An introduction to the VCS Chair Readings series

Earlier this summer, Department Chair Tom Huhn introduced the Visual & Critical Studies Chair Readings, a monthly series of online mailings featuring recently published recommended readings for students and others in the VCS community. These readings provide an opportunity for students to expand on what they’ve learned in the classroom, engage in extracurricular conversations about the topics covered, and grapple with philosophy, history, and aesthetics on a deeper level. In addition, the series is also designed to keep alumni informed about what’s being discussed in the VCS department these days, and to give other members of our mailing list a better sense of what the program is all about.

In today’s post, I’d like to talk about the four Chair Readings that have been sent out to date. Below you will find descriptions and links to each reading, along with Tom’s comments on some of them.

On May 1st, the series was inaugurated with the article “Marx at 193” by John Lanchester from the London Review of Books, Vol. 34 No. 7 (April 5, 2012). Comprising an essay and related podcast recorded at The British Museum, Lanchester’s piece examines Karl Marx’s analysis of the modern world, and considers how he might have responded to current events.

The June Chair Reading featured the article “Neo-Modern” by writer David Geers. Here are Tom’s comments on this reading:

Here you’ll find a rather short but suggestive essay by David Geers, from the Winter 2012 issue of October, arguing that most purportedly advanced contemporary art is stuck in the dead-ends of modernism. Geers imagines that a good deal of contemporary art echoes some famous styles of–and moves within–classical modernist art. See if you agree that the work of the likes of Josh Smith, Daniel Hesidence, Alex Hubbard, Thomas Haseago, Richard Aldrich, or Gedi Sibony affords its viewers a nostalgia for certain long-ago modernist experiences.

You can click here to see the first page of Geers’s essay online, or download the entire piece as a PDF file at this link.

July’s entry featured a piece from writer and National Humanities Medal recipient Charles Rosen. Here is Tom’s introduction to this piece, which you can find online at this link on The New York Review of Books:

Here is a delightful short excerpt from Charles Rosen’s new book Freedom and the Arts: Essays on Music and Literature, from Harvard University Press. Rosen’s suggestions regarding the relation between freedom and art also provide him an opportunity to think about the nature of linguistic meaning and the role of aesthetic form. I hope you enjoy the sweep and insight of the essay as much as I have.

Finally, the most recent entry in the Chair Readings series is a piece by T.J. Clark from the March/April 2012 issue of New Left Review. Here’s what Tom had to say about this selection:

If we are no longer the material out of which a society of human beings could be constructed — so goes T. J. Clark’s paraphrase of Nietzsche — then we need most importantly to wonder whether the future–any future–remains a meaningful project for us. Clark’s collection of notes and quotations, titled “For a Left with No Future,” is a profound meditation on whether hope is at all appropriate given the catastrophes of the present age as well as our recent history. And further, Clark asks, what might a politics be like when it is not the future where hope and expectation find a place, but rather only in present life. Clark pursues this thought by considering some of the paradoxes within the relationship of tragedy to action. I recommend this essay not only for its diagnosis of where things stand, but more importantly for its ruminations regarding how to face present inequality and injustice without looking away toward a hopeful future.

If you would like to receive future mailings in the Chair Readings series and are not yet on our mailing list, send us your e-mail address at Be sure to include the phrase “send VCS news” in the subject line of your message.

Visual & Critical Studies