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Date & Time

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
6:00 PM


Seminary Co-op Bookstore


Free and open to the public

More Information


Seminary Co-op Bookstore
(773) 752-4381


Susan Stewart discusses "The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture" in conversation with Rosanna Warren. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

At the Co-op

About the book: How have ruins become so valued in Western culture, and so central to our art and literature? Covering a vast chronological and geographical range, from ancient Egyptian inscriptions to twentieth-century memorials, Susan Stewart seeks to answer this question as she traces the appeal of ruins and ruins images, and the lessons that writers and artists have drawn from their haunting forms.

Stewart takes us on a sweeping journey through founding legends of broken covenants and original sin, the Christian appropriation of the classical past, myths and rituals of fertility, images of decay in early modern allegory and melancholy, and new gardens built with ancient fragments. She focuses particularly on Renaissance humanism and Romanticism as periods of intense interest in ruins that also offer new frames for their perception. And she looks in depth at the works of Goethe, Piranesi, Blake, and Wordsworth, each of whom found in ruins a means of reinventing his art. Lively and engaging, "The Ruins Lesson" ultimately asks what can resist ruination—and finds in the self-transforming, ever-fleeting practices of language and thought a clue to what might truly endure.

About the Author: Susan Stewart is the Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University and a former MacArthur Fellow. Among her many books of prose are "On Longing," "The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics," "Poetry and the Fate of the Senses," and "The Poet’s Freedom: A Notebook on Making." Her books of poems include "Columbarium," winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and "Cinder: New and Selected Poems."

About the Interlocutor: Rosanna Warren teaches at the University of Chicago. She is the author of four books of poetry, most recently "Departure" (2003), and "Ghost in a Red Hat" (2011). She has published a book of literary criticism and edited a volume of essays about translation, and has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, The American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Lila Wallace Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New England Poetry Club, among others. Her newest collection of poems, "So Forth," is due for publication in May 2020.