Enlightenment, Problem of Form Topics of McMahon Lecture

Joanna Stalnaker, associate professor of French at Columbia University, spoke on “The Disorder of Things: Description, Enlightenment, and the Problem of Form” Nov. 4 at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Her visit was sponsored by the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Lecture Series.

Stalnaker discussed her new book, The Unfinished Enlightenment, which offers an interdisciplinary perspective on the theory and practice of description in Enlightenment France. Her talk focused on the experimental literary forms invented by 18th-century describers and the challenges these posed to the Enlightenment quest to "name all things visible."

Andrew Curran, professor of romance languages and literatures, introduced the McMahon Lecturer. Curran and other faculty members on the McMahon Committee arrange for public events, like Stalnaker’s visit, that benefit the community and bring the Romance Languages and Literatures Department into public view. Inviting scholars of French, Italian, Spanish, comparative literatures and cultural studies is one of various uses of the fund.

More than 40 faculty and students attended the McMahon lecture, which was established by the late Joseph McMahon, the Hollis Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures. McMahon, who died in 1987, established this fund in honor if his parents, Catharine and Thomas McMahon. (Photos by Olivia Drake)