School of Historical Studies

The Audience as Prisoner: Reflections on the Activity of the Object

Horst Bredekamp
Professor of Art History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
March 2, 2010

The basic problem of all pictures is grounded in their bipolar existence. They are created objects, but nonetheless present themselves as physical beings. This paradoxical double-structure is exemplified in the “ME FECIT” of numberless inscriptions. With its “EGO,” the pictorial work declares that it does not consist of artificially shaped dead material, but of a living form. Dramatizing this problem, Leonardo da Vinci created the formula that pictures “imprison” the audience.

In this lecture Horst Bredekamp follows a chain of examples from antiquity, the Middle Ages, early modernity, and the twentieth century in order to question the traditional concept of the relationship between the work of art and the beholder. conceptualizing the theory of picture-act, which tries to develop alternatives to traditional concepts of representation, illustration, and mimesis.

The "Late Antique Qur'an": Jewish-Christian Liturgy, Hellenic Rhetoric, and Arabic Language

Angelika Neuwirth
Freie Universität Berlin
June 3, 2009

Is the Qur’an an exclusively Islamic text? In this talk, Angelika Neuwirth, a Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin and a Member (2009) in the School of Historical Studies, contends that it is both Islamic and late antique. Before the Qur’an was recognized as Muslim scripture it was communicated to an audience whose education was based on late-antique traditions—Judeo-Christian, Hellenic, and Arabian. Read as a movement within this triangle, the Qur’an turns out to be a Near Eastern–European text.

Support for this lecture was provided by the Dr. S. T. Lee Fund for Historical Studies.

Modernism Between Weimar and the Third Reich

Peter Paret
Institute for Advanced Study
March 2, 2008

Peter Paret, Professor Emeritus, School of Historical Studies. From 1933 to 1945, a culture war was waged between National-Socialism and modernism in the arts.  In this lecture, given in conjunction with a performance by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra featuring works by Mendelssohn, Schulhoff, and von Webern, Peter Paret explains that although their compositions were stylistically different, they were attacked for the same underlying reason:  Hitler’s concept of the arts as an arena of ideological, racial, and political conflict over Germany’s present and future.

The History of Others: Foreign Peoples in Early Chinese Historiography

Nicola Di Cosmo
Institute for Advanced Study
October 17, 2007

Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies, School of Historical Studies. This lecture will provide an overview of the production and characteristics of alien history in early China, while acknowledging and attempting to gauge the cultural influence of these accounts among the alien people themselves, as "consumers" of histories they did not produce, but were used politically and in other ways.