Fall 2016

Hope and Hopelessness

The confidence of earlier epochs seems to have evaporated from our own. Progress, modernization, freedom, equality, enlightenment: the list of hopeful concepts from an ever-receding past is a long one. And yet ours is not the first era to grapple with despair or promises seemingly unfulfilled. At the same time, a counterpoint surge in utopian thinking seems to validate Ernst Bloch's intuitions about a fundamental utopian impulse. An impulse that likewise can be traced to distant times or places.  Are hope and hopelessness interdependent sensibilities or is this a peculiar characteristic of our times? This semester's program will explore past, present, and emerging landscapes of hope and hopelessness, perhaps with Kafka's rejoinder to Max Brod in our ear: “Oh, plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope--but not for us.”

Spring 2017

Intellectual Property/Intellectual Piracy

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary, scholarly and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images. But what does it mean to own ideas, music, art, or designs as property? Is it a bellwether of capitalist logic or a vital guardian of individual creation?  And what do we make of current attempts to blur the lines between creation and appropriation such as musical “mash-ups” and mixed media literature in our current moment or in cultural borrowings of the past (such as the recitation of works by “Homer”)?  Are these instances of intellectual property or of piracy? At this moment of digital reproduction and manipulation, crowd sourcing, sharing economies, and on-line collaboration, we will investigate the concept, benefits, and/or damages of intellectual property and intellectual piracy.