Carol Becker - "Losing Helen" - Matthew Goulish

Sunday, October 9, 2016 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm

Carol Becker’s extraordinary transcription of grief and love transcends various forms―memoir, autobiography―to become something else entirely: a work of literature that is entirely sui generis, constantly surprising, real, and, like the truth, beautiful and sustaining. A book to be treasured, embraced, and learned from.”

―Hilton Als, staff writer, The New Yorker

Carol Becker discusses Losing Helen: An Essay. She will be joined in conversation by Matthew Goulish.

At the Co-op


About the book: Losing Helen is a first person narrative essay of a daughter’s profound journey through the many phases in the process of losing her ninety-eight year old mother. As an only child, she must assume complete responsibility for the often absurd but necessary planning that illness and death require. At the same time, she must struggle with her overwhelming grief and confusion, trying to make sense of her mother’s life and her own. As she gradually comes to accept the inevitable loss, she focuses instead on finding ways to ensure a dignified and respectful passage, designing an end of life experience that is meaningful and sacred for them both.

In this compelling and thoughtful meditation, the author finds guidance in the spiritual insights of Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace, the artwork of the Renaissance masters, Indian mythology, Buddhist philosophy, and the traditions of Catholicism and Judaism that are part of her interfaith heritage. Although unique in form, Losing Helen is reminiscent both in subject and depth of feeling of Simone de Beauvoir’s A Very Easy Death, Phillip Roth’s Patrimony, and Roland Barthes’s Mourning Diaries.

About the author: Carol Becker is Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts. She is the author of The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change; Zones of Contention: Essays on Art, Institutions, Gender and Anxiety; and Losing Helen. She is also the editor of Surpassing the Spectacle: Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art and Artist in Society: Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities. Her most recent collection of essays is Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production.

She was Dean of Faculty and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before coming to Columbia University. She travels widely and lectures on issues of art and society

About the interlocutor: Matthew Goulish is dramaturge and occasional performer for Every house has a door which he co-founded in 2008 with Lin Hixson. His books include 39 Microlectures – in proximity of performance (Routledge, 2000), The Brightest Thing in the World – 3 lectures from The Institute of Failure; and Work from Memory, in collaboration with the poet Dan Beachy-Quick. He was awarded a Lannan Foundation Writers Residency in 2004. He received an honorary doctorate from Dartington College of Arts, University of Plymouth in 2007, and shared a Foundation for Contemporary Art fellowship with Lin Hixson in 2014. He teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637