Monday, May 23, 2011

My impressions of the Deleuzian Futures Conference

As most of you know, the Deleuzean Futures Conference is currently taling place in Gilman 496.

I was there today and was a little disappointed to see nobody from our department. On the other hand, it is the end of the semester and...oh, well! Living in a glass house, I won't cast any stones. But today two of our graduate students, Meyrav Koren-Kuik and Inbar Kaminsky, gave talks and did us all proud. So I'll share my impressions.

Meyrav's talk, entitled "Spaces of Desire: Deleuze, Simulacra and the Narrative of Disneyland and IKEA" was part of the panel "Practices of Space", which had four speakers. It was, I'm afraid, a textbook example of how NOT to organize a panel. The speakers comprized a designer, an architect, a mathematician and Meyrav, who analyzed narrative practices of social spaces. Each paper was quite interesting but they had almost nothing in common, and so there was little intellectual dialog.

To my mind, Meyrav's was the best paper. She spoke of the way, in which artificial utopias, such as Disneyland, create simulacra of a non-existent past and then induce their captive "clients" to generate individual narratives of desire, whose temporal shape is conditioned by the spatial design of the simulacrum.

Another great paper was of Roy Wagner of Hebrew University who applied Deleuze's concept of the "haptic eye" to Greek geometry. Since he had all of twenty minutes to explain both to the audience whose last encounter with math was probably during bagrut, he left us not so much illuminated as intrigued. I wanted to ask him whether he is a mathematical realist or relativist but not being sure which I am myself forbore. But I am looking forward to reading the full-length version of the paper.

The other two papers dealt with design and architecture. Betti Marenko's talk on design from/for the future was quite interesting, but its link to Deleuze was - for me - not self-evident. In the architecture paper, the link was clear but everything else was not.

Inbar Kaminsky's excellent talk was in the session SciFutures, which was supposed to be about Science Fiction - the key word being "supposed". Inbar's paper, discussing Jeff Vandermeer's novel "Veniss Undergound", was a perfect example of how a conference talk should be structured. In twenty minutes, she managed to summarize a difficult novel, probably unfamiliar to her audience; to explain its key narrative features; and to link those features to her overall thesis about the metaphorical body of the city becoming a substitute for the etiolating bodies of the protagonists. Her thesis has important implications in relation to the theories of posthumanism and - perhaps to a lesser degree - in relation to Deleuze's concept of simulacrum, which Inbar briefly discussed as well.

Unfortunately, her fellow panelist who was supposed to talk about Philip K. Dick, changed his topic at the last moment (something I'd never seen done before) and talked instead about applying Deleuze to the Kabbala or maybe the other way round. His conclusion was that Jerusalem should become the capital of the Palestinian state. Let's just say that even people in the audience, myself included, who might be sympathetic to the political message were not happy with the confusion between philosophy and theology or with invoking the Kabbala as if it were some sort of final authority.

I'm sure more exciting discussions are going to happen tomorrow but it's the end of the semester and I've already mentioned glass houses...

In conclusion, congratulations to Meyrav and Inbar and let's remember that we don't need to travel far to participate in an exciting intellectual event such as this conference/

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Conference in Bar Ilan

Here is a poster for a conference in Bar Ilan in June. Looks very interesting; I advise anybody who is here in summer to attend.

Celebrating Inspiration:
A Conference in Honor of
Professor Emerita Ellen Spolsky
Beck Conference Auditorium
Monday, June 13th 2011
10:30 – 17:30
10:00 - 10:30 Gathering
10:30 - 10:50 Welcome and introduction: Dr. Naomi Rokotnitz
10:50 - 11:35 Plenary Speaker: Professor Emeritus Murray Roston
“The Comic Spirit in England”
11:35 - 11:50 Coffee + refreshments
11:50 - 13:30 Dr. Klarina Priborkin: “Voicing the Muteness: Writing, Cognition and
Communication in Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter”
Dr. Orley Marron: “Fantastic Notions and Beautiful Grotesques”
Dr. Amy Gelbart: “Pretend Play, Performance and Suicide in Philip Roth’s
The Humbling”
13:30 - 14:50 Lunch
14:50 - 16:40 Dr. Einat Avrahami: “Embodying Disability and its Discontents”
Dr. Naomi Rokotnitz: “Overcoming Alienation, Fear and Bias
Through Embodied Receptiveness in Dramatic Performance”
Dr. Glenda Sacks and Dr. Lynn Timna
“Pedagogy in the Flesh and Teaching the Conflicts”
16:40 - 17:00 Coffee + refreshments
17:00 - 17:30 Professor Emerita Ellen Spolsky