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Penn Humanities Forum 2005-2006: Word & Image 

by Wendy Steiner

The field of the Penn Humanities Forum is the “inter”:  the interdisciplinary, the interartistic, the interactive.  This year the Forum takes on the interface between Word and Image. Our claim is that the orderly separation between the realms of the visual and the verbal—in life experience, in academic disciplines—is disappearing. Our days are filled with speaking screens. Literature departments merge with cinema studies and comparative literature encompasses comparative arts. “Mixed media” culture is no longer a novelty, but the norm.

But of course this situation has important precedents.  From the Renaissance “paragone”—the competition among the rival arts—to the eighteenth-century “sister arts,” to the nineteenth-century idealization of synaesthesia, the interplay of the verbal and the visual has been a continuous theme of aesthetic discussion.  And though we might feel that we are particularly bombarded by word-image crossings, for every L.E.D. or graphic novel or web page in our day we can point to an obelisk, a tapestry, or an emblem book in which text and picture interact.  The history of iconoclasm alone reveals the ideological stakes in the discussion, and “word versus image” is tied to a host of loaded binaries: masculine/feminine, time/space, abstraction/materiality, art/nature. 

To address such questions, the Humanities Forum is bringing to campus a distinguished mix of artists and scholars:  Art Spiegelman, Jenny Holzer, Anthony Grafton, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, John Maeda, and Henry Wendt in the fall alone. Pianist Marc André Hamelin and soprano Jody Karin Applebaum will be performing music inspired by the writers and artists of Edvard Munch’s circle, and on Halloween, the Alloy Orchestra will add words and music to the silent film classic, Phantom of the Opera

From across the world this September, scholars will be gathering at Penn for the International Word and Image Conference, organized by the Topic Directors of this year’s Forum, Professors Liliane Weissberg and Catriona MacLeod of the German Department. And in seminars and symposia, the Forum’s undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty fellows, will be researching verbal-visual interactions. With this wealth of activity in store, the Forum’s co-director Peter Stallybrass and I invite you to lend your expertise to this, the seventh Penn Humanities Forum, on Word and Image.

Wendy Steiner is the Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and the co-director of the Penn Humanities Forum.

2005-2006 Programs

9/23-27  Elective Affinities: Conference on Word & Image Studies
9/27      Art Spiegelman: Comix 101
10/10     Anthony Grafton: Renaissance Romans & Egyptian Obelisks
10/28     Marc Hamelin & Jody Applebaum: Word, Image, Music
10/31     Phantom of the Opera featuring Alloy Orchestra performing live
11/2      Kathleen Hall Jamieson: The Deflective Power of Images in
            Political Ads
11/16     Dr. S.T. Lee Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities
            Jenny Holzer: Public Art
11/30     John Maeda: Search for Simplicity in an Over-Teched World
12/7      Henry Wendt: Mapping the West Coast of North America
1/25      Jennifer Mnookin: Visual and Verbal Expert Evidence in the
            American Courtroom
2/1        Emma Dillon: Medieval Music Notation
2/8        Yoram (Jerry) Wind: Brands and Logos
2/22      Steve Tinney: Sumerian Tables
3/1       Bruce Miller, MD: Art and Aging
3/15      Pam McClusky: Aboriginal Stories Mapped onto Landscapes
3/17      Symposium on Photography and Literature
3/22      Richard Forman: Experimental Ontological-Hysteria Theatre
3/29      Jane Caplan: Tattoos
4/12      Rita Charon & Murray Grossman: Medical Diagnosis Through
            Words & Image



  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 4, September 20, 2005


September 20, 2005
Volume 52 Number 4


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