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German Studies Lecture Series: Benjamin Lewis Robinson

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Join us for the next meeting of the German Studies Lecture Series, featuring a talk by Benjamin Robinson.

Jelinek’s Infrastructural Theater

How can one bring infrastructure onto the stage? Jelinek’s current theatrical work seeks to come to terms with an insight as mundane as it is fundamental: modern theater – like modern politics, like modern life in general – depends on infrastructure and is, to a considerable degree, informed by it. In this talk, Robinson will consider “You bet!” (Aber sicher!), one of the theater texts that Jelinek collected under the title Economy-Comedy (Wirtschaftskomödie). Robinson reads it in relation to a contemporary turn in social theory that is preoccupied with the politics and aesthetics of infrastructure. Taking up the case of the cross-border leasing of the Viennese sewage system to an American conglomerate, Jelinek’s play ridicules the finance economy as it degrades the infrastructure on which “we” all depend in a laughable form of “primitive accumulation.” Written in response to the 2008 financial crisis, “You bet!” traces the canalization that underlies the current political scene in what might be called the comedy of neoliberalism.

Benjamin Lewis Robinson is Assistant Professor of German at NYU. His research and teaching focus on the intersections of critical theory and literature with postcolonial, biopolitical, and ecological concerns. His first book, Bureaucratic Fanatics: Modern Literature and the Passions of Rationalization (2019), treats the literary engagement with the bureaucratic transformation of life in the long nineteenth century. He is working on a second book, States of Need / States of Emergency, on German political theater from Hölderlin to Jelinek. He is also preparing a book on J. M. Coetzee’s fiction and its misgivings about the eurocentrism of the literary tradition. Ben co-edited a recent special issue of The Germanic Review titled “Schuld (guilt/debt) in the Anthropocene” and the volume The Work of World Literature (2021). Prior to joining NYU, Robinson was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the LMU Munich. He taught for several years in the Department of German at the University of Vienna and was Postdoctoral Fellow at the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry.

Lunch will be provided. RSVP here to ensure we have an accurate count.

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