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Celebrating Recent Work by Lydia Goehr

New Books in the Arts and Sciences

April 19, 2022

Red Sea-Red Square-Red Thread

By: Lydia Goehr

Red Sea-Red Square-Red Thread is a work of passages taken, written, painted, and sung. It offers a genealogy of liberty through a micrology of wit. It follows the long history of a short anecdote. Commissioned to depict the biblical passage through the Red Sea, a painter covered over a surface with red paint, explaining thereafter that the Israelites had already crossed over and that the Egyptians were drowned. Clearly, not all you see is all you get. Who was the painter and who the first teller of the tale?

Designed as a philosophical detective story, Red Sea-Red Square-Red Thread follows the extraordinary number of thinkers and artists who have used the Red Sea anecdote to make so much more than a merely anecdotal point. Leading the large cast are the philosophers, Arthur Danto and Søren Kierkegaard, the poet and playwright, Henri Murger, the opera composer, Giacomo Puccini, and the painter and print-maker, William Hogarth. Strange companions perhaps, until their use of the anecdote is shown as working its extraordinary passage through so many cosmopolitan cities of art and capital. What about the anecdote brings Danto's philosophy of art into conversation with Kierkegaard's stages on life's way, with Murger and Puccini's la vie de bohème, and with Hogarth's modern moral pictures?

The book explores narratives of emancipation in philosophy, theology, politics, and the arts. What has the passage of the Israelites to do with the Egyptians who, by many gypsy names, came to be branded as bohemians when arriving in France from the German lands of Bohemia? What have Moses and monotheism to do with the history of monism and the monochrome? And what sort of thread connects a sea to a square when each is so purposefully named red?

This event will be in person at the Heyman Center and livestreamed online. Please register for both in-person and virtual attendance via the link. Registration is mandatory for in-person attendance.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.

About the Author:

Lydia Goehr is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. She is the author of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (1992; second edition with a new essay, 2007); The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy [essays on Richard Wagner] (1998); Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory [essays on Adorno and Danto] (2008), and co-editor with Daniel Herwitz of The Don Giovanni Moment. Essays on the legacy of an Opera (2006).

About the Speakers:

Alexander Alberro
's areas of specialization are modern and contemporary European, U.S., and Latin American art, as well as the history of photography. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including fellowships from the Howard Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His writings have been published in a broad range of journals and exhibition catalogues, and translated into numerous languages. He is also the author of Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity (MIT, 2004), Abstraction in Reverse: The Reconfigured Spectator in Mid-Twentieth Century Latin American Art (Chicago UP, 2017), and the editor of numerous books.

Gregg Horowitz is Professor of Philosophy at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He writes on aesthetics, the philosophy of art, theories of art history, psychoanalysis, and political theory. He is the author of Sustaining Loss: Art and Mournful Life (Stanford UP, 2001) and co-editor of The Wake of Art: Criticism, Philosophy, and the Ends of Taste (Gordon and Breach Publishers, 1998).

Robert Gooding-Williams is the M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies and Professor of Philosophy and of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of Zarathustra's Dionysian Modernism (Stanford, 2001), Look, A Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture, and Politics (Routledge, 2005), and In The Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America (Harvard 2009).

Rosalind C. Morris is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of several books including The Returns of Fetishism: Charles de Brosses and the Afterlives of an Idea (with Daniel Leonard, 2017), That Which Is Not Drawn (with William Kentridge, 2013) and ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ Essays on the History of an Idea (2010). She is also the producer and director of the documentary film We are Zama Zama (2021, Official Selection, ENCOUNTERS International Documentary Film Festival), and the multimedia installation, The Zama Zama Project (Official Selection, Berlinale Forum Expanded, 2021).