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This Mortal Coil: April 10-11, 2007


The world . . . is corporeal, that is to say, body, and hath the dimensions of magnitude, namely, length, breadth, and depth: also every part of body, is likewise body, and hath the like dimensions; and consequently every part of the universe is body, and that which is not body, is no part of the universe: and because the universe is all, that which is no part of it, is nothing; and consequently no where.

- Thomas Hobbes

Man consists of two parts, his mind and his body, only the body has more fun.                            

 - Woody Allen

The stories in "The Thousand and One Nights" . . . are stories about storytelling without ever ceasing to be stories about love and life and death and money and food and other human necessities.  Narration is as much a part of human nature as breath and the circulation of the blood.  Modernist literature tried to do away with storytelling, which it thought vulgar, replacing it with flashbacks, epiphanies, streams of consciousness.  But storytelling is intrinsic to biological time, which we cannot escape.  Life, Pascal said, is like living in a prison from which every day fellow prisoners are taken away to be executed.  We are all, like Scheherazade, under sentence of death, and we all think of our lives as narratives, with beginnings, middles, and ends."

- A. Byatt

To be human is to be in the tense condition of a death-foreseeing, consciously libidinous animal.  No other earthly creature suffers such a capacity for thought, such a complexity of envisioned but frustrated possibilities, such a troubling ability to question the tribal and biological imperatives.

- John Updike

Ultimately what draws us to a work of art is not just the sensory experience of the medium but its emotional content and insight into the human condition.  And these tap into the timeless tragedies of our biological predicament: our mortality, our finite knowledge and wisdom and the differences among us, and our conflicts of interest with friends, neighbors, relatives and lovers.  All are topics of the sciences of human nature.

 - Steven Pinker

The Greeks' concern with immortality grew out of their experience of an immortal nature and immortal gods which together surrounded the individual lives of mortal men.  Imbedded in a cosmos where everything was immortal, mortality became the hallmark of human existence.  Men are "the mortals," the only mortal things in existence, because unlike animals they do not exist only as members of a species whose immortal life is guaranteed through procreation.  The mortality of men lies in the fact that individual life, with a recognizable life-story from birth to death, rises out of biological life.  This individual life is distinguished from all other things by the rectilinear course of its movement, which, so to speak, cuts through the circular movement of biological life.  This is mortality: to move along a rectilinear line in a universe where everything, if it moves at all, moves in a cyclical order.

- Hannah Arendt


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Conference Coordinators:

Anuj Aggarwal
Elysse Applebaum
Lisa M. Carrillo
Nathan Dahlin
Leilani Dimond
Sarah Dubina
Aakriti Garg
Paul Harold
Courtney Lynch
Brenda Nuyen
Veronica Renov
Cynthia Schuessler
Emily Shearer
Matias Sueldo