9-11-2013 Fred Evans and Magali Michael

Presentation Archives

CIQR Talk 9-11-13

See the video of the event (click here to see the powerpoint used by Dr. Evans)

Date: Sept. 11 (Wed.), 2:00-3:30, Berger Gallery (207 College Hall), Duquesne University.

Title: "9/11/2001 and the Politics of Aesthetics: Literature and Memorial Art"

Presenters: Professor Magali Michael (English) and Professor Fred Evans (Philosophy)

Presentations: Two brief talks about their respective research around 9/11 followed by open discussion with the audience.

Presentation Details:

"Narrative Innovation in 9/11 Fiction" by Magali Cornier Michael, Professor and Chair of English, Duquesne University.

Abstract: My book project, Narrative Innovation in 9/11 Fiction, explores how fiction writers are using and experimenting in innovative ways with formal strategies so as to engage the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the consequences of the events of that day. The project specifically examines literary texts that deliberately work to represent head on the attacks themselves as well as their cultural and personal repercussions (rather than focusing on the many texts that use the events of 9/11 as a backdrop or setting). All of the novels that this book examines demonstrate both an imperative to tell the story of what happened in New York City on 9/11 and an acute awareness of the vexing and seemingly impossible task at hand given that representing past events is always problematic because of the multiple layers of mediation that necessarily accompany such attempts; given that representing events that fall outside the realm of the conceivable and imaginable is particularly difficult; and given the cultural stigmas against representing horrific historical events and the pain of others. With respect to the latter, the novels engage an aesthetic dilemma with clear ethical dimensions and thus participate in ongoing debates about the ethics of representing atrocities that came to a particular head vis-à-vis the Holocaust. Although the events of 9/11 in many ways differ substantially from those of the Holocaust, the vigorous and at times heated debates over literary representations of 9/11 nevertheless have been reminiscent of-and at times have directly echoed-similar debates focused on representations of the Holocaust. In the face of such issues, all of the novels that this book explores willingly accept the risk of failing or of offending, thereby choosing to privilege the responsibility of literature to represent these events.

Bio: Magali Cornier Michael is a Professor of English at Duquesne University. She has authored two books, New Visions of Community in Contemporary American Fiction: Tan, Kingsolver, Castillo, Morrison (2006) and Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse: Post-World War II Fiction (1996), and numerous articles on authors such as John Fowles, Don DeLillo, Angela Carter, D.M. Thomas, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Grace Nichols, Diana Abu-Jaber, and Ian McEwan. Her areas of specialization include Post-1960 British and American Literature and feminist studies. She has recently completed a book manuscript titled Narrative Innovation in 9/11 Fiction, which is currently under review.

"Citizenship and Public Art: The Political Aesthetics of New York's 9/11 Memorial" by Fred Evans, Professor of Philosophy and CIQR Coordinator, Duquesne University

Abstract: In the United States, we frequently assume that government supported public art is an act of citizenship, that is, supportive of values associated with democracy. Even the inaugural years of this country were marked by a contentious debate over whether George Washington would be more appropriately remembered by a stone monument or by "a plain tablet, on which every man could write what his heart dictated." The terms of this debate have been repeated throughout the history of the U.S and most recently in the context of New York's National September 11 Memorial, "Reflecting Absence," and the "Memorial Museum" accompanying it. I will address the political aesthetics of the 9/11/01 memorial in order to derive a criterion for judging it and other public art as acts of citizenship or "democratic civility." This address will be aided by also considering the dissident alternative 9/11 memorial proposed by Krzysztof Wodiczko, "City of Refuge." At the core of this project is the issue of the meaning of democracy and the degree to which the 9/11memorial reflects or deepens our understanding of it in the context of death and mourning as well as that of global relations.

Bio: Fred Evans is Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator for the Center of Interpretive and Qualitative Research at Duquesne University. He is the author of The Multivoiced Body: Society and Communication in the Age of Diversity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009; 2011), Psychology and Nihilism: A Genealogical Critique of the Computational Model of Mind (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993), and co-editor (with Leonard Lawlor) ofChiasms: Merleau-Ponty's Notion of Flesh (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000). Evans has published numerous articles and book chapters on continental thinkers in relation to issues concerning psychology, politics, and technology. He is currently working on a new book, provisionally entitled Citizenship and Public Art: An Essay in Political Aesthetics, focusing on Chicago's Millennium Park and New York's 9/11/01 memorial, and another book, this one on cosmopolitanism. He also worked for five years at the Lao National Orthopedic Center and other positions in Laos, under the auspices of International Voluntary Services, and taught philosophy for a year at La Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia.

All interested faculty, graduate students, and other parties are invited. Refreshments will be served.

For inquiries concerning CIQR, please contact the Center Coordinator, Fred Evans, Dept. of Philosophy,evansf@duq.edu, 396-6507.

*The Center has been officially approved by the Dean of the College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, The Graduate Council of the College, and the Council of Deans for the University. It is based in the College but open to members of all the schools of the University. It includes interpretive and qualitative research in both the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences (including the practice of the latter in Nursing, Education, Occupational Therapy and other professional schools).