Every previous major disaster in human history, from the Black Plague to the Great Depression, has elicited a reimagination of the world, a reinvention of collective life through culture. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. The arts and humanities — two areas of inquiry that focus on value and meaning — provide crucial resources for reconceptualizing our lives together during, and after, our current crisis.
The series (Re)making Sense: The Humanities and Pandemic Culture examines the utility of the arts and humanities for helping us navigate the ethical challenges and practical reinventions that lie before us. Top scholars, writers, and artists at UC Berkeley discuss how their disciplines, and the skills and abilities fostered by their fields, can help in our efforts to reimagine and rebuild.
In the fourth event of this series, we consider an aspect of university culture and daily life that has changed significantly in the COVID era: our sense of attention. We pay attention differently than we used to. This shift is due both to the technologies with which we must work, and the noise of anxiety and suffering that rumbles in the background as we read, write, teach, and learn. This conversation considers the forms of our attention, both now and in the past. How do the humanities and arts shape and cultivate attention? How can they help us reshape our attentive selves going forward?
Hannah Ginsborg is the Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor of Philosophy. Her scholarship encompasses the work of Immanuel Kant, the history of philosophy, and contemporary philosophy, with a focus on the theory of meaning and the philosophy of mind.
Ken Goldberg is the William S. Floyd Jr. Distinguished Chair in Engineering. He is an inventor working at the intersection of art, robotics, and new media, whose inventions have been awarded nine US patents. He is co-founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media.
Associate Professor of English David Marno studies the relationship between literature and religion, with a focus on the act of prayer. His book Death Be Not Proud: The Art of Holy Attention reads John Donne's Holy Sonnets as a site where devotional, literary, and philosophical investments in attentiveness become visible.