About the Conference

This fall, The Humanities Initiative at New York University will hold a conference entitled Ambience in the Humanities: Translating New Surroundings into New Poetics.

November 19 & 20, 2010

The Humanities Initiative Conference

The Humanities Initiative at New York University

20 Cooper Square (at East 5th Street), 5th Floor

New York, NY

Sounds, voices, musics, images, written codes of all sorts – in today’s media-saturated environment, humans lend their ears and eyes to an abundant and seemingly free-floating worlds of social and sensory information. The intensity of this information calls for different models of poetics that figure the artist not as a lone fabricator constructing and reconstructing a singular tradition but rather as an antenna, receiving and rebroadcasting atmospheres of experience. Theaffects, concepts, and materials that create particular ambiences do not merely condition thework, as in the classic divide of text and context, but literally inform it, giving both materialand shape to the poetic process. From everyday life to extreme conditions of constraint, fromsuburbia to the warzone, how does the sensing self record—consciously or unconsciously—the ambience of these zones and spaces? In this conference, we propose to organize a series ofroundtable discussions with writers, composers, performers, and critics that will consider notthe influence of a particular tradition or canon but rather the influence of particular materialsurroundings. What does New York—as a crowded, built-up urban environment—mean forpunk rock musicians in the early 1970s? How do the sounds of warfare affect soldiers andcivilians in past and contemporary war zones? How do the symbols and images of pop cultureget rearranged as signs of political allegiance? How do all the arts reflect the conditions of theirproduction—not only in a political economic sense but also in the sense of sensing itself—thesocial materiality of exterior information?

Organizers:

Elena Bellina, Department of Italian Studies, 2009-10 Humanities Initiative Fellow, NYU.

John Melillo, Department of English, 2009-10 Humanities Initiative Fellow, NYU.

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