David Shulman, professor emeritus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, will deliver the Finzi-Contini lectures on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and Thursday, Nov. 8 under the auspices of the Whitney Humanities Center.
His talks, “Caught in the Cogs of Time (1): ‘The City of Copper’ from the ‘Thousand and One Nights’” and “Caught in the Cogs of Time (2): From Arabic to Tamil to ‘Mimosas’ of Oliver Laxe,” will take place at 5 p.m. in the auditorium, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. Wednesday’s talk will be preceded by a screening of Laxe’s film ‘Mimosas’ at 3 p.m. in the auditorium. All three events are free and open to the public.
The “City of Copper” (‘madīnat al-nuḥās’) — considered to be among the spookiest stories in the “Arabian Nights” — tells of a caravan lost in the desert and its serendipitous discovery of a forgotten city of the dead. The story has a long, continuous history in Arabic, Persian, Armenian, and in Tamil. The Tamil version by Imām al-‘Arūs (c. 1850), first recorded in the Arabic script, may well be the first appearance of modern literary prose in that language. Shulman will explore the meanings of this story in its various tellings, including Laxe’s film.
Shulman specializes in the languages and cultural history of southern India with special emphasis on Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Sanskrit. Among his publications are “More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India” (2012) and “Tamil: A Biography” (2016). He is an activist in Ta‘ayush, an Israeli-Palestinian peace and human-rights group, and the author of a new book on this subject titled “Freedom and Despair: Notes from the South Hebron Hills” (2018). He is a devotee of Carnatic and Hindustani music.
The biannual Finzi-Contini Lectureship was endowed in 1990 by the Calabresi family, including Guido Calabresi, judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former dean of Yale Law School, in memory of his mother, Bianca Maria Finzi-Contini Calabresi. Past lecturers include Umberto Eco, A.S. Byatt, Orhan Pamuk, W.S. Merwin, Azar Nafisi, Alberto Manguel, and Maxine Hong Kingston. The lectures are devoted to any aspect of European or comparative literature and culture.
For more information, contact the Whitney Humanities Center at 203-432-0670 or email email@example.com