As we approach the first week of lectures in the 2014–15 LSU College of Art & Design—Guy Nordenson, 2014–15 Nadine Carter Russell Chair in architecture will lecture on Monday, October 6, and artist Kurt Kauper on Wednesday, October 8—we wanted to take a moment to share a student’s review of one of last year’s lectures by French historian and member of the Académie française, Marc Fumaroli. Ariston Ross is studying journalism at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication and expects to graduate in May 2017. Enamored with the experience—and the fact that he got the chance to meet Fumaroli before the lecture—Ross volunteered to write this review, which serves as a humble reminder of the impact the college’s visiting lecturers have on the university as a whole.
The invitation to attend lectures is always open to students, faculty, alumni, staff, and friends of LSU and all members of the community. You can view the 2014–15 LSU College of Art & Design Lecture Series schedule here or watch past lectures online.
Mark Fumaroli Lecture Review by Ariston Ross
“Immortals” are what the members of the French Academy are called. I had the pleasure of personally meeting Mark Fumaroli, an “Immortal,” twice, and shaking his hand.
The first occasion was just before the doors opened to his presentation in the Union Theater. I was waiting, alone, on the first floor when he entered. Immediately, all the students in the building stopped what they were doing to watch, whether or not they knew who he was. As he approached the bench where I sat, I straightened my back. He seemed like the kind of man you wanted to impress. I approached him carefully, introducing myself and showing him the copy of his presentation that I was reading.
“How are you not bored to death?” he joked through a heavy French accent. He laughed a full and hearty laugh that I would come to hear again the next day. He then moved to admire a nearby advertisement for the Union Theater’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
It was because of this chance encounter that I received Professor Fumaroli’s lecture the way that I did. For now, I took my seat like everyone else and waited for his lecture to begin. Unlike everyone else, though, I had met him. I spoke to him personally. Thus, I viewed him more as a down-to-earth person and less as a scholarly figure or an enigmatic speaker.
He began by apologizing for his English, and said that he regrets Napoleon’s decision to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States. The rest of his presentation was very much a work of art in itself, drawing from both classical and contemporary sources. He discussed what it meant for art to be beautiful, and pitted “the conceptualization of art by aestheticians, such as Burke and Kant,” against the importance of personal taste and “the experience of the Beautiful as encountered in the sensory world.” He concluded with a quote from the philosopher Paul Valéry: “the Aesthetics of the Metaphysicians demanded that one separate Beauty from beautiful things.” I left the theater with a deeper appreciation for art and a better understanding of aesthetics.
The next day when Fumaroli came to my colloquium in the arts class, his tone was much more conversational. It gave me and my classmates a chance to ask the questions we had been saving and the questions that might have just arisen. It was not only informative but fun; Fumaroli’s knowledge, from what I gathered, was matched by his sense of humor.
All in all, I took a lot from the Fumaroli lecture. He exhibited an air of knowledge and pride that was matched by the modesty of being in a foreign land. He spoke carefully and beautifully, yet thanks to my fateful experience on the evening of his lecture, I could further appreciate what it meant for him to come all this way for the betterment of our education.