The Manic Moment
Davide Stimilli’s project focuses on the concept of mania, which he reclaims as a key interpretive category for our time. He argues that mania has been disregarded as the negative pole in an antithesis that has mostly favored its opposite, melancholia. He aims to redress that imbalance and harness the theoretical potential of mania as the engine of creativity and a necessary mediation between the life of the mind and the instinctual drives that culture struggles to reconcile. Mania has long had a “bad” name in opposition to melancholia, which became a valued commodity in the intellectual vocabulary of the 1960s, especially in the wake of Aby Warburg’s and Walter Benjamin’s rediscovery. Stimilli’s goal is to give mania back its “good” name. Hence, his title refers both to the current historical moment, which has been aptly characterized as reflecting “a culture of mania,” and to the concomitant currency that the concept of mania has recently been enjoying, which may suggest that mania’s moment has indeed arrived.
Davide Stimilli (Ph.D., Yale University, Comparative Literature) is Associate Professor of German, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the author of Fisionomia di Kafka and The Face of Immortality: Physiognomy and Criticism; the editor of Aby Warburg’s clinical history Die unendliche Heilung (translated into Italian, French, and Spanish) and a selection of his writings, “Per Monstra ad Sphaeram”: Sternglaube und Bilddeutung. Vortrag in Gedenken an Franz Boll und andere Schriften 1923 bis 1925. Stimilli is the recipient of fellowships at the Warburg Institute London, the Center for Literary and Cultural Research in Berlin, the Center for Philosophy at the University of Tokyo, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, and the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University. His interests include literary criticism and theory, intellectual history, art theory, and film studies.
ed., with Chantal Marazia, Ludwig Binswanger, Aby Warburg, Die unendliche Heilung. Aby Warburgs Krankengeschichte, Zürich/Berlin 2007; The Face of Immortality: Physiognomy and Criticism, Albany 2005; Fisionomia di Kafka, Torino 2001.
This lecture considers August Sander’s photographic portrait of German society, People of the Twentieth Century, as an implicit rebuke of Leo Frobenius’s anthropological stance and as a seminal monument for our self(ie)-obsessed “manic age.”