Danny Smith & Alexandra Kleeman

Monday, March 29, 2021–6:00 PM
AAR Zoom
Central European Time
Rome, Italy
Color photograph, taken at an oblique angle, of a mosaic on the façade of Santa Maria Maggiore, showing a man with his eyes closed and another man with his eyes open

Pope Liberius dreaming on the façade of Santa Maria Maggiore, ca. 1290

Danny Smith
Where there are many dreams there are many vanities

In the 1260s the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure spoke in no uncertain terms about the danger of taking dreams too seriously. “Where there are many dreams,” he wrote, “there are many vanities, because a dream is a vanity.” Barely thirty years later, however, the façade of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was redecorated with a mosaic prominently depicting two dreaming figures: a pope and a nobleman dreaming of the Virgin instructing them to build her a church. Danny Smith’s shoptalk, part of a chapter of his dissertation “Dreaming in Public in Medieval Rome,” uses this single case study to investigate this larger paradox—the church’s willingness to simultaneously condemn the popular culture of dream imagery and dream interpretation while also relying on it for their own visual propaganda in thirteenth-century Rome.

Danny Smith is the Marian and Andrew Heiskell/Anthony M. Clark Rome Prize Fellow in Medieval Studies and a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History at Stanford University.

Alexandra Kleeman
The Taxon Cycle: A Novel

The Taxon Cycle is a quasi-utopian novel, written in five parts, about the rise and fall of money. Each section is set on a different island and in a different time period, from an Oceanic monarchy ruptured by the arrival of European explorers, to a hermetically sealed luxury bunker in a waterlogged near-future metropolis, to a Nordic community that has inadvertently reverted to subsistence farming and barter. Exploring distinct sites at which the utility and valuation of money is in flux and could be uprooted, the novel considers the island as a place where nature sets into motion “evolutionary experiments” and asks what other types of relationships between life and necessity could exist in the absence of capitalism. By exploring such transitional moments, Alexandra Kleeman hopes to give a sense of the horizons of our monetary systems, and to gesture toward other shapes our economies could take.

Alexandra Kleeman is the recipient of the John Guare Writer’s Fund Rome Prize in Literature, a gift of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman, and an assistant professor in the Department of Writing at the New School.

The shoptalks will be held in English.

Watch the video