UC Berkeley News


Faculty Research Lecturer Martin Jay to speak Feb. 28
His subject: 'The Virtues of Mendacity'

21 February 2007

When, if ever, is it defensible to lie in the political arena? In the first of two 2007 Faculty Research Lectures, historian Martin Jay will canvass the arguments that have been made since Plato's defense of the "noble lie," and provide a fresh way to consider the functions of mendacity. Jay's talk, "The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics," is at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, in the Bancroft Hotel, 2680 Bancroft Way. A specialist in modern European intellectual history, critical theory, and visual culture, Jay has taught at Berkeley since receiving his doctorate at Harvard in 1971.

Martin Jay
Describing Jay at last spring's Academic Senate meeting, where the 2007 lecturers were announced, Professor of Art History T. J. Clark referred to his wide international reputation. "It really is the case," he said, "that the words 'critical theory' and 'Martin Jay' are perceived as going together . throughout the world of the humanities." His "crystal clear," "judicious," and "level-headed" books, Clark said, are "rightly seen as indispensable for anyone seeking to understand this central thread in 20th-century thought. [Jay is] a writer always open to new subjects, and utterly impatient of specialization." As illustration, Clark cited Downcast Eyes, Jay's book on 20th-century suspicion of the visual, and his recent involvement in new-media studies, which is likely to result in "an account of the territory [from Jay] which will immediately seem the guide we were waiting for."

The history department's Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor, Jay has been published widely. His books include The Dialectical Imagination (1973 and 1996), Marxism and Totality (1984), Adorno (1984), Permanent Exiles (1985), Fin-de-Siecle Socialism (1989), Force Fields (1993), Downcast Eyes (1993), Cultural Semantics (1998), Refractions of Violence (2003), and Songs of Experience (2004). He has won fellowships from, among others, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center. His work has been recognized with the American Historical Association's Herbert Baxter Adams Award and the Scientific Prize of the Aby Warburg Institute in Hamburg; in 1996, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has written a semiannual column for Salmagundi since l987, and his work has been translated into 22 languages.

Each year the Berkeley Academic Senate celebrates research excellence by honoring two faculty members whose work they hold in high esteem. Mathematician Vaughan Jones will deliver the second 2007 Faculty Research Lecture on Wednesday, March 7. For details on the series, see www.urel.berkeley.edu/faculty.

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