H. Peter Steeves
“In the Shadow of Truth: The Philosophy and Fine Art of Faking the Facts”
At the start of Western civilization there is Socrates warning us that all we take to be true might be nothing more than ephemeral shadows deviously cast on the wall of a cave in which we are all being held prisoner. So separated from the facts are we that we gleefully wallow in our ignorance inside the cave, unaware of our own incarceration and sad state of obliviousness. In practically the same breath, Socrates then warns us that art is always on the side of the jailer, always a lie the separates us further from enlightenment, blocking our escape to the outside world. Our knowledge is a false knowledge of shadows; our culture creates art that is a series of deceptive fictions. This, then, is our intellectual heritage. Today, in an age of worries about fake news, we continue to carry with us concerns about artists’ relation to truth, a shadow government’s relation to what is exposed in the mainstream media, the fake’s relation to the fact. In this presentation—which will include music, dance performances, magic, and stage illusions that will push the boundaries of the believable—we will investigate touchstones in popular culture from Damien Hirst to Disney’s “Peter Pan,” from Orson Welles to “Saturday Night Live,” all in an effort to find the point at which veracity emerges, though always with an eye toward championing the artist and the underdog, always giving the conman his due, and always keeping open the possibility that sometimes the shadow might very well hold more truth than the light.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
“‘Keep Your Swords Above the Mire!’: A Reconsideration of the Groundbreaking 1975 DC Comics Series Beowulf”
Jarret Keene explores how Beowulf: Dragon Slayer, written by then-college professor Michael Uslan, extends and enriches the saga of the protagonist of the Old English poem by situating the title character within a larger universe of myth, literature, religion, and popular culture.