The 2023 Ruskin Birthday Lecture

The 2023 John Ruskin Birthday Lecture will be given by the literary critic Anahid Nersessian (UCLA). Nersessian is the author of three books: Keats's Odes: A Lover's Discourse (Verso, 2022; U of Chicago P, 2021), The Calamity Form: On Poetry and Social Life (Chicago, 2020), and Utopia, Limited: Romanticism and Adjustment (Harvard UP, 2015) and has published widely in top scholarly journals as well as in The New York Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review, New Left Review, and n+1.

Her Ruskin Lecture is entitled "Breeze or Soul: Thoughts on Species-Being":

“At the very time when it most often mouths the word,” writes Aimé Césaire in his Discourse on Colonialism, “the West has never been further from being able to live a true humanism—a humanism made to the measure of the world.” That was in 1950, but it easily describes the various political and ecological crises of the twenty-first century. In this talk, I propose not a retrenchment within humanist ideals, but a redefinition of the human through the category of species-being, a term that comes to us from Marx but has important precedents in Aristotle and Hegel. Moving between episodes in the history of labor, philosophy, and poetry—from Romanticism to the present—I first discuss species-being in general terms before moving onto an extended reading of William Blake’s Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804–1820), focusing on the relationship between Blake’s experimental free verse and his pervasive, often puzzling critique of the social experience he calls “shame.”

About the John Ruskin Birthday Lecture

On February 7-8, 2020, we hosted at Notre Dame the conference John Ruskin: Prophet of the Anthropocene, the very last event in a year of international celebrations of Ruskin's 200th birthday. On the evening of February 8, Ruskin's 201st birthday, Clive Wilmer, who had just stepped down at the end of a long tenure as Master of Ruskin's Guild of St George, delivered a keynote address, reflecting on the role of the Guild in the world.

Clive's lecture launched a new annual Ruskin Birthday Lecture Series at Notre Dame, in which an invited speaker would reflect on the role of the arts and humanities to address the crises of the day -- in the spirit of Ruskin, at least, if not always about Ruskin.

In 2021, because of the COVID-19 pandemic (a "crisis of the day" that none of us saw coming as we started planning the lecture in February 2020), we published a Garland of Reflections on pandemics and politics, in lieu of a lecture.

In 2022, Gabriel Meyer, executive director of the Ruskin Art Club in Los Angeles gave the lecture Ruskin, Laudato Si', and the Big Ecological Picture.

The Ruskin Birthday Lecturer for 2023 is Anahid Nersessian of UCLA.

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