CANCELLED - D. Vance Smith - "Arts of Dying" - Mark Miller

Sunday, May 3, 2020 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
D. Vance Smith

**This event has been cancelled. We hope to reschedule in the coming months.**

"Death, as they say, is one of the two great topics of all literature, but Smith offers a compelling and highly original treatment of it. The book is positively breathtaking and provides new and important insights throughout.”––Larry Scanlon, author of Narrative, Authority, and Power: The Medieval Exemplum and the Chaucerian Tradition

D. Vance Smith discusses Arts of Dying: Literature and Finitude in Medieval England. He will be joined in conversation by Mark Miller. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

At the Co-op

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested but not required.)

About the book: People in the Middle Ages had chantry chapels, mortuary rolls, the daily observance of the Office of the Dead, and even purgatory—but they were still unable to talk about death. Their inability wasn’t due to religion, but philosophy: saying someone is dead is nonsense, as the person no longer is. The one thing that can talk about something that is not, as D. Vance Smith shows in this innovative, provocative book, is literature.

Covering the emergence of English literature from the Anglo-Saxon to the late medieval periods, Arts of Dying argues that the problem of how to designate death produced a long tradition of literature about dying, which continues in the work of Heidegger, Blanchot, and Gillian Rose. Philosophy’s attempt to designate death’s impossibility is part of a literature that imagines a relationship with death, a literature that intensively and self-reflexively supposes that its very terms might solve the problem of the termination of life. A lyrical and elegiac exploration that combines medieval work on the philosophy of language with contemporary theorizing on death and dying, Arts of Dying is an important contribution to medieval studies, literary criticism, phenomenology, and continental philosophy.

About the author: D. Vance Smith is professor of English and 2019-2020 Old Dominion Professor at Princeton University. Smith is a medievalist who grew up in Africa, learning isiNdebele along with English as a member of the Khumalo clan of the amaNdebele. Attending all-African high school in Kenya, he also spoke Kiswahili and early Sheng (the Kenyan street vernacular), and he wrote two ethnographies on groups of people living in what is now the South Sudan. 

Smith has been a Fulbright Scholar, an NEH Fellow at the National Humanities Center, a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, and a Guggenheim Fellow. Arts of Dying: Literature and Finitude in Medieval England is the third book in a series examining the medieval limit experience. The first, The Book of the Incipit, concerns beginnings in medieval and modern philosophy and literature; the second book, Arts of Possession, meditates on dwelling in medieval romance and economic theory and practice. Current projects include a study of negation in mysticism from Gregory of Nyssa to Julian Norwich, Love Without Object, and Modernity’s African Unconscious, which he will be working on during 2019-2020 as an Old Dominion Professor.

About the interlocutor: Mark Miller is associate professor in the department of English and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago. Miller's work is situated historically in late-medieval literature and culture, and conceptually in the intersections of psychoanalysis, feminism, and queer theory with ethics, theory of action, and philosophical psychology. He is the author of Philosophical Chaucer: Love, Sex, and Agency in the Canterbury Tales (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and is working on a book project about psychology and ideology of sin in the late middle ages.

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