Even as academics and scholars start to get ready for their summer break, there is still much anticipation and excitement about the Wellek Library Lectures series, which is going on this week. Held annually since 1981 at the Critical Theory Institute at the University of Califronia, Irvine, the series brings an internationally distinguished critical theorist to deliver a series of three lectures in which he or she develops his or her critical position and relates it to the contemporary theoretical scene.
This year’s presenter is Joan W. Scott whose lectures will focus on politics and academic freedom. The titles of her lectures are “The Theory of Academic Freedom,” “Academic Responsibility,” and “The Attack on Academic Freedom.”
Columbia University Press has been the proud publisher of the Wellek Library Lectures series. Elizabeth Grosz’s 2007 series of lectures, Chaos Territory and Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth is now available. Grosz argues that art—especially architecture, music, and painting—is born from the disruptive forces of sexual selection. She approaches art as a form of erotic expression connecting sensory richness with primal desire and, in doing so, finds that the meaning of art comes from the intensities and sensations it inspires, not just its intention and aesthetic.
In her lecture “Sensation. The Earth, A People, Art,” Grosz writes:
Art is of the animal. It comes, not from reason, recognition, intelligence, not from a uniquely human sensibility, or from any of man’s higher accomplishments, but from something excessive, unpredictable, lowly. What is most artistic in us is that which is the most bestial…. Art is … that energy or force, that puts life at risk for the sake of intensification—for the sake of sensation itself—not simply for pleasure or for sexuality, as psychoanalysis suggests—but for what can be magnified, for what is more, through which creation, risk, innovation are undertaken for their own sake, for how and what they may intensify