Here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section.
Taylor M. Wilcox, Michael K. Schwartz, Winsor H. Lowe, Evolutionary Community Ecology: Time to Think Outside the (Taxonomic) Box. (TREE)
Joshua Rothman, Are We Already Living in Virtual Reality? (New Yorker)
Christiane Weirauch, Randall T. Schuh, Gerasimos Cassis and Ward C. Wheeler. Revisiting habitat and lifestyle transitions in Heteroptera (Insecta: Hemiptera): insights from a combined morphological and molecular phylogeny. (Cladistics)
David Reich, Social Inequality Leaves a Genetic Mark. (Nautilus)
Lewis Gordon, Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on Get Out (Blog of the APA)
Louis Hanson, The Importance of Women in a Queer Man’s Life (Out Magazine)
Michael Sandel, Robert B. Reich’s Recipe for a Just Society (The New York Times Book Review)
Nimmi Crenshaw, interview with Kimberlé Crenshaw (Guernica)
David Peace, “There’d Be Dragons” (TLS)
Natalie Lawrence, “Fallen Angels” (Public Domain Review)
Emily Temple, “When Marguerite Duras got kicked out of the Communist Party” (LitHub)
Rana Dasgupta, “The Demise of the Nation State,” (Guardian)
Rosemary Hill, “What Does She Think She Looks Like?,” (LRB)
Alexis Okeowo, “An Activist Filmmaker Tackles Patriarchy in Pakistan,” (New Yorker)
“The Awakening: Women and Power in the Academy,” (The Chronicle)
Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, “Le tournant néoconservateur en France,” (Lava)
This Art Newspaper story on the gender imbalance in TEFAF’s upper ranks reminded me that our experiences of art are always deeply personal and subjective. For me, questions of gender balance and representation are not questions of identity politics. Rather, they are entwined with my own personal desire to encounter a breadth of subjectivities in writing and scholarship–and through that, come to know, and contemplate, a range of possible experiences, thoughts, and judgments quite unlike my own.
Today, we take it mostly for granted that everyone has the faculties–and therefore the right–to pass judgment on art. It was not always a given that everyone had the faculties to judge art. Connoisseurship developed, over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, into a rarefied pursuit, open only to experts. Bernard Berenson represents the ur-connoisseur. Berenson came as close as a human possibly could to the platonic ideal of the connoisseur. But it was his assistant and protege, Kenneth Clark, who bridged the gap between the compressed world of the expert and a broader, more workaday world, introducing the mysteries of his discipline to a general audience. Clark’s 1969 BBC series “Civilization: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark” attracted millions of viewers on both sides of the Atlantic. In his review of James Stourton’s biography of Clark, Richard Dorment noted that today, Clark’s BBC series “is largely forgotten.”
Dorment argues that Clark was forgotten because his approach was eclipsed by the rise of “theory-based art history.” Perhaps. Or perhaps it is because we no longer live in a time where we require men “in tweed suits with bad teeth and an upper-crust accent” to explain art to us. Entry into art history no longer requires some combination of wealth, connections, and personal charm (Berenson had two of the three, and Clark had it all). At least, I like to think this is true. And this shift has also changed the tenor of the scholarship.