Last week I was recently invited to give a paper at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Here are a few snaps from the trip…
The coast of St Andrews, Scotland.
The coast of St Andrews, Scotland. Photograph: Rhys Tranter

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Professor Robert Darnton
Professor Robert Darnton
In a 2011 interview, I asked the American cultural historian and academic librarian how he sees the future of the printed word…

In The Case for Books you wrote that ‘the explosion of electronic modes of communication is as revolutionary as the invention of printing with moveable type’. How do you feel this revolution is changing the way knowledge or information is spread?

Robert Darnton, The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
Robert Darnton, The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future

Well, first I should say that the word ‘revolution’ is used very loosely, in general, so I said that after some hesitation. I mean, I’ve read about revolutions in menswear and revolutions in football styles of defence and so on. So, I don’t want to weaken the term. And, it’s a term that can be used in lots of different ways. But let’s say that the assertion is that the means of communication are changing as rapidly, as dramatically, today as they did in Gutenberg’s day. And, in fact, we’ve learned a lot about Gutenberg’s day: the change, perhaps, was not quite as rapid as people had thought when they refer to it as a revolution. We know, for example, that manuscript publishing continued for three centuries after Gutenberg, and really flourished. So, that’s by way of preface to what I was saying. But your question is how does this change, whether revolutionary or not, affect the way communication penetrates into society.

Well, you know, you have to just sit on a bus, or in a subway if you’re in New York, or London, or Paris and watch people with their smartphones or their various handheld devices. The phrase is sometimes used: ‘people are always “on”’. That is, they are always online, they’re always communicating. There has, I think, been a restriction of a kind of blank space in life: a time when people, so to speak, did nothing. Of course, they were never doing nothing. But it meant that there was a time in which they weren’t consciously communicating, but letting the world go by. Now, there’s a lot to be said for letting the world go by. You could sit and observe things, and maybe be exposed to surprises. But now I think there is this sense of constantly exchanging messages. Doing it all the time. That’s different, I think, qualitatively, from anything that ever existed before, even though people were exchanging gossip at the village pump. So, I think it is a very profound change in the way we live our lives, and it’s made communication and information more central than they ever were. (more…)

The Freud Museum in London will host a staged and interactive performance from 1pm on 14 June 2015

freudmuseum_CivilizationandItsDiscontents_marathonreadingThe Centre for Creative and Critical Thought at the University of Sussex together with the Freud Museum London are pleased to announce a marathon reading of Sigmund Freud’s classic text, Civilization and its Discontents.

Readers will include philosopher Simon Glendinning, poet Ruth Padel, musician Jocelyn Pook, psychoanalyst Anouchka Grose, novelist Deborah Levy, performer Cathy Naden, and other academics, writers and psychoanalysts. Click here for the full list >

The event is free with an admission ticket to the Freud Museum. There are no tickets and audience members can come and go as they please. This is a staged reading and interactive performance.

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The Jocelyn Herbert Lecture
Walter Asmus: ‘The Art of Beckett’
Monday 29 June, 6-6.45pm, Lyttleton, National Theatre
Tickets: £4 (£3 concessions)

Walter Asmus. 2004 © The E.W. Scripps Co.
Walter Asmus. 2004 © The E.W. Scripps Co.

Samuel Beckett named the designer Jocelyn Herbert “my closest friend in England” and they worked together many times. The distinguished German director Walter Asmus will speak of his own renowned working relationship with Beckett, which began in the Schiller Theatre in Berlin in 1974 and led to their collaborations on productions in Europe and America. Asmus worked as an assistant director to Samuel Beckett on a total of nine shows and television productions between 1975 and 1986, and he has directed all of Samuel Beckett’s plays in productions that have toured the world.

Given Jocelyn Herbert’s close working relationship and deep friendship with Beckett, Asmus is a particularly appropriate lecturer. (more…)

Music & Literature, No. 6.
Music & Literature, No. 6.

Music & Literature no. 6 champions the work of three artists poised to break through on the international stage: Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik, Ukrainian composer Victoria Polevá, and Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić.

An aura of almost legendary prestige surrounds the short life of Alejandra Pizarnik, who, though haunted by doubt and depression, left behind an oeuvre by turns searing, tragic, playful, and erotic. Her portfolio brings into English 100 pages of previously untranslated prose, diary entries, and letters, as well as appreciations from, among others, Enrique Vila-Matas and César Aira, who writes that Pizarnik “was not only a great poet, she was the greatest, and the last.”  (more…)