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Alienated Awareness: Mindfulness Paradigms of Modernist Aesthetics | a virtual lecture by Professor Michael Subialka
May 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm PDT
Is modern alienation necessarily a source of dehumanized angst? In this presentation I examine a perhaps unexpected way in which mindfulness practices and theory can serve as a paradigm of modernist aesthetics. This different paradigm helps us reconceive the nature and function of alienation (and it cognate forms – estrangement, distance, etc.) in modernist literature and art. Forms of alienation, from dehumanization and distance to grotesque distortion or critical estrangement, have long been viewed as a hallmark of modernist production. My contention is that if we adopt a view of modernist aesthetics that understands it as a particular (aesthetic) instantiation of mindfulness practice, it becomes possible to reconceive the function of these forms of alienation. Simultaneously, that practice can be situated in relation to multiple and conflicting theorizations drawn from varied traditions spanning Buddhist meditation and Christian contemplation to occult mysticism and scientific naturalism. Looking at the practice and theory of mindful presence together, I argue that some forms of modernist alienation may actually align spiritual traditions with critical efforts to shift modern conditions by seeing the world anew.
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