Why linger in the wrong ways of thinking? Sianne Ngai, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at the University of Chicago, will explore this question and others in the upcoming annual Culler Theory Lecture for the Society for the Humanities.
Ngai’s talk “Inhabiting Error: From ‘Last Christmas’ to ‘Senior’s Last Hour,’” will take place on Wednesday, March 9 at 4:45pm in the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall. The event will be open to the Cornell community members (attendees will be required to show CU ID).
“It’s hard to think of a more influential or widely discussed cultural theorist than Sianne Ngai,” said Liz Anker, Professor of Law and associate professor of Literatures in English. “Ngai’s work has been particularly formative for conceptualizing art and cultural production under late capitalist modernity.”
Anker said that Ngai uses “highly innovative” ways to study what might appear to be a minor affect – what is “cute” or “zany” or, more recently, a gimmick – revealing deep uncertainties and larger cultural crises regarding things like labor, time, and value.
If error is as Ngai describes, an “unavoidable part of everyday perception,” then lingering in error may help one to a similar understanding, Anker said; thinking about the ways that something is wrong can help us identify what’s wrong with the society.
Ngai is the author of "Ugly Feelings" (Harvard UP, 2005), "Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting" (Harvard UP, 2012), and "Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form" (Belknap, 2020). A roundtable on comedy featuring Ngai, Lauren Berlant, and Alenka Zupančič was recently published in Texte Zur Kunst (March 2021). She is currently working on a book about the ways in which Marx, Hegel, and a number of writers and artists inhabit error.
Kina Viola is program coordinator for the Society for the Humanities.