Seminar – dr Anne Pirrie – Finitude, solitude, and the renewal of generosity

The seminar will take place on Thursday 27th October at 4 pm of UK time /11.00 US EST time /5pm Polish time / 5pm Malta /6pm Israeli time / 6pm Turkish time / 11pm Hong Kong / 1am next day Melbourne.

The seminar will be held in the MS Teams application. If you want to join, click here.

Finitude, solitude, and the renewal of generosity

This contribution takes its inspiration from Edward Jabès’ observation that ‘thought has no ties: it lives by encounter and dies of solitude’ (Jabès, 1994). It will draw on reflections that have arisen in the process of organising a ‘convivium’ for a young colleague who is facing a terminal illness (Pirrie, 2022).

Facing the prospect of one’s imminent demise can be a time when we are confronted with being ‘but one’ in our mortality. And yet perhaps it is only by engaging with our mortality that we can make sense of what is meaningful in our lives and what is not. Only in this way can we fully appreciate the preciousness of the now and the intimacy of human connection, qualities that paradoxically are perhaps best appreciated in solitude, or in alone/together forms of association (in a theatre or cinema, for instance). Organising the convivium referred to above has brought about an anticipated ‘renewal of generosity’ among the prospective participants, casting further light on the being alone/together in higher education that was the subject of my co-authored contribution to the Bloomsbury Handbook of Solitude, Silence and Loneliness. The heightened sense of community and solidarity generated by the prospect of the convivium was also the animating principle for the creation of Dancing in the Dark. A Survivor’s Guide to the University, a richly illustrated pocket book (an anti-handbook, of sorts) in which the art and the text live by encounter and die of solitude (Pirrie et al, 2022).

Frank, A. (2004) The Renewal of Generosity: Illness, Medicine and How to Live. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jabès, E. (1996) The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion, Stanford University Press.

Pirrie. A. (2022) ‘Educating for (the blossomest) of blossoms’, presentation at a convivium on the arts, finitude and education at Moray House School of Education, 29th October 2022.

Pirrie, A., Fang, N. and O’Brien, E. (2022) Review of Dancing in the Dark. A Survivor’s Guide to the University, Educational Philosophy and Theory

Anne Pirrie is a Reader in Education at the University of the West of Scotland. Formerly a contract researcher, Anne is a generalist with an eye for the particular. Her book Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship: reclaiming the university (2019) explores the conditions for human flourishing in an environment blighted by managerialism. She considers her role as a teacher in the same terms as Nan Shepherd (1893-1981), the author of The Living Mountain: to try to prevent a few of the students who pass through the institution from conforming altogether to the approved pattern.

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