Spring 2021


Pamphlets, photos, postcards, pixels, sketches, scribblings, notes, newspapers, bits, bytes, zines, memes, clouds … the forms of ephemera that define and mediate everyday life are myriad and multifarious (the Encyclopedia of Ephemera catalogues over 1,000 types). Transient and fluctuating by design, they are also fragile, fleeting, insubstantial, and ever-shifting. Easy to discard, yet often cherished and collected as souvenirs or mementos, they materialize the mutability of memory, while challenging the capacities and contingencies of media storage. How might our conceptions of the past, present, and future shift when we move from monumental objects and hegemonic sites of analysis to ephemeral ones? What happens to our modes and means of narrating and recording cultural events when we shift our attention from the permanence of traditional archives as sites of memory and knowledge production, and as sources of state, legal, social and economic authority, to focus on the fleeting, the forgotten, the happenstance, the affective, the sensory? What furtive connections—and missed or misconnections—are prompted by the circulation of ephemeral texts and objects in unofficial, heterodox, neglected, marginalized, minoritarian, and queer counter-archives? In this semester, we invite ruminations on the roles of the haptic, sensory, transitory, ornamental, occasional and incidental in producing new—even if (and especially if) fleeting—socialities, and disrupting old ones. 


Black Comet Literatures: Reading for the Ephemeral Literary Histories of Pan-Africanism

MARINA BILBIJA • Wesleyan University


(Un)Popular Performances in Early Seventeenth-Century France

MICHAEL MEERE • Wesleyan University


Locating Living History in Process Cinema



The Twenty-First Century Image Dilemma

AVRAM FINKELSTEIN • Artist-Activist, Founding member of Silence=Death and Gran Fury


Performance and the Ownership of African Things

MLONDOLOZI ZONDI • Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Wesleyan University



An Experiment in Living

LUCY MULRONEY • Yale University


Beauty’s Copy

MIMI THI NGUYEN  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Entering a Life: María Irene Fornés and the Stuff of Making

KATIE PEARL • Wesleyan University 


Empirical Ephemera

VANESSA AGARD-JONES • Columbia University


In the Blink of an Idea: Infinitesimal Calculus and the 18th Century Mind

DANIEL SMYTH • Wesleyan University 



LISA COHEN • Wesleyan University