7de Burgerhartlezing: “The Strange Birth, Life, and Death of the Genius” (Amsterdam, 15 september 2014)

darrin-mcmahon-225Op 15 september 2015, om 20u, organiseert de Werkgroep 18e Eeuw, in samenwerking met The John Adams Institute, haar zevende, jaarlijkse Burgerhartlezing.

De Burgerhartlezing zal worden gehouden door prof. dr. Darrin McMahon, Florida State University. Chris Kijne is moderator. De lezing gebeurt in het Engels en vindt plaats in de Amstelkerk (Amstelveld 10).

De toegang bedraagt €13 voor leden van de Werkgroep of The John Adams Institute, €15 voor studenten, en €19 voor niet-leden. Meer informatie, inclusief de mogelijkheid om tickets te bestellen, vindt u op de website van The John Adams Institute.

The Strange Birth, Life, and Death of the Genius

In this talk, Darrin M. McMahon will draw on his new book Divine Fury: A History of Genius to discuss the birth of the genius as a figure of widespread fascination in the Age of Enlightenment and his subsequent life and death in the context of what Europeans in the early 20th century described as “the religion of genius.”  Replete with its own reliquaries and pilgrimage sites, iconography and cult of the dead, the religion of genius steadily acquired acolytes from the eighteenth century, when the modern genius was born, incarnated in the likes of Newton and Napoleon, and drawing on themes developed since antiquity.

Genius enthusiasts fed the cult in the decades that followed, emboldened by Romantic doctrines and an extensive scientific literature that attributed superhuman powers to nature’s chosen—powers of prophecy, redemption, creation, and destruction—that were allegedly bound up with race and blood, and that could be captured, it was claimed, in the dimensions of skulls and the measure of the IQ.  Such enthusiasts prepared the way for the religion of genius’s terrible abuse in the 20th century by totalitarian regimes, above all the Nazis, as well as the genius’s redemption by Einstein, the last of the titans.  Ranging from the ancients to the moderns, from poets to the whiz kids of Silicon Valley, McMahon will seek to question what genius has meant to us, and what it still might mean today. 

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