Distinguished Scholar W.J.T Mitchell at the University of South Florida, Thursday, March 24, FAH 101, 7:00PM

The USF ITALIAN PROGRAM receives and is pleased to announce the following USF lecture:

W.J.T Mitchell

2010-2011 Golding Lecture Series, School of Art and Art History, USF

Thursday, March 24, FAH 101, 7:00 pm

“Idolatry:  Nietzsche, Blake, Poussin”

This lecture aims at a diagnosis of the return of idolatry and its “evil twin,” iconoclasm, in contemporary global political culture, and especially in the contemporary tendency to conceive of war in religious, Manichean terms, as a struggle between Good and Evil. Working through the transvaluations of the idolatry/iconoclasm complex in the philosophy of Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spake Zarathustra) and the paintings of William Blake, the lecture stages a re-reading of Nicholas Poussin’s classic “scenes of idolatry” in The Adoration of the Golden Calf (London: National Gallery) and The Plague at Ashdod (Paris, The Louvre).  This reading is designed to overturn the canonical view of Poussin as a conventional moralizer whose pictures endorse the brutal iconoclasm mandated by the Second Commandment, and reveal him (as in Blake’s description of John Milton) as “a true poet, and of the devil’s party.”   The lecture concludes with a return to contemporary scenarios of ethnic cleansing in the war for possession of the “holy land” of Israel-Palestine.

W. J. T. Mitchell is Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He is editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. A scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature, Mitchell is associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). He is known especially for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues. Under his editorship, Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Morey Prize in art history given by the College Art Association of America, and the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association. In 2003, he received the University of Chicago’s prestigious Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. His publications include: “The Pictorial Turn,” Artforum, March 1992; “What Do Pictures Want?” October, Summer 1996; Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present (2011); Critical Terms for Media Studies (2011, edited with Mark Hansen); What Do Pictures Want? (2005); The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon (1998); Picture Theory (1994); Art and the Public Sphere (1993); Landscape and Power (1992); Iconology (1987); The Language of Images (1980); On Narrative (1981); and The Politics of Interpretation (1984).

PLEASE NOTE: On Friday March 25, from 10:00am to 11:30, Mitchell will also hold a workshop for faculty and graduate students. In the workshop, we will have the opportunity to follow up on the questions and thoughts provoked by the Thursday lecture, and to discuss a recent paper by Mitchell entitled “Migration, Law, and the Image.”  It is closely related to the themes Mitchell will address in his public lecture, and discusses some recent works of art at the end. If you are planning to attend, please notify the contact below.

For further questions, please contact:

Gloria Quigley, Academic Specialist

University of South Florida School of Art and Art History

4202 East Fowler Ave. FAH 110

Tampa, FL  33620

phone: 813-974-9249

fax: 813-974-9266


Thank you!


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