Quirk Historicism

and the End(s) of Art History
This is the Quirk Historicism poster
Saturday, Nov 1, 2014 | 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
United States

Many humanities disciplinesin particular art, literature, and musichave witnessed a dramatic expansion in the types of objects and ideas that can be meaningfully invoked in the course of historical study. One consequence of this expansion has been a new reveling in the allure of objets trouvés or historical micro-narratives—the conversion of the obscurity, strangeness, and distance of historical debris into a form of rhetoric, which frequently acts as a substitute for more conventional forms of argument or exposition. This symposium calls this tendency Quirk Historicism.

This symposium explores the aestheticized status that these quirky remnants of the past have acquired in our writing of history, especially as the canonical works that these marginal objects used to frame or destabilize have receded in importance. When historical data are no longer implicitly polemical, on what basis should they be invoked? If we were to be more open about how we select our historical and aesthetic evidence, what would we say?


  • 10:00 am - Welcome and Opening Remarks: Nicholas Mathew (UC Berkeley) and Mary Ann Smart (UC Berkeley)
  • 10:15 am - Session 1 (Chair: Ellen Lockhart), James Davies (UC Berkeley), Emily Dolan (Harvard),  Deirdre Loughridge (UC Berkeley)
  • 11:15 am - Break
  • 11:30 am - Session 2 (Chair: Benjamin Walton) Nicholas Mathew, James Currie (SUNY Buffalo), Benjamin Piekut (Cornell)
  • 12:30 pm - Break
  • 2:00 pm - Session 3 (Chair: Emily Dolan) Mary Ann Smart (UC Berkeley), Aoife Monks (Queen Mary), Ellen Lockhart (Toronto), Benjamin Walton (Cambridge)
  • 3:15 pm - Break
  • 3:30 pm - Panel Discussion: Thomas Laqueur (UC Berkeley), Alan Tansman (UC Berkeley)
  • 5:00 pm - Reception

Further event details can be found on the Quirk Historicism website.

Part of the 
Music & Sound Initiative.