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Modern Luck

11:00am-12:00pm on Sunday 17 March

Times shown are in GMT (UTC +0) up to the 26th March. For events on or after 27th March times are in BST (UTC +1).

SG1 (Alison Richard Building), Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP

Are you feeling lucky?’ Beliefs, superstitions and tales about luck are present across all human cultures, according to anthropologists. We are perennially fascinated by luck and by its association with happiness and danger, uncertainty and aspiration. Yet it remains an elusive, ungraspable idea, one that slips and slides over time: all cultures reimagine what luck is and how to tame it at different stages in their history, and the modernity of the ‘long twentieth century’ is no exception to the rule. Apparently overshadowed by more conceptually tight, scientific and characteristically modern notions such as chance, contingency, probability or randomness, luck nevertheless persists in all its messiness and vitality, used in our everyday language and the subject of studies by everyone from philosophers to psychologists, economists to self-help gurus.

In this talk, Professor Robert Gordon (Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics), author of the recent book Modern Luck (2023), sets out to explore the enigma of luck, examining the hybrid forms it has taken on in the modern imagination and modern storytelling, whether in books, films or television. Ranging from Pinocchio to Casablanca to Philip K. Dick, and much else besides, the talk lays out the uses and meanings of the language of luck, and uncovers some of the patterns and motifs of luck that govern it and that we use to decipher the world around us.

Robert S. C. Gordon teaches in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. He has written widely on modern literature, film and cultural history, specialising in Italian and memory studies.

Booking/Registration is: RECOMMENDED

Additional Information

Age: All Ages
Format: Talk
Timing: In person
Cost: Free
Event Capacity: 70
Theme: Society
Accessibility: Full access
Image copyright: © Robert Gordon. Personal collection

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