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Public Space, Aesthetics, and Intellectual Encounters

Dear Friends,

Why is public discourse important to human sociality and structures of deliberative democracy? How do we create public spaces for discourse from the Ancient Greek Agora to the Viennese Kaffeehaus and what do such spaces look like? What features are necessary for more effective communication? What is the role of art and aesthetic experience in shaping encounter? What constitutes the public sphere today and what lessons or case studies from the past can inform our processes of communication in the future?

Dr. Tag Gronberg, reader in the department of Art History at Birkbeck, University of London and author of “ The Viennese Café and Fin-de- siècle Culture” will frame the conversation by discussing the case study of the Viennese Kaffeehaus.


‘Vienna 1900’ marks a high point of artistic and intellectual activity in the Habsburg capital; it is also associated with the ‘golden age’ of one of the city’s most famous institutions: the Kaffeehaus. This paper explores the significance of the Viennese café as a site of sociability and cultural encounter. How were concepts of domesticity, gender and artistic creativity promoted and sustained by the mythic status of the coffeehouse? To what extent are such ideas still current (or relevant) today?

We look forward to an evening of wonderful company,inspired conversation, and much merriment!

Earlier Event: February 28
Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
Later Event: March 26
Kierkegaard’s “Either/Or”