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Panel Discussion: Čapek's R.U.R. in Our Rationalized World

Date: 01 October 2015 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Venue: American University

American University, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Czech Republic, will present the panel discussion Čapek's R.U.R. in Our Rationalized World in the Battelle-Tompkins Atrium on October 1, at 6 pm.

Panel Discussion: Čapek's R.U.R. in Our Rationalized World

Panel Discussion: Čapek's R.U.R. in Our Rationalized World

Ninety-five years ago, Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. first introduced the word "robot" into science fiction, forever altering the shape of our dreams and nightmares about the future. Yet the image of the robot encompasses many versions of the future and reflects as many ideas about what it means to be human. This complex reflexivity of the trope of the robot, which is both the Other that defines the human and humanity's more-than-human double, is central in Čapek’s play. This panel will explore why R.U.R. is still relevant nearly a century after its premiere, considering various dimensions of the play and its reception including science fiction and the question of genre, social anxieties surrounding labor and technology in an increasingly rationalized world, and the transnational legacy of Čapek’s language.         

The event is part of the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2015 - Karel Čapek.           
For additional information about the festival, please visit www.mutualinspirations.org.

Despina Kakoudaki, Associate Professor, American University

Carl Gelderloos, Assistant Professor, Binghamton University (SUNY)
Anna Horakova, Ph.D. Candidate, Cornell University
Robert Řehák, Cultural Attaché, Czech Embassy
Evan Torner, Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati


DATE: October 1, 2015, 6 pm

RSVP by Sept. 28

Location: Battelle-Tompkins Atrium
American University, Battelle Tomkins Memorial Building
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016
https://www.american.edu/m/location/?loc=10012 (Map of location)

(Parking information, campus map)

After 5 pm, parking on campus is free  and no permit is required.
The closest parking to the Battelle-Tompkins Memorial Building would be:
1.) American University's School of International Service Building. The entrance is off of Nebraska Avenue.
2.) Bender Arena - Enter from Massachusetts Avenue and drive under Mary Graydon Center. You will make a sharp right then into the parking garage.


Despina Kakoudaki teaches interdisciplinary courses in literature and film, visual culture, and the history of technology and new media. Her interests include cultural studies, science fiction, apocalyptic narratives, and the representation of race and gender in literature and film. She completed her doctorate in Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, and taught at Berkeley and at Harvard University before joining AU. She has published articles on robots and cyborgs, race and melodrama in action and disaster films, body transformation and technology in early film, the political role of the pin-up in World War II, and the representation of the archive in postmodern fiction. She has also co-edited a collection of essays on the work of Pedro Almodovar with Brad Epps (University of Minnesota Press, 2009). Her new book, titled Anatomy of a Robot: Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People, was published by Rutgers University Press in 2014. 

Carl Gelderloos grew up in the nearby suburbs of the Capital Wasteland. In 2014, he received a Ph.D. in German Studies from Cornell University with a dissertation on cultural narratives of technology in Weimar Germany, a project he is currently reworking as a book-length manuscript. Since September 2014, he has worked at Binghamton University, where he teaches courses on German language and literature, Weimar-era visual culture, and transnational science fiction, among other topics. He has published articles on Alfred Döblin, New Vision photography, and East German Science Fiction literature.

Anna Horakova is interested in the theories of the avant-garde, literature and culture of the Weimar Republic, post-1945 German and Austrian literature, Marxist thought, and visual studies.  She is writing a dissertation on the "unofficial" culture of the German Democratic Republic and its ties to artistic dissent in the former Eastern Bloc.

Evan Torner (Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst) is an Assistant Professor of German at the University of Cincinnati, having spent 2013-2014 at Grinnell College as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. He has published articles pertaining to East Germany, critical race theory, DEFA Indianerfilme, science-fiction, transnational genre cinema, and game studies, as well as co-edited several books. His volume Immersive Gameplay: Essays on Role-Playing and Participatory Media co-edited with William J. White was published with McFarland Publishing in 2012, and he is one of the founding editors of the Analog Game Studies journal (http://analoggamestudies.org). His major projects underway include the Handbook of East German Cinema: The DEFA Legacy, co-edited with Henning Wrage and under contract with Walter De Gruyter, and a monograph entitled A Century and Beyond: Critical Readings of German Science-Fiction Cinema.

Robert Řehák is Cultural Attaché at the Czech Embassy in Washington, DC and a published scholar of biblical proper names and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is proficient in five languages (Czech, English, Hebrew, German and Russian). He studied at Charles University in Prague, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He holds a doctorate from Charles University and has lectured at New York University in Prague. He was President of the Society of Christians and Jews in the Czech Republic from 2000-2005 and thereafter served as Cultural and Press Attaché at the Czech Embassy in Israel. In recent years, he gave several lectures about Franz Kafka and Karel Čapek.