LRB Winter Lectures 2010-2023

Judith Butler on who owns Kafka; Hilary Mantel on royal bodies; Andrew O’Hagan on Julian Assange; Mary Beard on women in power; Patricia Lockwood on the communal mind of the internet; Meehan Crist on childbearing in the age of climate crisis: many of our most widely discussed pieces of recent years were delivered first as LRB Winter Lectures. Book tickets for this year’s lectures here.

Eliot and the Shudder

Frank Kermode, 13 May 2010

So Eliot was sensitive to certain manifestations of the uncanny, and to terrors that might well cause shuddering. We have now to ask a more difficult question: why did those lines of In Memoriam affect Eliot so exceptionally, move him to use ‘shudder’ as a laudatory critical term?

Who Owns Kafka?

Judith Butler, 3 March 2011

The very question of where Kafka belongs is already something of a scandal given the fact that the writing charts the vicissitudes of non-belonging, or of belonging too much. Remember: he broke every engagement he ever had, he never owned an apartment, and he asked his literary executor to destroy his papers, after which that contractual relation was to have ended.

Memories of Amikejo: Europe

Neal Ascherson, 22 March 2012

In the mid-20th century the last airholes in the European pressure-vessel were sealed up, and the heat turned up high. Fortunately the vessel burst before it could reduce everything, all our cities, all our persecuted peoples, to ash. And yet even now, in diligently humane times, Europe is a place in which pressures, some creative and some destructive, repeatedly build up. 

Marx at 193

John Lanchester, 5 April 2012

Can capitalism evolve new forms to deflect the seemingly inevitable crisis, or do we need some entirely different social and economic order?

Royal Bodies

Hilary Mantel, 21 February 2013

Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment.

Destiny v. Democracy: The New Deal

David Runciman, 25 April 2013

The New Deal was fracturing, but the impetus behind it was far from over. One of the distinctive features of Ira Katznelson’s book is that he sees the New Deal period as extending well beyond the 1930s. The mid-20th century was the age of ‘fear’ and there was still plenty to be afraid of. 

Is Wagner bad for us?

Nicholas Spice, 11 April 2013

Wagner’s work is everywhere preoccupied with boundaries set and overstepped, limits reached and exceeded.

The Public Voice of Women

Mary Beard, 20 March 2014

Public speech was a – if not the – defining attribute of maleness. A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman.

Ghosting: Julian Assange

Andrew O’Hagan, 6 March 2014

It was exciting to think that no novel had ever captured this new kind of history, where military lies on a global scale were revealed by a bunch of sleepy amateurs two foot from an Aga.

On Not Going Home

James Wood, 20 February 2014

A panic suddenly overtakes me, and I wonder: how did I get here? And then the moment passes, and ordinary life closes itself around what had seemed, for a moment, a desperate lack.

The New World Disorder

Tariq Ali, 9 April 2015

The exposure of the Western world’s surveillance networks has heightened the feeling that democratic institutions aren’t functioning as they should, that, like it or not, we are living in the twilight period of democracy itself.

Against Self-Criticism

Adam Phillips, 5 March 2015

Lacan​ said that there was surely something ironic about Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbour as thyself – because actually, of course, people hate themselves. Or you could say that, given the way people treat one another, perhaps they had always loved their neighbours in the way they loved themselves.

Learning My Lesson

Marina Warner, 19 March 2015

We have a situation in which a lecturer cannot speak her mind, universities bring in the police to deal with campus protests, and graduate students cannot write publicly about what is happening.

Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity

James Meek, 18 February 2016

The wealthiest and most powerful in Europe, Australasia and North America have turned the Robin Hood myth to their advantage.

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