'Humanities on the Edge' series opens Oct. 11

A speaker series at UNL that has found a niche in exploring cutting-edge humanities research while uncovering insights into contemporary issues is back for a third season. The “Humanities on the Edge” series kicks off Oct. 11 with an examination of reality in America, including the influence reality television has on society and democracy.

Since its 2010 launch, the series has featured speakers from across the humanities disciplines who are engaged in groundbreaking theoretical research yet have a flair for intertwining these intellectual pursuits with popular culture and current events that makes their arguments relatable to a broader audience.

This season will focus on the relationship between politics and aesthetics. It aims to examine the way performance or artistic presentation can be used to provoke political debate.

“The ‘Humanities on the Edge’ lecture series provides an engaging introduction to some of the most important and challenging theoretical debates that will define the future of the humanities in the years to come,” said Roland Vegso, assistant professor of English who co-founded the series with Marco Abel, associate professor of English. Joining them as co-organizers are Jeanette Jones, associate professor of history and ethnic studies, and Damien Pfister, assistant professor of communication studies.

All talks, listed below, will be held at the Sheldon Museum of Art.

Thursday, Oct. 11, 5:30 p.m. – Mark Greif, assistant professor of literary studies at The New School in New York and editor of n+1, a highly influential magazine covering politics, literature and culture, will present “Reality in America: A Counter-Aesthetics for the Present.” Greif, known for his skill in discussing literature, philosophy and other intellectual pursuits in ways that appeal to broad audiences, will focus on the changing concept of reality and the growing difficulty in discerning originality and authenticity. He’ll probe such questions as what role performance plays in so-called reality television and how that influences American culture, including whether he sees this growing tide of emulation harming or helping democracy.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 5:30 p.m. — Lutz Koepnick, professor of German, film and media studies and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, will present “Cave/Cinema: Werner Herzog’s ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’ and the Politics of Time.” He’ll focus on the famed German filmmaker, Werner Herzog, a documentarian known for telling stories about himself in a way that makes it difficult to discern fact from fiction. In his 2010 film “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” he uses new media, 3D film in fact, to highlight practices of very old art. He follows scientists and historians as they gain exclusive access to ancient cave paintings inside the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc in southern France, which were discovered in 1994 and remain hidden to the outside world today.

The Ross Media Arts Center, 313 N. 13th St., will host a special screening of Herzog’s 3D film in association with Koepnick’s talk. Run dates will be posted on the series’ Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/humanitiesontheedge, as soon as they’re announced.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 5:30 p.m. — E. Patrick Johnson, who is Carlos Montezuma Professor of performance studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, will mix lecture and theatrical presentation when he delivers “Going Home Ain’t Always Easy: Performance and Ethics in the Black Gay South.” Johnson has traveled the country performing excerpts from his book, “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History.” He will draw on his own research on and performance of the narratives of black gay men in the South and address questions that such work raises with regard to ethics, advocacy, self-reflexivity, ethnographic documentation and the politics of representation.

Thursday, March 28, 5:30 p.m. — Kristin Ross, professor of comparative literature at New York University, will close out the series with “Communal Luxury.” Ross probes the idea of revolution and how aesthetics or performance is connected to politics. She’s expected to touch on her ongoing research into the Paris Commune, a revolutionary moment in late 19th century France, which she is using to further examine a contemporary rebellion — the Occupy movement, an international protest that began attracting attention in late 2011 and eventually spanned more than 600 communities in the United States.

The series is co-sponsored by the Sheldon Museum of Art, African American and African Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, Research Council, Faculty Senate, Hixson-Lied College, the Prairie Schooner, and the departments of English, Communication Studies, and Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education.

For more details about the series, visit http://www.facebook.com/humanitiesontheedge.