Arts and Culture

White Canvases and Silent Music

How fungible are artistic kinds?

The nineteenth-century notion of poésie pure -- or poetry without any prosaic elements -- led to a general attempt to "purify" art. Daniel Albright, the Ernst Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University, and a Nina Maria Gorrissen Fellow at the Academy this fall, believes that the belief that art is independent of any material medium (pigment, stone, word, musical pitch) tends to lead to an extreme purism in which the blank page, the white canvas, and silence become interchangeable limit-cases. Mallarmé, Malevich, and Cage, in other words, may turn out to be the same artist.

To watch the full video of Albright's lecture, please click on the video to the right, or here.