The Barber Lectures in Literature are made possible by a gift to UMM from Laird H. Barber and the late Dorothy Klein Barber, both of whom had long and distinguished careers as English faculty at UMM. The endowed lecture series began in 1999 and is shared, in alternate years, between English and Foreign Languages and Literatures (German Studies, French, Spanish); its intention is to provide a stimulating forum for delving into the multiplicity of issues which confront and enrich literary studies in many areas of the world. More information can be found on the Barber Lecture Series website.
Haunted Modern Art: Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics at Germany's Bauhaus Art School
The Bauhaus (1919–1933) is widely regarded as the twentieth century's most influential art and design school, famous for bringing functional design to the mainstream. In this talk, Otto delves into previously unexplored questions of sexuality and gender fluidity at the Bauhaus by focusing on the school's members who queered the school’s aesthetics in order to disrupt gender conventions, represent gay and lesbian subjectivities, and picture same-sex desire, moves not without risk during the Weimar Republic, a regime that criminalized homosexuality. Otto also examines its members’ embrace of radical politics on both the left and the right—for Communist revolution, and, later, into the service of the Nazis. This talk disrupts the narrative of a normative Bauhaus to yield a more diverse and paradoxical history that emerges when the school is considered through artists and works whose presence haunts its historiography and through the empirical ground of the archive. It rereads this Haus as haunted by examining its repressed and uncanny elements and by reclaiming trauma, desire, and political convictions that have been largely written out the school’s history as vital to understanding it.
The Algerian writer and filmmaker Assia Djebar explores various forms of resistance to oppression and, in particular, women’s responses to colonialism, and their participation in the Algerian war of independence. When doing so, she often turns to images, such as the iconic Delacroix’s Women of Algiers in their Apartment, or a Roman mosaic exhibited in a museum in her hometown Cherchell that represents Odysseus and the Sirens. This lecture examines some of the modes and effects of Djebar’s inclusion of art in her discussion of resistance.
Official discourses historicizing and celebrating acts of resistance are denounced, and Djebar draws attention instead to less publicized testimonies consisting of allusive or discontinuous recollections. Focusing on silent but eloquent images is a corrective to hyperbolic postwar narratives. Dwelling on images also allows her to respond to political positions she rejects or that she wants to complicate in a manner that is not overtly polemical. Confronting others’ views takes place through the interpretation of images. However, the pictures she analyzes are not merely thematic illustrations of her stance. She often concentrates on resistance to unequivocal positions or challenges to interpretation in works of art. Her reliance on visual art at pivotal moments of her analyses is all the more subtle since she does not want to renounce a cultural call for controlling one’s image, for a so-called “invisibility” whose benefits she defends and that she dissociates from gendered subordination and colonial oppression. The Algerian writer and filmmaker Assia Djebar explores various forms of resistance to oppression and, in particular, women’s responses to colonialism, and their participation in the Algerian war of independence. When doing so, she often turns to images, such as the iconic Delacroix’s Women of Algiers in their Apartment, or a Roman mosaic exhibited in a museum in her hometown Cherchell that represents Odysseus and the Sirens. This lecture examines some of the modes and effects of Djebar’s inclusion of art in her discussion of resistance.
Sonya Posmentier is associate professor of English at New York University. Her first book Cultivation and Catastrophe: The Lyric Ecology of Modern Black Literature was published in 2017 by Johns Hopkins University Press. This book argues that extreme environmental experiences such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes as well as the slower social disaster of enforced agricultural enslavement have shaped black modern literature and culture, and in particular poetic forms. She is at work on a new book, Black Reading, about the intersecting histories of black cultural studies and modern lyric theory. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, American Literature, American Literary History, Public Books, and elsewhere, and she has published poems in Grey, The Seneca Review, and Perihelion. Posmentier teaches classes on Black diasporic literature and culture and is part of the NYU Sanctuary Campus Coalition.
Luis E. Cárcamo Huechante
As a founding member of the Comunidad de Historia Mapuche, a collective of Mapuche researchers based in Temuco, southern Chile, Professor Cárcamo-Huechante is co-editor of two inter-disciplinary collections of essays: Ta iñ fijke xipa rakizuameluwün. Historia, colonialismo y resistencia desde el país Mapuche (History, Colonialism, and Resistance from the Mapuche Nation, 2012), and Aküwan ka kütrankan zugu Wajmapu mew: Violencias coloniales en Wajmapu (Colonial Violences in Wajmapu, 2015). He previously published his own book on neoliberalism and culture in Chile: Tramas del mercado: imaginación económica, cultura pública y literatura en el Chile de fines del siglo veinte (Fictions of the Market: Economic Imagination, Public Culture, and Literature in Chile at End of the 20th Century, Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2007). In this year’s Barber Lecture, Professor Cárcamo Huechante aims to elaborate on the ways in which invasive sounds have contributed to the long history of what he calls "acoustic colonialism." Based on some examples of acoustic occupation of indigenous Mapuche territory in South America, he will present and analyze various forms of Mapuche agency in the sonosphere, through audiovisual art, poetry, music, and radio. This enables him to elaborate on the relationship between sound, violence, and colonialism in the past and the present, as well as in the ways in which indigenous activism, media, and the arts can respond to acoustic colonialism.