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Professor Ed McCann Holds Discussion at MOCA

The Professor of Philosophy and English discussed how the Abstract Expressionists could be viewed as critics or respondents to the social homogenization which marked the 20th century.

Professor of Philosophy and English Ed McCann
Professor of Philosophy and English Ed McCann

On Sept. 30, 2010, an audience at MOCA discussed with Professor of Philosophy and English Ed McCann how the Abstract Expressionists, in their assertion of the individual, could be viewed as critics or respondents to the social homogenization which marked the 20th century.

Taking material from his Master of Liberal Studies “Ideas on Trial” course, McCann discussed from the 1945-46 Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal and the 1961 Eichmann trials, how new concepts of “crimes against humanity” arose, crystallizing and focusing world-wide attention on the universal horror to the Nazi mobilization and bureaucracies which dehumanized life. For example, Andy Warhol’s work “200 Campbell’s Soup Cans” (1962) conveying mass production, the consumer culture, and a loss of personal identity, could be interpreted as an abstract expressionist critique of this post-World War II sense of alienation, raising our sensitivities to the threat to our individuality.  

This is just one example of the discussions that Professor McCann and his students have as they view trials as crucial indicators of society coming to terms with threatening concepts and their implications.

“I signed up for LBST 532 because the prospect of discussing ideas ranging from heresy, witchcraft, war crimes to civic duty—all within the framework of some of the great trials in history—intrigued me,” said MLS student Mischalgrace Diasanta. “My Tuesday nights are definitely challenging in a good way. Our class has discovered that Ed is a treasure-trove of knowledge. He patiently walks us through not only the complex historical conditions, but also the intellectual climate of each era. It’s also great to be part of a diverse group of people who are eager to share different thoughts and perspectives.”

Interested in exploring fascinating multidisciplinary courses of study? Register now for Master of Liberal Studies Spring 2011 courses.