Susan Stewart

The Ruins Lesson

 This talk and open discussion is taken from Stewart's new study, The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2020). There she traces, from classical texts to twentieth-century monuments, the Western fascination with ruins and asks why, paradoxically, ruins and ruination have became central to our aesthetics, including the practices of painters, print-makers, poets, and architectural theorists. In her talk at MIT, Stewart will discuss some of the ways ruins images from the early 16th century through the anticomanie of the eighteenth-century veered between the abstractions of allegory and the pursuit of archaeological certainty.

Susan Stewart

The poet, critic, and translator Susan Stewart is the Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Princeton University. She is the author of many books of prose, including On Longing, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, The Open Studio: Essays in Art and Aesthetics, and The Poet's Freedom. Her books of poetry include Columbarium, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and her recent Cinder: New and Selected Poems. She is a former MacArthur Fellow, Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Berlin Prize Fellow, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Note about the Room Location: Room 3-133: Entering from 77 Massachusetts Avenue, go straight across the lobby (building 7) and through the double doors to the Infinite Corridor. Turn right just before the stairs. Room 3-133 will be on the right side of the hallway, just after the restrooms. There are two doors into the lecture hall. If you are arriving late, please enter through the rear door, up the small flight of stairs.