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Tag "Geoff Lehman"
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Geoff with Leonardo

Geoff Lehman with Leonardo (credit: Geoff Lehman)

Once, in a seminar of the Representation class with Geoff, I made a comment about the painting that we were discussing by reading a passage that I wrote on my notebook before I came to the class. He appreciated the comment but insisted that I voiced my impression on the painting at that very moment. I asked him why my present impression matter so much, he gave me a rather interesting response:

Well, put it like this, in a psychoanalytic setting, the therapist is much more interested in how the patient describes her dream at the very moment, instead of what she wrote down in her dream journal. In a similar way, I think its more valuable that you talk about your immediate reaction to the painting, rather than what you wrote down in the past.

This is what I consider as one of the greatest examples of how one integrates different approaches/disciplines in a classroom discussion. With that in mind, lets begin our interview:

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liberal arts

Geoff Lehman presenting a detail from Pieter Breugel the Elder’s Via Crucis. (Credit: Tamar Maare)

It is likely that the words “Liberal Arts Education Panel” have been swimming through  your subconscious as of late. These words were printed onto pretty paper flyers placed around campus within your easy view; they made the difficult but certain journey through cyberspace – presumably from the P98a admin building, in the form of magical stardust – all the way to your inbox. They have now come to rest at the forefront of your mind, treading the unknowable waters of your conscious, where they run the risk of being carried by different streams of thought to the back of your mind unless you hold on tight and follow me in this unexpected and unprecedented Liberal Arts journey.

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This post originally appeared on Public Seminar. Republished with their kind permission. 


Pieter Breugel the Elder, “Via Crucis”. (Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien)

Earlier this month, Susan Henking, President of Shimer College (my alma mater), wrote for Public Seminar what she called “my educated hope for Shimer and for liberal education,” a hope “rooted in a criticism of the ways we have been commodified, [forced to] meet our budgets… empowered and disempowered as institutions and individuals by government and economics.” Specifically, Susan finds hope in the way “our” kind of education (at Shimer and other liberal arts colleges, such as Bard College Berlin) cultivates a culture of “engagement with text, with others in the classroom and beyond, and [a] willingness to question everything,” which she believes can be the basis for a liberal education in the next century and beyond that is not merely yet another mechanism of neoliberalism. I hope today to respond to her vision. My goal is to investigate to what extent the three features Susan stresses—(1) engagement with text; (2) engagement with others in the classroom and beyond; and (3) a willingness to question everything—constitute something truly different from “business as usual” in the new global information economy. This “something else” is what I call perspectivalism without relativism.

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Photo by the author

Photo by the author

I have a truly curious story to tell about this painting.

I was at a house party that was also a vernissage, organised by a student-run Parisian philosophy society. The flat had two big rooms and there were about 40 people. The artworks shown were all very pretty–most of them were little black and white paper drawings, or patterns sewn into paper with fine coloured threads. But this picture somehow stood out. It hung in the small entrance room of the flat above a little cupboard. On the cupboard were a few small African sculptures and three unlit candles. The painting above used neither the colourful threads, nor did it seem like one of the other drawings. There weren’t any other artworks in the room, which made me wonder whether it was a part of the exhibition at all. Perhaps it just belonged to the flat owner?

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Geoff Lehman (photo by Catalin Moise)

Geoff Lehman (photo by Catalin Moise)



Geoff Lehman received his B.A. in humanities from Yale University, where he studied literature, philosophy, and art history in an interdisciplinary context. He received his PhD in art history from Columbia University, with a dissertation on the relationship between perspective and Renaissance landscape painting. Before coming to Bard College Berlin, Geoff taught art history for several years in Columbia University’s core curriculum, as well as in its summer program. His research interests include the theory and history of perspective, art and viewer response, the relationship between painting and music in the Renaissance, and the origins and development of landscape painting in Europe. Geoff is currently working with Bard College Berlin colleague Michael Weinman, on a study of the Parthenon in relation to ancient Greek music theory and mathematics. Geoff joined the faculty at Bard College Berlin as a fellow in 2006, and became a member of the permanent faculty in 2008.

Previous faculty podcasts: Michael Weinman, Ewa Atanassow

Picture: fotowelt.chip.de

On Wednesday the 23rd of May students taking ECLA’s core ‘Values of the Florentine Renaissance’ course visited the Gemäldegalerie—literally ‘picture gallery’—located at the Kulturforum near Berlin’s Postdamer Platz. And first impressions were that the Kulturforum was quiet… too quiet.

Open since 1830 and revamped in 1998, the Gemäldegalerie lies in the shadow of East Berlin’s Museum Island, which remains far better-known on account of its Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie  and Pergamon Museum.

This competition is a result of West Berlin’s desire to establish its own institutions during the country’s post-war period, in which the Soviets claimed most of its originals along with the entire eastern half of the city. Consequently, many of Berlin’s attractions are now duplicated, with both Berlin’s East and West having their own university, concert hall and zoo, amongst others.

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©Monika Rittershaus

As part of the Forms of Love core course, on February 26th students and professors attended a showing of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Staatsoper Berlin at Schiller Theatre.

In conjunction with this, Professor Geoff Lehman organized a preparatory discussion on the piece’s creative use of music to illuminate the narrative. The Marriage of Figaro, subtitled ossia la folle giornata or The Day of Madness, was composed in 1786.

It was the first union of Mozart’s music with Lorenzo Da Ponta’s libretto, a collaboration that would occur again with Don Giovani and Cosi fan tutte. ECLA’s attendance to this production complemented the students’ visit to Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini at the beginning of the fall term, also at the Staatsoper Berlin. That Rossini opera was based on the original Figaro play of French satirist Pierre Beaumarchais.

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Forms of Love

Along with the new term came a new core course for AY and BA1 students. Forms of Love: Eros, Agape, and Philia, coordinated by ECLA faculty member David Hayes, engages with various texts on love throughout the centuries, and makes up the core course that students have to take in Winter Term.

Brendan Boyle from the University of North Carolina, Marcela Perett, who we are glad to welcome to ECLA as a postdoctoral Fellow this term, and faculty member Geoff Lehman, make up the rest of the teaching instruction staff for this course, each one leading seminar groups and offering individual lectures.

While the autumn core, Plato’s Republic and Its Interlocutors, – was structured around the reading of various texts that were interspersed with – and usually always referred back to – the ten books of the Republic, this term’s course will be significantly different. Even though Plato— his Symposium – will come up again, there will not be a fixed text at the centre that the other texts will revolve around, but the focus of the reading will continuously change and progress through history.

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