ProvAth Academy: Sessions I & II
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ProvAth Academy: Sessions I & II

ProvAth Academy: Sessions I & II

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The Providence Athenæum

251 Benefit Street

Providence, RI 02903

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Register for both sessions of the 2016-17 ProvAth Academy to receive a significant discount. Members, your first session will be free!

Fall 2016: Art & Life in the 17th & 18th Centuries

Thursday, November 3, 5:30-7pm
Landscapes of the Dutch Golden Age
Roger Mandle, PhD

As the Dutch reclaimed more and more land from the sea and international trade brought them great prosperity, their love of every meter of their small nation provided opportunities for artists to develop a broad market for land- and seascapes that were avidly collected by Dutch and other Europeans of the time. This lecture will explore the variety of landscape subjects and styles that were developed during the 17th and 18th century that influenced the taste for landscape painting ever after.

Thursday, November 10, 5:30-7pm
Views of the Grand Tour
Suzanne Scanlan, PhD
The eighteenth-century Grand Tour was designed to provide a liberal education to budding British aristocrats by introducing them to continental language, music, art and architecture - and to the sophisticated mores of fashionable society. As our pictorial tour of various views made by, for and about these tourists will show, the story was much more complex and often led unsuspecting travelers down the road to ruin(s)!

Thursday, November 17, 5:30-7pm
The Erotics of Rococo Fashion
Pascale Rihouet, PhD
More than a decorative trend, Rococo dominated the lifestyle of eighteenth-century jet set in France and beyond. Favorite themes in art and literature were flirts, libertines, coquettes, and scenes of toilette. Fashionable attire and its accessories established status while entailing erotic undertones that we will decode in this session. Did you know that a titillating body part was…the ankle?

Thursday, December 1, 5:30-7pm
Tea, Coffee, or Chocolate? The Art of Sociability in Pre-Industrial Europe
Pascale Rihouet, PhD
First seen as medicinal, tea, coffee, and chocolate conquered salons and cafés in eighteenth-century Europe. These exotic beverages generated an array of utensils that defined social encounters from serving protocol to good manners and conversation. To understand this language better, we will practice drinking and sociability of the time of Chardin, Boucher, Hogarth, and Liotard.


Spring 2017: Literature and the Other

With Arnold Weinstein, PhD

Saturday, February 4, 10am-12pm
Shakespeare’s Othello
We begin with a general discussion of the text with emphasis on modern concerns, such as city anarchy, racial and sexual violence, and especially Iago’s plot to turn Othello into the beast he becomes, which hinges on Othello’s latent insecurity as Moor-in-Venice – an insecurity Iago brilliantly understands and exploits to the hilt. Desdemona, too often seen as quasi-Victorian maiden, is a feisty woman who will not be trapped by the conventions of her day: she accepts only Othello but also her sexuality and freedom, and she dies for it. The ‘trip from Venice to Cypress’ will be looked at as the key figurative trajectory on show in the exact center of the play, Act III, Scene 3, for it shows us how Iago succeeds in ‘transforming’ Othello and riddling him with self-doubt. Finally, we will consider the question of self-knowledge, traditionally posited as tragic requirement, but arguable here. Does Othello take the measure of his actions? Do we?

Saturday, February 11, 10am-12pm
Melville’s “Benito Cereno”
“Benito Cereno” (1855) is arguably the most brilliant and under-recognized narrative about Race and role-playing in mid 19th century American literature; Melville’s enlists, as is typical of him, ‘innocence’ as his ‘lens’ for telling the who-dunnit story he has in mind (based on a real incident). Written before the Civil War, this story hinges on a view of both Africans and the debate on slavery in 1850s, with reference to other events and figures, including Toussaint l’Ouverture and Nat Turner. Like Moby Dick, “Cereno” is larded with factual, indeed documentary, information, yet it dazzles us even more because of its brilliant notion of ‘play-acting’ as the key to the text. Melville’s loaded triad of American captain, Spanish nobleman, and African slave complicates all notions of easy judgment. In the final analysis, this story is about the workings of power, and it illustrates the modern precept that subjectivity itself is ‘constructed.’

Saturday, February 18, 10am-12pm
Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and “In the Penal Colony”
The first story, about a man transformed into insect, is the canonical version of ‘othering,’ and it speaks to the frightening ease with which one can ‘exit the human’ (as Deleuze and Guattari put it); the myriad ways the story can be read: artist parable, Christ story, schlemiel, etc. We soon realize that there are many metamorphoses in play in this severe yet funny text, and it delivers an unforgettable picture of family relationships. The second story, less well known, is a grim but fascinating parable about the nature not only of justice and penal systems – a topic much on our minds today – but also about language and the body; it will be seen that the story has distinct religious overtones, and that it stages the most elemental drama in human experience: how we understand. Finally, we will recognize in both stories a radical view of knowing as metamorphosis: it is worth considering just how scary such a model might be.

Saturday, February 25, 10am-12pm
Coetzee’s Disgrace
It can be argued that Disgrace stands in relation to our time as King Lear does to its time. It contains a veritable Pandora’s box of topical issues: sexual abuse, racial abuse, violence of many stripes, the sins of Colonialism, and the ‘necessity of making friends with Death,’ as Freud memorably said of Lear. One’s view of this bristling text hinges a great deal on one’s age and gender, as anyone who has taught it has come to realize. Yet, the novel reaches even beyond its engagement with the colonialist legacies in Africa; as its title suggests, this story illustrates remarkable views of ‘grace’ and ‘disgrace’; finally, it is worth noting that Coetzee is a passionate ‘animal rights’ person, and that also shows in this spare narrative: borrowing again from Lear, Coetzee also testifies to the reality of ‘bare fork’d animals’ as ground zero, yet he does so in shockingly non-metaphoric ways; here might be the ethical payload of this novel.


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The Providence Athenæum

251 Benefit Street

Providence, RI 02903

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