April 10: George Shulman: "Theorizing (Beyond) Impasse: Fiction-making and Truth-telling in American Politics"

Jack Schaar Memorial Lecture

March 26, 2024


Wednesday, April 10

3:30 - 5:00

Charles E. Merrill Lounge

Event Description

This talk explores the current crisis in American politics, especially in regard to authoritarian, anti-democratic, incipiently fascist rhetoric and practices. Its first claim is that the language and frameworks of theorists and critics on the left cement the impasses and foreclosures they lament, and prevent them from addressing the dangers they fear. Its second claim is that fruitful engagement with the current impasse requires rethinking the relation between "fiction" and "reality," to enable what Cornelius Castoriadis called the radical imagination. As the history of political theory demonstrates repeatedly, a "possibility for new possibilities" is opened up, not by argument, empirical evidence, or fact-checking, which presume the givenness of reality, but by "figures of the newly thinkable," which manifest its contingency.


George Shulman's interests lie in the fields of political thought and American studies. He teaches and writes on political thought in Europe and the United States, as well as on Greek and Hebrew-tragic and biblical-traditions. His teaching and writing emphasize the role of narrative in culture and politics. Professor Shulman is a recipient of the 2003 NYU Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of Radicalism and Reverence: Gerrard Winstanley and the English Revolution (University of California Press, 1989) and American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), which won the David Easton Prize in political theory. Focusing on the language that great American critics have used to engage the racial domination at the center of American history, American Prophecy explores the relationship of prophecy and race to American nationalism and democratic politics. Professor Shulman edited Radical Future Pasts, which was released by The University Press of Kentucky in July 2014. 

Jack Schaar (July 7, 1928 - December 26, 2011) America politcal theorist and professor emeritus at UC Santa Cruz. He was a greatly admired and beloved professor. Donations made in his honor sponsor this talk. 

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