Twin Cities Harper Lecture: An Unsentimental Education

Empathy has been receiving a lot of attention recently, its importance urged not only in national politics but also in the workplace, schools, between friends, and among strangers.

But what if we are wrong? What if empathy isn’t what we need, but unsentimentality? This talk by Deborah Nelson describes the ethics and aesthetics of unsentimentality as practiced by some of the late 20th century’s most notable women artists and intellectuals: Susan Sontag, AB’51, Diane Arbus, Hannah Arendt, Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, and Simone Weil. Drawing upon her recent book, Tough Enough (University of Chicago Press, 2017), Nelson will consider what it would mean to have an ethics without empathy even in the face of extreme suffering. Interested attendees are encouraged to read selections of the writers to be discussed, such as this excerpt from Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others.
harper_headshot_twin-cities-2-8-2018Featured Faculty: Deborah Nelson
Deborah Nelson is a professor of English and chair of the English department at the University of Chicago, where she studies late 20th-century US culture and politics. Her interests in the field include American poetry, novels, essays, and plays; gender and sexuality studies; photography; autobiography and confessional writing; American ethnic literature, poetry, and poetics; and Cold War history. Nelson is a founding member of the Post45 collective, which publishes the online journal Post45 and a book series with Stanford University Press. Her book Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, Weil, published in 2017 by the University of Chicago Press, focuses on six women whose work coheres in a style and philosophical viewpoint that challenges the preeminence of empathy as the ethical posture from which to examine pain. Nelson’s first book, Pursuing Privacy in Cold War America, examined the discourse of privacy beginning with its emergence as a topic of intense anxiety in the late 1950s.

Lecture Details

$10/Maroon Loyalty Society member or recent graduate (College alumni of the past 10 years and graduate alumni of the past five years)
Free for current academic year graduates and current students
Two complimentary registrations for members of the Chicago, Harper, Phoenix, and Medical and Biological Sciences Alumni Association philanthropic societies
Event Details:
2:00 p.m. Registration and networking
2:30 p.m. Presentation and discussion
3:30 p.m. Reception
Parking Information:
Parking is $18 for daytime or $42 for overnight.
Contact alumniassociation@uchicago.edu or 773.702.2150.


2:00PM - 4:30PM Sun 6 May 2018 ( Timezone: Central )


W Minneapolis - The Foshay
821 South Marquette Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55402

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