Kaja Silverman, a professor of Rhetoric and Film at the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver a public lecture, “Orpheus Rex,” on Thurs., Dec. 4, 5 p.m. at New York University’s Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts (715 Broadway at Washington Place/entrance on 1 Washington Place). The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Faculty Distinguished Lecture Series at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. For more information, call 212.992.7766 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Subways: 6 (Astor Pl.); R, W (8th St.)
In the period between 1882 and 1939, Western writers and artists began asking questions about gender: What is a woman? What is a man? How do they - and how should they - relate to each other? Surprising and profoundly enabling answers were given by Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Romain Rolland, Wilhelm Jensen, Lou-Andreas Salomé, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Rainer Maria Rilke. They found these answers by returning to Ovid’s version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth.
The Orpheus and Eurydice myth was ubiquitous in Western culture until the psychoanalytic legitimization of the Oedipus complex, and although we have forgotten how the story goes, we have continued to live it; as Silverman argues, it-rather than the Oedipus myth-is the master myth of Western subjectivity. The turn away from Eurydice is a turn away from relationality, many argue, and the basis of history as we know it. Ovid’s coda opens the door to a different kind of history, one that was partially realized in the period between 1882 and 1939.
Silverman is the author of several books: James Coleman; World Spectators; Speaking About Godard; The Threshold of the Visual World; Male Subjectivity at the Margins; The Acoustic Mirror; The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema; and The Subject of Semiotics. She has just completed a new book, Flesh of My Flesh, which will appear in 2009.