History seminars at the IHR

Marxism in Culture

Convenors:  Matthew Beaumont, Dave Beech, Alan Bradshaw, Warren Carter, Gail Day, Steve Edwards, Larne Abse Gogarty, Esther Leslie, David Mabb, Antigoni Memou, Chrysi Papaioannou, Nina Power, Dominic Rahtz, Pete Smith, Peter Thomas & Alberto Toscano.

Contacts: For further information, please contact Larne Abse Gogarty at larne.gogarty.09@ucl.ac.uk or Chrysi Papaioannou at chrysi_p@yahoo.co.ukThe link to the web-site is http://www.marxisminculture.org.

Venue: Wolfson Room I, unless otherwise stated in the programme below.

Time: Friday, 5.30pm

Some podcasts from this Seminar are available online

Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
8 May The Redeeming Power of Art: Romantic Anti-Capitalism in Alfred Stieglitz's 'Camera Work'

Catherine Berger

This paper analyses the journal Camera Work, edited by the photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz in New York from 1903 to 1917, as a manifestation of the romantic anti-capitalist Weltanschauung in early-twentieth century culture. The magazine’s texts and reproduced artworks evolve around the idea of establishing an art that is able to counter the perceived materialism, positivism and disenchantment of the modern world. However, this notion that art should be socially viable is formulated in ideologically and politically vague and ambiguous terms. Art is supposed to play a major role in life, it should function as a redeeming power but on the basis that it is separate from practical life. The early writings of Georg Lukács, in particular the essays published in Soul and Form (1911), serve as an interpretative category to analyse the ambivalent and complex relationship with modernity evident in the pages of the magazine.
Dr Catherine Berger is an art historian interested in the anti-modern currents in modern culture, particularly in romantic anti-capitalism as a worldview. She completed her PhD on the Stieglitz Circle at UCL in 2014 and is currently researching the connection between romantic anti-capitalism and Symbolism.

5 June A Roundtable re-enactment of the Marxist-Formalist Debate

David Cunningham, Anke Hennig, Anthony Iles, Jan Levchenko, Marina Vishmidt

The Retro-Formalism group brings together young scholars from Russia, Germany, UK and the US. The goal of our transcontinental collaboration is to extend the contemporary horizon of Art theory beyond current paradigms of thought. The group explores Russian Formalism as the theory of the Russian Avant-garde which in many respects forms the beginning of a reflection upon modernist Art as we know it. Our trajectory of thinking includes the critique of Eurocentric Modernism, the crisis of Innovation and the revival of various Modernisms since Postmodernism and the search of a new politics for Contemporary Art theory. The disappointment with Utopia as well as the loss of trust in an intellectual existence grounded in history risks reducing contemporary theory to an academic status quo. The group uses estrangement of current Art theory as a device of research. Since Russian Formalism practiced Art theory in collaboration with revolutionary Art itself the group explores art based, experimental methods of research. Last but not least the project includes a reflection on contemporary forms of collaborative work and institutional critique.

This roundtable discussion follows a day of workshops at Westminister University, for more details please see the RetroFormalism website here: http://retroformalism.net/en/start

PLease Note:  this event takes place in the Torrington Room, 104, in the South Block, first floor.

19 June Literature and the Time of Communism: Reading Furio Jesi and Franco Fortini Today

Alberto Toscano

Discussion and a screening of Jean-Marie Straub's Kommunisten, which combines footage from Straub-Huillet's Fortini/Cani and other films into a complex meditation on the figure of the communist.

This session will discuss the work of two formidable and unique figures in the panorama of Italian Marxist and communist thought, Furio Jesi and Franco Fortini. Departing from his recent translations of their books Spartakus and The Dogs of the Sinai, Alberto Toscano will sketch out some of the ways in which their interventions - almost entirely neglected in the Anglophone world until today, and largely so in their own country as well - allow us to develop a very different image of oppositional thought in postwar Italy than the one which sees it through the filter of a particular image of operaismo and post-operaismo (or indeed through the lenses of biopolitics or pensiero debole). In the work of Jesi and Fortini, from very different perspectives, we encounter an attempt to rethink the nexus between literary form and revolutionary politics, in particular by reassessing the interwar writings of Brecht, in their response to the failed Berlin uprising (Jesi) and to the conjuncture of the 1930s (Fortini), to make possible a move beyond the reified political aesthetics of official anti-fascism and the limitations of post-68 movementism. 

Please note: this session starts at 17:00