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Lecture by Andrey Velikanov: Franz Schubert, String Quartet #14 Death and the Maiden. // The categorical imperative.

Andrey Velikanov’s Lecture Cycle: Ideas and Forms
12 November 2017


At the core of the lecture is Franz Schubert’s Quartet and its multiple interconnections with other artworks and philosophical texts.

In classical antiquity, the archaic plot of a young woman being kidnapped by a chthonic monster acquired the form of antagonism between life and death, Eros and Thanatos. A similar “death and the maiden” motif appears in fifteenth century fine arts and becomes especially popular in Germany. The musical version of this theme, Franz Schubert’s String Quartet #14, which is extremely emotional and tragic, aroused many allusions in the art of later periods. The music score to Roman Polanski’s film of the same name, Death and the Maiden, is the symbol of unfreedom, pain and violence haunting the heroine and recalling her hurtful memories. Life is not merely an opposite to death—it implies permanent moral choice and the requirement to take a human being as goal rather than means, an idea originating from Immanuel Kant’s conception of the categorical imperative.

“…the moral law reveals to me a life independent of animality and even of the whole sensible world, at least so far as may be inferred from the destination assigned to my existence by this law, a destination not restricted to conditions and limits of this life, but reaching into the infinite.”

(Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1788. Translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott)


Andrey Velikanov is a philosopher, art theorist, and artist. His publications on art and cultural theory include Am I a Trembling Simulacrum, or Do I Have the Right? (NLO, 2007). He has taught at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russian State University for the Humanities, UNIC Institute, Wordshop Communications Academy, Moscow 1905 Art Academy, MediaArtLab Open School, Center of Avant-Garde at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, and Free Workshops Art School, and regularly gives talks and takes part in discussions at various venues. He is also a recipient of several media art awards and prizes including Ostranenie (Germany), DADANET (Russia), Art on the Net (Japan), TrashArt (Russia), Southwest Interactive Festival (U.S.A.), and Split (Croatia).


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