*Colloquia*

Once a quarter the Consortium provides graduate students in the humanities the opportunity to present papers at a late stage of development to a group of their peers. Presenters are then eligible for CLTC travel grants, to present their work at national conferences.

Our Winter Colloquium will be held from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, South Hall 2617

CLTC’s next roundtable will be held on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 6:00PM-8:00 PM, in South Hall 2617.

The presenters are:

Lan Xuan Le, Film & Media Studies: “Scanner Epistemologies”

Across many everyday contexts and technological devices, we encounter over and over again a mechanical-translation act called “scanning”: flatbed scanners, photocopiers, barcode readers, televisions, x-ray airport security scanners, fax machines, retinal eye scanning, earth-orbiting satellite imaging. Scanners appear everywhere and yet history of technology and media studies have yet to address this quotidian device of bureacracy which enables so much of modern business, government and education to function. If scanning occurs across so many devices, does it have its locus in a material technological configuration? Or is it a behavior organized by a common cultural-linguistic understanding? And if scanning is indeed a socio-cultural imagination, how does it operate on the level of metaphor and materiality? What does the scanner implicitly assume about modern time and space? What does scanning do? What does it enable? How does it act?
In this paper, I explore the relationship of scanners to the surfaces of knowledge they construct. I argue that the technological interface that we call the scanner constitutes not merely a set of technologies, which all operate in a similar fashion with regard to their object of knowledge, but that the logic central to the metaphor of a “scan” organizes and produces forms of everyday knowing. Scanners function as part of a network of visual knowledge and its intense circulation today. The scanner does not simply convert signals, but serves as one locus in an entire epistemological-scientific system that prompts ever more desire to see as the modern mode of knowing. The scanner serves, in this paper, as a way to think about digital epistemology and its role in mediating truth-value. For media theory, the scanner requires us to revisit, in a fundamental way, the meaning of “mediation.”

Devin Fromm, Comparative Literature: “The Renewal of Mankind: Benjamin, Modernist Subjectivity, and the Techno-Human Beyond Itself”

Walter Benjamin’s Artwork essay famously describes technology as providing a critical intersection, one making possible both “the contemporary crisis and the renewal of mankind.” And while the crisis of fascism and potential annihilation seems clear, less so is what Benjamin has in mind when he speaks of human renewal.
A closer look at the text and its concern with technology as reorganizing “the mode of human sense perception” makes this question one of species development, based on Benjamin’s interest in the way technology allows the human to remake itself, beyond the bounded corpus of Enlightenment thought. Moreover, beyond the Artwork essay, this thread then becomes discernible throughout Benjamin’s work, as he frames broader questions of thinking immanent space and the subjectivity appropriate for modernity as corollaries of human being, where its figuration conditions the ways in which we theorize these categories.
In this light, Benjamin’s project appears to coalesce specifically around an understanding of the human within the modern technological world; how it might be reformulated beyond traditional conceptual limits and how the future of humanity may well depend on rethinking the species as such. Reading Benjamin in this way, then, not only reorients his seminal work along lines of the mutable human (anticipating developments such as swarms or network theory), but opens new paths for criticism more broadly, suggesting alternative ways of reading both modernist and contemporary texts (such as Benjamin’s own reading of Kafka) as likewise bound up on this same crucial issue.

James Conrad, Classics: “Misremembering History: Sallust’s Insecurities and Exempla in the Catilinarian Debate”

Roller (2009, 2004) and Grethlein (2006) have recently argued that Romans understood the past in terms of recounting stories – exempla or memoria rerum gestarum: the community transmits its values across time by recounting deeds and offering approval or condemnation, which in turn guides future action. Drawing on the Roman historian Sallust’s account of the conspiracy of Catiline (especially the debate between Caesar and Cato), I argue that Sallust doubts the use of exempla as a secure method of transmitting meaning over time. Sallust argues exempla potentially fail on two grounds: writers are prone to exaggeration and so may fail to produce an accurate record of events, and readers are prone to incredulity and so may reject accounts offered. I argue that one as yet unnoticed function of Sallust’s debate between Caesar and Cato is to illustrate a serious failure of exempla to securely transmit meaning. Sallust places in Caesar’s mouth the warning that future generations, receiving an exemplum, may misconstrue the virtues the exemplum is meant to transmit, while Cato alters the traditional exemplum of Torquatus to disguise both of the facts of the case and the reasons for contemporary praise of the hero. Thus the result of the debate highlights Sallust’s insecurities about exempla as effective guides to action for his contemporaries.

Grethlein, J. “Nam quid ea memorem: The Dialectical Relation of Res Gestae and Memoria Rerum Gestarum in Sallust’s Bellum Jugurthinum,” Classical Quarterly, 56 no. 1 (2006), 135-148.

Roller, M. “The exemplary past in Roman historiography and culture.” The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians. Ed. A. Feldherr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2009), 214-230.

̶ “Exemplarity in Roman Culture: The Cases of Horatius Cocles and Cloelia,” Classical Philology, 99 no. 1 (2004), 1-56.

More information about past colloquia can be found in the archives