • ItemOpen Access
    Introduction: war and its narratives
    (Sciendo, 2021) Bruzzone, Rachel
  • ItemOpen Access
    How practical is critique? From matters of concern to matters of commitment
    (Wayne State University Press, 2021) Coker, William
    Recent critical discourse on “critique” tends to betray a certain discomfort with critique’s Enlightenment origins and its corresponding alignment with notions of autonomous subjectivity and universality. Especially since Bruno Latour’s broadside against critical “anti-fetishism,” supporters have been at pains to distance critique from the image of a self-satisfied vanguard chiding the unenlightened. This paper stages a defense of critique that reclaims its Enlightenment lineage in order to assemble, in Mark Hulliung’s words, an “autocritique of Enlightenment.” Reading Kant and Marx via Kojin Karatani and Slavoj Žižek, I trace a line of thought in which critique foregrounds the intersection between theory and practice. It is at that intersection that the fetish appears. In contrast to Latour and some of critique’s defenders, I consider the fetish not a blind spot that immobilizes but a point of contact representing a practical commitment. Even Kant himself performs a “fetishistic disavowal” of sorts: I know very well that there is no empirical ground for metaphysical commitments, but nevertheless I will make them because it is the only way to live autonomously and foster others’ autonomy. In the symbolic order of capitalism, such “faith without belief” loses its intentional character, crystallizing in commodity fetishism as “the religion of everyday life.” Yet it also informs the Romantic view of the literary work as the site for a dialectic of truth and illusion, and Adorno’s thesis that a “fetish character” inhabits artworks no less intrinsically than commodities. This fetish character makes the literary text, like ideology, a particularly fitting object of critique. Herein lies the parallel between literary reading and the critique of ideology, and the reason why critique need not subordinate one to the other in order to be properly critical.