Berkeley Book Chats

The Townsend Center presents a lunchtime series celebrating the intellectual and artistic endeavors of the UC Berkeley faculty. Each Berkeley Book Chat features a faculty member engaged in conversation about a recently completed publication, performance, or recording. The series highlights the extraordinary breadth and depth of Berkeley’s academic community.

Homer: The Very Idea

James Porter
Berkeley Book Chats
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The identity of Homer is shrouded in mystery, including doubts that he was an actual person. James Porter explores Homer’s mystique, approaching the poet not as a man, but as a cultural invention.

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Sophie Volpp considers fictional objects of the late Ming and Qing that defy being read as illustrative of historical things, and are instead often signs of fictionality itself.

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In her history of the idea of "relevance" since the 19th century, Elisa Tamarkin explores the term as a means to grasp how something once disregarded, unvalued, or lost becomes interesting and important.

Past Events

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Kate Heslop approaches Viking Age poetry through an innovative interpretive framework that considers the texts as pieces in a premodern multimedia landscape. 

Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History

Timothy Hampton
Berkeley Book Chats
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Exploring cheerfulness as a theme and structuring element in the work of major artists, Timothy Hampton (Comparative Literature and French) casts new light on literary history, the intersections of culture and psychology, and the history of emotions.

Behaviorism, Consciousness, and the Literary Mind

Joshua Gang
Berkeley Book Chats
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What might behaviorism, that debunked school of psychology, tell us about literature? Joshua Gang argues for its enormous critical value for thinking about why language is so good at creating illusions of mental life.

Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon
Berkeley Book Chats
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The humanities, underfunded and popularly devalued, seem to be in a perpetual state of crisis. Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon show how the modern humanistic disciplines made crisis a core part of their project.

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SanSan Kwan explores how dance — based in body-to-body interaction on the stage — serves as a revelatory site, and ultimately carries the potential to model everyday encounters across difference in the world.

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Edward Tyerman explores the role of China in the 1920s as the key site for Soviet debates over how the political project of socialist internationalism should be expressed through literature, film, and theater.

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Approaching the seven-day week as an artificial construction of modern society, David Henkin explores its role as a dominant organizational principle that shapes our understanding and experience of time.