Seminar Topic for 1999—2000: “Rethinking Time”


The Center for Humanities and the Arts is pleased to announce that its theme for the 1999-2000 academic year will be "Rethinking Time." In conjunction with this theme, the Center will conduct a year-long faculty and graduate student seminar, host a series of lectures, and hold a Spring Colloquium. We invite all members of the CU community to join in a broad, interdisciplinary conversation focused on the ways we construct and use our notions of time.

With the millennial year of 2000 fast approaching, we want to slow down and to think--or rather, rethink-- about time. As the debates over whether or not January 1, 2000 marks the beginning of a new millennium suggest, time, while one of the most obvious features of everyday life, is also a problem, a question. Time--as the key conceptual frame for history, as a perennial philosophical question, as a subject of poetry, as tied to the very medium of artistic performance--is an issue that has evoked responses across the humanities and the arts. We believe that time will provide us with an important area of inquiry that can be engaged from a wide variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.

Rather than offer here a brief history of time, we provide a list of possible issues that could be raised by the work of the seminar. This list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive.

  • What is the difference between the way different disciplines consider time? Does time mean the same thing when we discuss historical time, geological time, cosmic time?
  • How is time constructed in different historical times?
  • How is time conceived by different cultures? Different groups within the same culture?
  • What is the impact of notions of period and periodicity upon our understanding of the arts and humanities?
  • How do we organize time? Do we have a sense of beginning and end or do we simply live in the midst of time?
  • How do millennial years and other comparable chronological events affect our sense of lived time or historical time?
  • How do we think about notions of timelessness? of eternity?
  • How do we think about psychological time? lived time?
  • How does memory--its tricks and powers--affect our sense of time.
  • How do particular formulations of cultural time--for example, the Middle Ages or Modernity--affect our understanding of cultural history and particular cultural objects.
  • How do we think about the competing demands--intellectual, ethical, aesthetic--of the present, the past, and the future? What are the uses and abuses of historical thinking?
  • How do we tell time? What impact do technological changes have on our concepts of time?


  • Claire Farago: Associate Professor, Department of Fine Arts
  • Lee Chambers-Schiller: Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Rebecca French: Associate Professor, School of Law
  • Alan Lester: Instructor and Research Associate, Department of Geological Sciences
  • Keith Waters: Assistant Professor, College of Music
  • Michael Fitch: PhD Candidate, Department of English
  • Shari Fox: PhD Candidate, Department of Geography
  • Priya Jha: PhD Candidate, Department of Comparative Literature
  • Mick Khoo: MA Candidate, Department of Anthropology
  • Michelle Spencer: MFA Candidate, Department of Fine Arts

Colloquium Program:

Thursday, March 2

1:00 Opening of the Colloquium: Jeffrey N. Cox, Director, CHA Welcome:
Peter Spear, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

1:15 Panel 1: Time and Place
Chair: Dennis McGilvray (CU-Boulder)
Dana Leibsohn (Smith College), "The Sway of the World: Time and Belonging in Colonial Mexico"
Shari Fox (CU-Boulder), "Uvvatiaru: Time and the Inuit"
Mick Khoo (CU-Boulder), "Tourism as Time Travel"
Priya Jha (CU-Boulder), "Spectacular Nationalisms:
Freezing the Past, Freezing the Future, and Creating a History of the Present"

3:00 Break

3:30 Panel 2: History and Time
Chair: Philip Deloria (CU-Boulder)
Claire Farago (CU-Boulder), "How Historians Tell time: A Short Story About Cultural Memory"
Lee Chambers-Schiller (CU-Boulder), "August 6, 1945--the Day that Time Stood Still . . . or Not: Time and America's Nuclear Narrative"
Viviane Namaste (University of Quebec), "Work and Time: The Role of Labour in an Oral History of Montreal's Transsexual Communities"

5:00 First Keynote Address: Dominick LaCapra (Cornell U)

"Writing History, Writing Trauma"
Introduction: Paul Gordon (CU-Boulder)


February 26-March 2

Photo exhibit by Karen Evenson
"Time Pieces: Birds, Butterflies, and Fishes; Metaphors for Timeless Afterlives"
Open to the public in the display space across from Special Collections, Norlin Library 345

Friday, March 3

9:00 Panel 3: Theorizing Time
Chair: Merrill Lessley (CU-Boulder)
Alan Lester (CU-Boulder), "Geology, History, and the Age of Earth: It's About Time"
Michael Fitch (CU-Boulder), "Time's Arrows, Time's Subject: Mapping, Discipline, Control"
Ursula Heise (Columbia U), "The Seventh Generation: Technology, Ecology and Time"

10:30 Break

11:00 Second Keynote Address: Catherine Gallagher (U of California, Berkeley) "Undoing: Time Travel, Counterfactuals, and Affirmative Action"
Introduction: Sue Zemka (CU-Boulder)

Lunch on your own

2:00 Panel 4: Performing Time
Chair: Janice Peck (CU-Boulder)
Keith Waters (CU-Boulder), "Temporal Structure in Jazz Music; or, The Myth of the Eternal Return"
Rebecca French (CU-Boulder), "Law and Time"
Michelle Spencer (CU-Boulder),"Godel: Proof and Fashion"

3:30 Break

4:00 Third Keynote Address:Jonathan Kramer (Columbia U), "Time and the Postmodern Composer"
Introduction: Steven Bruns (CU-Boulder)

There will also be a performance of Jonathan Kramer's works:

for Clarinet, Violin and Piano:
Daniel Silver, clarinet
Jennifer John, violin
Andrew Cooperstock, piano

("WHIRLED PIECE") (1997):
Deborah Bradley, piano

Alexa Still, flute, alto flute and piccolo
Daniel Silver, clarinet and bass clarinet
Jennifer John, violin
Erika Eckert, viola
Judith Glyde, cello
David Shuey, piano

Saturday, March 4

9:30 am: "Black Holes and Relativity"
CU Planetarium