Open Lecture, Friday 30th September

Prof. Norm Friesen (Boise State University, USA, and University of British Columbia, Canada)

‘The Academic Lecture: Subject, Medium, and Performance’

1.30 – 2.30 pm, EDEN 130 Lecture Theatre, Hope Park Campus

Abstract: If communicative processes in 1800 were unified through spirit, as Friedrich Kittler asserts, then the time since has been marked by their increasing materialization and disaggregation. This applies also to the lecture: Around 1800 in Jena and Berlin, Fichte and others came to understand the reflective self—whether in the audience or at the lectern—as manifest through the spirit rather than in the dead letter of the text. Instead of being “a static thing with fixed properties,” the lecturing (and listening) self was seen as “a self-producing process.” Later, in the wake of Nietzsche’s famous dissection of the lecture into “one speaking mouth… many ears, and half as many writing hands,” new media have seen its transformation into a rather different process. This is one, as Rudolf Arnheim noted of the radio lecture, that is “less a question of… what is being spoken than of how it is spoken.” Form and diction replace content, perhaps even the identity of the speaker him or herself as the principle concern. Despite being ignored by all but a few observers in the decades since, this reconfiguration of media, performance and the subject in the lecture is again of explicit interest. In the age of YouTube, podcast and TED-Talks—as well as of contingent academic labor—the significance of the lecture and the lecturer appears as tenuous as it is irrefutable.

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