This Wednesday, November 6th: a lecture on the American Sublime by Jackson Lears

Lears poster

This coming Wednesday, November 6th, The Visual & Critical Studies Department will present a lecture at the SVA Theatre by Jackson Lears. This is our fourth and final entry in SVA’s fall 2013 Art in the First Person lecture series. Here is an overview from the event listing on the VCS website:

Jackson Lears, cultural and intellectual historian and distinguished professor of history at Rutgers University, discusses the evolution of “the American sublime.” Originally arising from a Romantic, Protestant faith in the divinity of wild nature, the notion was transformed and fragmented in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Americans came to attach notions of sublimity to technology and celebrity but remained attracted to a more complex vision of nature, one that oscillated between ecological perceptions of dense biodiversity and minimalist conceptions of emptiness and openness—what Wallace Stevens called “the empty spirit / in vacant space.” By the early 21st century, postmodern theorists advanced the idea that nature was culturally constructed. Lears asks: Has any coherent idea of sublimity survived?

Jackson Lears is the Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University and Editor-in-Chief of Raritan: A Quarterly Review. His books include No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1981) and Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (2009).

To read some of his online writings and learn more about him, please visit the following links:

Jackson Lears at The Nation

Jackson Lears at New Republic

“Symposium: Jackson Lears” (Dissent Magazine, Winter 2010)

“The Confidence Economy: An Interview with T. J. Jackson Lears” by B. R. Cohen (Public Books, May 7, 2013)

The lecture is free and open to the public; it will take place this Wednesday, November 6th at 7 pm in The SVA Theatre, located at 333 West 23rd Street in New York City. For more information, please contact the theatre by phone at 212-592-2980, or by e-mail at

[Top image: Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860, oil on canvas, 48 13/16″ x 72 13/16″]

Visual & Critical Studies