Draper’s own Thomas de Zengotita is currently in contract to release two new books, stemming in part from his coursework here at the Draper Program (in particular, his course on Modernism and his course on Heidegger & Wittgenstein).
The Historical Significance of Postmodernism: Toward New Humanism (due out in 2017)
Focusing on the theme of subjectivity, the first book locates the postmodern moment in a story about the rise of modernity in general and of modernism in particular, a story that gives access to some of the most difficult texts in the “theory” canon without dumbing them down or betraying their purpose. On that basis, it becomes possible to ask an obvious and urgent question: what’s next?
Toward a New Foundation for Human Rights: a Phenomenological Approach (due out in 2018)
After introducing the basics of phenomenology, the second book turns to the anthropological record in search of ethical universals that show what various human communities have in common without doing violence to their irreducible differences. The positivist program in the human sciences, with its objectifying stance, famously failed to do that—but the early Heidegger and the later Wittgenstein created an alternative, a more suitable way to think about the human condition which this book develops in ethnographic detail.
In October I attended the Fifth Biennial French Graduate Conference “Authority and Authorship” at Johns Hopkins University. My background in medieval French literature and authorship lead me to an interest in global medievalism, and as a result, in global comparative literature. It can be very illuminating to explore how people with different backgrounds and histories deal with the same problems. In the paper I presented, I looked into how Russian author Andrei Makine and Japanese author Akira Mizubayashi resolve problems of authority while writing in French, a foreign language for both. I wanted to understand what lead them each to chose French as their adopted language, and how this choice then influenced their voice as authors.
Though this research fits within the field of literature, it’s also close to the art history project that I have been developing during my studies at Draper. I’m exploring the notion of creativity in the context of contemporary societies in flux. How much relevance is there today for the idea of national arts, music and literature? How do we define an artist who is born in one country, grows up in another, and is creatively active in a third? How does the act of moving abroad or traveling between different places influence creativity? Finally, what does travel do to previously conventional perspectives? Do people start to create because of the experience of migration, perhaps as a way to deal with discomfort or anxiety? Or are they inspired by new acquaintances? How do the new forms of creativity influence actual art spaces and museums?
At the conference I was pleased to find myself in a thriving community of young scholars from around the world. Canadian, French, Australian and American graduate students and researchers came together for fascinating discussions about authorship, translation and the figure of the author in a wide range of disciplines.
Draper is thrilled to announce that our own Professor Alan Itkin was recently awarded a Center for the Humanities Grant-in-Aid to support the publication of his book, Underworlds of Memory: W.G. Sebald’s Epic Journeys Through the Past.
Professor Itkin’s book explores the afterlife of classical epic poetry in the works of the late twentieth-century German writer W. G. Sebald and the German-Jewish post-Holocaust writers who influenced him. The book argues that classical epics are self-reflexive monuments of cultural memory, that is they help to commemorate a culture’s common history while asking their audience to reflect on this shared form of memory and the role literature plays in it. Its central thesis is that Sebald uses epic tropes to frame his literary works as “modern epics,” that is as similar self-reflexive monuments of cultural memory, but ones suited to the traumatic and complex events of the modern era.
Will you begin writing your thesis sometime in the next few semesters? Wondering where to start and how to get organized? Curious about honing a topic and finding an advisor? The thesis writing workshop will answer these and other pressing questions. Emma Heaney and Patrick Vitale will help you learn how to approach the project with less stress and more focus (even if you won’t be writing your thesis for a while). This workshop will also be offered again in the spring.
Call 212.998.8070 or email draper.program[at]nyu.edu to let us know if you’ll be attending.