RCID Ph.D. students A.D. Carson and Matthew Osborn spent three weeks at the European Graduate School (EGS) in Saas-Fee, Switzerland to attend the June Summer Session there, high in the Alps. The two students were privileged to attend seminars with Visiting Professor to Columbia, Princeton, The New School, NYU, and U of Michigan Slavoj Žižek, New York University Global Distinguished Professor Boris Groys, University of Texas Austin Professor Diane Davis, and RCID Program Director Victor Vitanza, among others, and were treated to evening lectures with Simon Critchley, Benjamin Bratton, Samuel Weber, and more. The experience far exceeded anticipations, and gave Carson and Osborn new ways to think about their studies at Clemson and beyond.
Once they arrived in the village—traveling via Zürich, then rail, then bus—the two attended their first and “irreducible” seminar on the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas with Davis. The intimate and profoundly affecting six days involved, among other things, the subject’s “response-ability” to the Other and the need to weather its disturbance. The afternoons of this first week were spent with Vitanza, with whom students in the Media and Communication Division at EGS studied the thought of Jean-François Lyotard. Particularly memorable was the demonstration of Möbius strip, a topological object that has neither an outside nor an inside. How might this object come to be seen as a metaphor for the potentialities of discourse, the group wondered, when traditional critique doesn’t work?
In a seminar with Groys, the students explored “the end of history,” avant-garde movements, and aestheticizations of politics. Walking down “the hill” from Steinmatte one afternoon, Matthew shared the plans for his dissertation on surprise and surprises with the professor. Groys, author of the recently translated-into-English study of artistic novelty On the New, stopped in his tracks to caution the young scholar: “It is very hard to surprise.”
In addition to his seminar on “The Contingency of Necessity,” Slavoj Žižek posed the [still unanswered] question to A.D. if Hip-Hop can be subversive. A perspective is that its existence at EGS hints at a response. Žižek later requested to hear samples of A.D.’s “shitty music,” which the artist gladly provided. See a music video created in Saas-Fee by Carson and a few colleagues below:
Carson has also completed an entire mixtape entitled “Summer Session,” which is accessible on SoundCloud.
Somewhere in the daze, Matthew experienced the first day of his twenty seventh year on the planet. His friends from home even managed to make an appearance in spirit by treating him to the hotel restaurant’s finest offerings—all the way from North Carolina! The gesture prompted a “back up” the likes of which he had never experienced, and he thereupon burst into infinitesimals. Speaking of fragments, Osborn created several videos during the trip using the application Vine, which are strung together below:
It’s tough to conclude this story, which is in some ways still ongoing. Many questions and challenges of the trip remain for the students open queries to be addressed in future thinkings, projects, and dissertations. Carson and Osborn thank the RCID Program, Clemson University, Victor Vitanza, Diane Davis, and everyone at EGS for making the experience possible and unforgettable.