The novelist Helen DeWitt, the author of two masterpieces of contemporary fiction, The Last Samurai (2000) and Lightning Rods (2011), will give a talk at Artists Space this Sunday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. The nonprofit said in a press release that “it was not easy” to get Ms. DeWitt–who is known in the publishing world for being a bit eccentric–to appear, but she did eventually agree. She said the title of the talk would be along the lines of: “The Phileas Fogg Club Sex, Suicide, Statistics & the New Situationism Sex, Suicide, Social Machines: Rational Whist & the New Situationism Deschapelles, Derrida, Debord: Debugging the System of Signs.“
Here’s more from Ms. DeWitt, courtesy of Artists Space:
Mallarmé thought it was the business of the poet to purify the dialect of the tribe. Early Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle thought purification was the business of the philosopher. (Ask of any sentence: What does this MEAN? If it has no truth value, it is meaningless.) Late Wittgenstein and J L Austin made purity look like a red herring: if the meaning of a word is how it is used, we can describe language games and speech acts, but only an idiot (surely) would think this raw material for purification. And if we look at the intellectual and artistic developments of the C20: Modernism -> Postmodernism -> Postpost…Structuralism -> Poststructuralism, we find, what, something like display of impotence in the face of chaos.
Well, there you have it. I guess. I honestly can’t tell you what to expect from this one, folks, but Ms. DeWitt is always interesting.