In the works of the provocative writer Thomas Bernhard, the humanist educational model we have inherited from the 19th century is subjected to a wholesale critique. This lecture seeks to trace both the literal places and the metaphorical spaces in Bernhard’s prose that give rise to an alternative educational model. From the cabinet of curiosities of Castle Ambras to designs of the Visionary Architects of the 1960s (Hollein, Pichler), from the Art History Museum Vienna to the Wittgenstein House, Bernhard interrogates the foundations of the post-1945 educational system and its actual sites. Both material rooms and immaterial atmospheres are the prerequisite for a person’s engagement with the in- and outside world. These become the precondition for thinking outside the box. Bernhard forces us to ask, thus, whether our entire educational model might be considered erroneous, our ‘Bildungsweg’ misleading. How do the spaces and places through which we move help—and hinder—our educational trajectory?
Fatima Naqvi is professor of German and Film Studies at Rutgers University, where she teaches courses on European film and German literature. Her research interests include Austrian authors and filmmakers of the post-1945 period, the intersection of fine art and literature, dilettantism and the theorization of interdisciplinarity. She is author of The Literary and Cultural Rhetoric of Victimhood: Western Europe 1970-2005 (Palgrave, 2007); Trügerische Vertrautheit: Filme von Michael Haneke (Synema, 2010); and How We Learn Where We Live: A Book about Thomas Bernhard, Architecture, and Bildung (Northwestern UP, 2016). Her current project focuses on the concept of Fremdschämen and the works of Ulrich Seidl, Erwin Wurm, and Elfriede Jelinek.
The lecture is part of the ICI Lecture Series ERRANS. The English verb ‘to err’ has largely lost its positive connotations. It no longer invokes wandering, rambling, or roaming, and is now understood negatively in relation to a prescribed path or goal. To be sure, errors are acknowledged to play an important role in the pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but usually only to the extent that their recognition allows for their elimination, correction, and avoidance. Recognizing that a critique of ideals of productivity, success, goal-orientation, and determination is necessarily paradoxical, the lecture series takes the shifting meanings of ‘erring’ – connoting the violation of norms as well as the activity of wandering – as a prompt to explore the critical potentials and risks of embracing error, randomness, failure, and non-teleological temporalities, and to do so across different disciplines and discourses.