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Katha Pollitt + Richard A. Friedman

Controlling the Conversation: How Words Shape Our World

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
7:00 PM–8:30 PM

Words matter. At their most basic, they are the tools of thought. In practice, words define our worldview.

With increasing frequency, those in power use phrases like “alternative facts” and “truth isn’t truth,” which present new meanings of important words. As words become unmoored from their meaning, how does our capacity for critical thinking likewise come adrift?

In this program, poet and essayist Katha Pollitt joins psychiatrist Richard Friedman to address the misuse of language to achieve power.

“In our age there is no such thing as “˜keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.” —George Orwell


About the Speakers

Poet and essayist Katha Pollitt contributes the “Subject to Debate” column in The Nation, which debuted in 1995 and which the Washington Post called “the best place to go for original thinking on the left,” for which Pollitt won the American Sociological Association Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues. Many of Pollitt’s contributions to The Nation are compiled in three books: Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Knopf); Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture (Modern Library); and Virginity or Death! And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time (Random House). In 2007 Random House published her collection of personal essays, Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories. “Learning to Drive” has been made into a movie of the same title, starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Her most recent book is Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which The New York Times listed as a Notable Book of 2014. For her poetry, Pollitt has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her 1982 book Antarctic Traveller won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her poems have been published in many magazines and are reprinted in many anthologies, most recently The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006). Her second collection, The Mind-Body Problem, came out from Random House in 2009.

Dr. Richard A. Friedman is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and Director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Friedman has expertise and research experience in the psychopharmacology and neurobiology of mood disorders, in particular treatment-resistant depression. At Cornell, he is actively involved in teaching and training psychiatric residents and runs the biological psychiatry curriculum. He is also the director of the Cornell Student Mental Health Program, which provides psychiatric treatment to medical and graduate students. Dr. Friedman writes for several medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, on psychiatric topics. He is also a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, where he writes on mental health, addiction, human behavior, and neuroscience. This is his second appearance at the Rubin.


Tickets: $25.00

Member Tickets: $20.00


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Student Tickets: $14.00

For select programs the museum offers $14 student-rate tickets. These tickets are available in advance of the event and can be purchased online, over the phone, or at the front desk. Tickets must be redeemed in person with the presentation of a student ID. Limited to one ticket per student ID.