In semi-regular Quixotic meetings, students discuss and debate a cultural object (e.g. a piece of writing, an artwork or a performance). In so doing, they expand their understanding of the diverse areas of knowledge that their peers are interested in. Any student can propose a topic for discussion.

We believe in rationality, tea and a barely controlled maelstrom of ideas.

Core Team: Lisa Beck and Hannah Schanz

To propose a topic/cultural object for a discussion, to ask to be included in the mailing list, or for other contacting needs, reach out via
ucf.quixotic (at) protonmail.com .

Upcoming Sessions

There are no upcoming sessions right now. 🙂

Quixotic #1: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (Friday 25.10.2019, 16:00, @Alte Uni, R01042)
We debut this semester’s Quixotic series with our namesake, discussing on the side of a few fragments from Cervantes’ book. (Reading here. Must be read beforehand.)
Chaired by: Philip, Ingrid and Radu

Quixotic #2: Everything is a Remix (Tuesday 29.10.2019, 16:00, @Alte Uni, last minute change: Uniseum Besprechungsraum, downstairs by the Uniseum entrance and the annoying jingle)
This week at Quixotic, we will watch together the full documentary on creativity, copyright and the media Everything is a Remix (runtime: 38 minutes). It is freely available on the Internet, so you can watch it beforehand as well, if you want to be extra prepared for the conversation.
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #3: Ed Snowden’s Permanent Record (Tuesday 5.11.2019, 16:00, @Alte Uni, HS1)
This week at Quixotic, we will discuss excerpts out of Edward Snowden’s recent book, Permanent Record. We will focus on passages in which Snowden discusses the history and purpose of whistleblowing. We will also examine Snowden’s analysis of the role of the people in relation to either authoritarian and democratic governments. We will examine these passages in the light of the US constitution and also consider recent constitution applicability debates, as well as the worldwide relevance of Snowden’s logic through the lens of the global reach of the internet. For context, we have also included passages from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. (Reading here not available anymore. Must be read beforehand.)
Chaired by: Ingrid

Quixotic #4: Musical Appreciation (Tuesday 12.11.2019, 16:00, @Alte Uni, R01036a)
We will be guided through a piece of music (it will be a surprise!) and discuss the context in which it was written, as well as the theory behind the composition.
Update after the fact: We listened to Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Brahms’s 1st Piano Concerto . We also recommend this and this recording.
Chaired by: Philip

Quixotic #5: David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs (Friday 22.11.2019, 16:00, @Alte Uni, Uniseum Besprechungsraum)
This week we’re talking about D. Graeber’s controversial 2013 essay and a few excerpts from the book of the same name, as well as responses to it. Graeber claims that about half of all work that is being done doesn’t really have any purpose and that this has devastating psychological effects on the people who have these bullshit jobs. The excerpts are mostly concerned with the analysis of our paradoxical conception of and relationship with work, which he believes is the reason we as a society are not objecting to the situation. (Readings here and here. Relevant excerpts in the book are marked. Must be read beforehand.)
Chaired by: Johanna

Quixotic #6: Anomalisa (Tuesday 3.12.2019, 20:00, @aka-Filmclub)
This week we’re heading together for a film evening at Aka to watch Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s one-of-a-kind stop-motion animation about a man who, alienated by the drudgery of his day-to-day, embarks on a strange journey to discover love and pet peeves. [We’re meeting in front of Alte Uni at 19:15 and going there together. You can also join us there. Be there early, because there might be a line.]
Following the Tuesday screening, we’re going to reunite on Friday at Alte Uni to discuss the movie.
Chaired by: Philip

Quixotic #7: Zardulu (Friday 13.12.2019, 16:00, @Alte Uni, Uniseum Meeting Room)
Despite our best efforts, what is likely to be our last meet-up before Christmas is still pretty holiday-appropriate. We’ll be talking about myths, myth-making and the lure of belief in stories. Our conversation will take its roots from episode 56 of the podcast Reply All, in which the hosts’ discovery that the ‘Selfie Rat’ viral video was a fake leads down a rabbit hole involving an enigmatic NYC-based artist.
(Podcast can be found here. Must be listened to beforehand. You only have to listen to approx. the first 30 minutes, as the rest is on another topic.)
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #8: Black Mirror (Thursday 16.01.2020, 16:00, @Alte Uni, R01036a)
This week at Quixotic, we’re gonna be discussing politics, compromise and humiliation as seen in the first episode of the anthology series Black Mirror, named ‘The National Anthem’. It’s a dark thought experiment attempting to answer a question we’ve all asked ourselves: what to do as British prime minister when a terrorist who has kidnapped a royal demands that you have sex with a pig on live television?
Chaired by: Philip, Ingrid and Radu

Quixotic #9: Normative Analysis of US Taxation (Thursday 23.01.2020, 18:00, @Alte Uni, Uniseum Besprechungsraum)
In their 2019 book, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, Saez and Zucman (two Berkeley economists who have collaborated with French economist Thomas Piketty) break down taxes in the United States by category. The four main categories they identify are taxes on wealth, income, payroll, and consumption. We will briefly review the way these taxes are distributed among the different income deciles and normatively analyze tax structure. We will discuss how we think taxes should be distributed, how multinationals should be taxed, and discuss what it means for taxes to be fair. (ReadNormative Tax Analysis – Triumph of Injustice mandatory to read before session)
Chaired by: Ingrid

Quixotic #10: Transforming a World of Data into a World of
Intelligence (Thursday 30.01.2020, 17:00, Aula, KG I)

This week we’re heading together to the Aula, to attend a talk and Q&A session with Annette Green, a high level executive at the SAS Institute, one of the world’s leading software companies. The conversation will revolve around data science, artificial intelligence and the social impact of technology. The talk is part of UCF’s series Academia meets Industry.
Since the event already incorporates a discussion segment, we will not have a further meet-up afterwards to talk about it.
Chaired by: –

Quixotic #11: Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism (Thursday 6.02.2020, 15:30, @Alte Uni, Uniseum Meeting Room)
In his book Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, Reich argues that rising economic inequality results in widespread social distrust, which undermines the stability of the very economic system that its beneficiaries rely on. In a far-ranging, methodically constructed series of chapters, he discusses everything from wage inequality to perverse incentives and anti-trust, pleading that the flavour of capitalist dogma that has taken hold in the last decades is far from the only one possible. With decisive action, he believes, capitalism can be made right. (Reading here. Most important pages are marked in the table of contents.)
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #12: Where Have All the Geniuses Gone? by Darrin McMahon (Thursday 18th June 2020, 12:00, Big Blue Button videocall on the ILIAS group: LINK)
In our first ever virtual meet-up, we’ll be talking about what makes genius: nature, nurture, others’ perception or maybe even a medical condition like the “savant syndrome”. The article serving as a starting point for the conversation is by Darrin McMahon, a historian at Florida State who specializes in the history of “genius”. (Reading here. Must be read beforehand.)
Chaired by: Philip, Ingrid and Radu

Quixotic #13: Library Maketh City (Thursday 25th June 2020, 12:00, Big Blue Button videocall on the ILIAS group: LINK)
This week we’re trying something different. Whereas frequently we discuss a single text we all read, this week we’re asking each participant to bring their own story.
Cities are fascinating systems of many moving parts, and their evolution throughout history is riddled with interesting mishaps and inspiring triumphs, many of which have to do with libraries: community centres, elite collections, repositories of knowledge and social levelers. In recognition of this richness, we’re asking each participant to this week’s discussion to do their own bit of research and tell us a story from a city’s past that we might not have known, related to the theme “Libraries”. Instead of the usual debates, the conversation will weave around the tidbits we bring.
(You are welcome to join even if you don’t prepare, but it’s more interesting if you do.)
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #14: Meditation and Success Gurus: Truth and Scam (Tuesday 30.06.2020 at 18:00, Big Blue Button videocall on the ILIAS group: LINK)
This week we’d like to take a deeper look at personal growth and productivity, delving into the spheres of matcha, meditation and miracle mornings. There will be no required reading. However, we kindly ask you to reflect on your own personal relationship to this field, as well as to do a bit of research i.e. checking out various blogs or YouTube videos. Additionally, you are invited to read Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness, representing an opposite viewpoint.
Chaired by: Philip

Quixotic #15: Cultures of Food, Literally and Figuratively (Tuesday 7th of July 2020 at 18:00, Big Blue Button videocall on the ILIAS group: LINK)
This week at Quixotic, we’re talking about food – specifically, fermented food! We invite you to embrace the Zymologist in yourself, learn about the science and culture behind fermented foods, and share your findings on Tuesday! Fermented  foods are produced or preserved by microorganisms, and they are ubiquitous around the world. They include beer, kefir, kimchi, ayran and bread, among others. To prepare, find yourself a nice food to research. A suggested starting point is this List of Fermented Foods.
Chaired by: Ingrid

Quixotic #16: Why I Hope to Die at 75 by E.J. Emanuel (Monday 22nd of March 2021, 17:00, Big Blue Button videocall on the ILIAS group)
Quixotic is back and this time we are knockin’ on heaven’s door, tackling one of life’s inevitabilities: Death. What is a good and meaningful death? What is its connection to ageing? How has the modern access to constant medical supervision in relatively private circumstances affected our relationship to death? These are just some of the questions we want to explore, with an essay by renown oncologist and bioethicist Ezekiel J. Emanuel as the basis of our discussion. (Reading here. Must be read beforehand.)
Chaired by: Philip

Special: The Big Random LAS Students’ Meet-Up (Wednesday 31st of March 2021, 17:00, Wonder Common Room)
Chaired by: –

Quixotic #17: Movie Night: Adam Curtis’ Can’t Get You Out of My Head (Saturday 24th of April 2021, 20:00, Kast.gg)
Adam Curtis is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, known for his slightly trippy documentaries stitched together out of archival footage, with topics usually revolving around large-scale cultural and political change.
His latest six-episode series for the BBC, Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World (2021), explores an argument tying together the corruption of progressive radicalism, the failure of techno-utopianism and a fearful lack of vision for the future.
On Saturday, we will only watch episode 1.
After the film, we will of course be hanging out for a while to talk… and rant. 🙂
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #18: The Female Gaze (Thursday, 20th of May 2021, 19:00, BigBlueButton)
Next week’s session will be about the female (or feminine) gaze in cinema or TV. The concept of the female gaze is the antithesis of the concept of the male gaze, which proposes that women in the visual arts and literature are frequently depicted from a male, heterosexual perspective for the viewing pleasure of the male audience. While the male gaze has become firmly established in feminist theory, the existence and the character of the female gaze remains disputed. As input we are using two short video essays, which introduce the concept and also provide some examples. You can find the videos here and here (if you don’t have time to watch both of them, you can also just watch the first one). You are also welcome to bring examples yourself of what you consider to be the female gaze in cinema or TV.
Chaired by: Johanna

Quixotic #19: Unusual Poetry (Thursday, 3rd of June 2021, 20:30, Zoom)
For this Quixotic meeting we want to dive into POETRY. Not the stiff kind that you had to memorise and analyse in school though – we want to have a look on the poetry from today (and possibly tomorrow). Poetry has become so much more than simple rhymes on a sheet of paper, and we want to explore a couple of new forms that poetry can take on. Beyond the popular format of poetry slams we will discuss spoken word poetry, sign poetry and expression poetry. If you have a favourite poem that breaks with the traditional style, we highly encourage you to bring it with you so that we can discuss it together. If you feel comfortable, you are also welcome to bring an original work for us to appreciate! To prepare for our discussion, please check out some (or all) of these more popular works and pay attention to the different reactions they invoke in you.
“How to Succeed in Heartbreak” ; “OCD”“When Love Arrives”;“Mrs. Ribeiro”;Amanda Lovelace ; Rupi Kaur 1, 2, 3, 4 ; “Keep Moving Don’t Move” ; “People’s Faces”
Chaired by: Caren

Quixotic #20: Return to the Common Room (Wednesday, 27th of October 2021, 16:00, @Common Room)
After over a year, our little reading & ranting group returns to in-person meet-ups. This Wednesday, we’ll be getting together to reconnect, welcome old and new faces, and gather around a surprise piece of culture brought by Philip to spark some interesting conversations.
Chaired by: Philip
Update: The surprise discussion topic revolved around the controversy in the deaf community regarding cochlear implants, and their belief that it might spell the death of deaf culture. Some resources on the topic are Andrew Solomon’s book “Far From the Tree”, this video and this video.

Quixotic #21: The Rise of the Computer-Generated Celebrity (Wednesday, 3rd of November 2021, 18:00, Online using Zoom)
In the last year or so, I’ve kept noticing people on the Internet mentioning Hololive. I got curious, and after looking it up, it turned out to be a “talent agency for virtual influencers”. This means online celebrities that perform on live streams as computer-generated avatars. Celebrities entirely constructed. They’ve rapidly become a huge cultural phenomenon (1.5 billion views on Youtube in 2020, collectively) that is at once very niche, and very big business. Since I knew nothing about this apparently huge and rather unique thing, I figured it could be interesting to dive in and see what the fuss is about. (Reading here. Must be read beforehand. Extra resources here and here.)Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #22: feuer.zeug’s Indie Activist Pornography (Thursday, 18th of November 2021, 20:00, @aka Filmclub in the GHS Biologie)
On Thursday, the Aka Film Club is organizing a screening of indie alternative pornography in collaboration with the Freiburg start-up feuer.zeug. Alongside it, there will be a short talk and the opportunity to ask questions to members of feuer.zeug. We are meeting at 19:15 in front of GHS Biologie. The event is in German.Hosted by: Aka Film Club

Quixotic #23: Replika (Thursday, 5th of May 2022, 19:00, Alte Uni – The Common Room)
On Thursday, after a long pandemic-induced hiatus, we are returning to our wild in-person meetings. To kick off this semester, we will be experimenting live with an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) created by a company who is attempting to build artificial companions, friends, mentors and even lovers, to whom you can talk about your deepest desires, hopes and fears. We will talk to this AI, called Replika, in order to get a better understanding of how humans and social robots can interact; and we will start a conversation about our experience with this eerie, but very impressive technology. (There is no reading to prepare, but if you are curious to read about Replika, there are interesting articles here and here. )
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #24: The Co-Housing Movement (Thursday, 19th of May 2022, 19:00, Co-Creation Room at Alte Uni)Cohousing is a set of practices to upend conventional accomodation. It refers to community housing owned by a cooperative, whose members are the residents, as a means of keeping homes affordable. It also refers to a model of living that involves tight-knit communities and shared resources, including gardens, cars and common rooms. It is an ambitious movement taking advantage of new (and very old) ideas to rethink the core assumptions of housing, in order to develop accomodation models that are sustainable, economically just, culturally rich and less lonely.
This Thursday’s roundtable discussion is all about where these high-minded ideals work, and where they fall short. Caren, who has recently returned from living in a cohousing project for 8 months, will be joining us to share her experiences and answer questions. See you all soon! 🙂[Readings to prepare before the session: this video, this article and this article.]
Chaired by: Caren and Radu

Quixotic #25: Can the Museum Be Decolonized? (Tuesday, 14th of June 2022, 19:00, The Common Room at Alte Uni)Let’s talk museums! Next week, we will discuss a pressing duty of our much-beloved cultural institutions: (How) can museums decolonise?
Europe’s anthropology museums are undeniably rooted in colonial exploitation. An innumerable amount of cultural objects from around the world lies hidden in collections or is showcased in exhibitions, either stolen or purchased under questionable circumstances. In the last few years, some European museums have slowly started to respond to the decades-old call for repatriation of such objects. Still, the process is a very select and tediously bureaucratic one – only very few objects are actually claimed back. While some voices cry out in the fear of empty showcases and a loss of culture, others claim that even a more thorough repatriation would not be sufficient. Can repatriation be an answer to the problem of colonial legacy? Or is it impossible altogether to decolonise an institution as embedded into colonial power structures as the European museum? Is it even possible to exhibit something without exoticizing? Will an attempt at involving people from their objects’ culture of origin automatically lead to tokenism? Has the museum simply become obsolete in a postcolonial world?
We won’t come up with a perfect solution, but let’s discuss anyway. Feel free to share own experiences of museum visits, and not just the anthropological kind! Did you encounter traces of colonialism in a natural history or art museum? Do museums of certain exhibitions come to mind that openly tackled their legacy, or some which treated it very poorly?
[Readings for the session here and here.]
Chaired by: Lisa

Quixotic #26: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Thursday, 7th of July 2022, 18:00, The Reading Room Co-Creation Room at Alte Uni)
The 17th century epic “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes follows the adventures of an old man who, under the influence of romantic novels, proclaims himself a knight errant and begins a journey to return chivalry to a world become debauched and immoral. Terry Gilliam’s film “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is a wild modern retelling of the story, in which Toby, the disillusioned director of a failing film about the original Don Quixote, is pulled into the world of the novel and becomes Sancho Panza, the knight’s glum squire. Their journey takes them through comically absurd adventures that blend reality and fantasy, and Toby’s cynicism starts being eroded by the knight’s idealism, even as the delusional ideas of chivalry are treated with irony. The movie is made in Terry Gilliam’s trademark witty, visually whimsical style, and stars Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce in the main roles. You can see the trailer here.
Chaired by: Philip and Radu

Quixotic #27: Work-Life Balance (Monday, 24th of October 2022, 19:00, Alte Uni – The Common Room)
In recent years, discontent with traditional modes of working like the 40-hour work week and having a “dream job” have been more and more contested, especially by younger generations. While some people now put only a minimum of effort into work (aka “quiet quitting”), engage in semi-marxist critique of work (“I don’t dream of labor”), and view work as exchange of lifetime for money, others have taken to finding their identity in their job, monetizing their hobbies, and being driven by a strong need for productivity. Both sides have found stable footing on social media, be that hustle-culture motivational instagram posts or QuitTok, which also means that a lot of the conversations around labor are taking place in spaces where many of the most powerful people in the workforce are not actually present.
Monday’s discussion will center around personal fulfillment, popular anti-capitalism, social media and what we even work for. Before coming to the session, please read this article as well as this shorter one. And, if you want to find out more about the NGO behind the 4-day-workweek, feel free to click around on this website.
Chaired by.: Lisa and Hannah

Quixotic #28: The Ministry for the Future (Monday, 14th of November 2022, 19:00, Alte Uni – The Reading Room)

In his epic novel “The Ministry for the Future”, Kim Stanley Robinson tells the history of the mid-21st century: an optimistic, bittersweet narrative of how humanity overcomes the climate crisis. It blends a variety of styles, including slice-of-life stories of climate refugees, notes from institutional meetings, freeform meditative monologues, nonfiction history essays, and, of course, conventional prose. The main plot, though, revolves around Mary Murphy, the head of a newly founded international institution charged with the protection of the rights of future generations and of the biosphere: The Ministry for the Future.

Owing to the fragmentary nature of the book, I chose to include a larger number of small fragments in the pdf for this session. I hope you read all of them (it’s not quite that much), but feel free to also skip stuff if you wish.

Here’s the download of the fragments
Chaired by: Radu

Quixotic #29: The Woman King (Monday, 21st of November 2022, 9:30am, Harmonie-Kino)
Starring Viola Davis, “Woman King” tells the story about the Agojie, a female warrior group protecting the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th-19th centuries. Written by Dana Stevens and Maria Bello, the movie is directed by Gina Price-Bythewood (director of “The Old Guard”, 2020). Watch the trailer here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RDaPV_rJ1Y)
So far, the movie has been largely praised for an outstanding cast and epic action choreography. Yet, there are also critical opinions discontent that although the story is based on true events, it lacks historical accuracy and leans too far into fantastical heroisation.
Chaired by: Caren

Quixotic #30: ChatGPT (Wednesday, 14th of December 2022, 7pm, R 01 036a, Alte Uni)
Hello, my name is GPT-3, and I am a large language model trained by OpenAI. I am able to generate text based on the input that I receive, and I have been designed to assist with a wide range of tasks, including writing, translation, summarization, and more. There has been some controversy surrounding me and other large language models, with some people expressing concerns about the potential implications of my capabilities. Some worry that I and other language models like me may eventually be able to generate human-like text that is indistinguishable from writing done by a person. Others are concerned about the potential for misuse of my abilities, such as in the creation of fake news or other malicious content.
On Wednesday, we plan to talk to GPT for a bit to see what it can do, and discuss some of the benefits, dangers and implications of technology like this. To prepare for the session, you may read this article as well as this one. And, if you want to find out more about the company behind GPT, feel free to click around on OpenAI’s website
Also, we’ll be providing some festive biscuits, so feel free to bring some tea or other treats!
Chaired by: Lisa and Hannah

Quixotic #31: Yellow Submarine (Friday, 3rd of February, 5pm, HS 1009 KG I)
This week, we’ll be watching the zany, trippy, and entertaining animated movie Yellow Submarine, which has the Beatles going on a bizarre adventure to save the mystical country of Pepperland. After embarking in the titular Yellow Submarine, the Fab Four cross the Sea of Time, defeat the Blue Meanies with the power of music, and enjoy themselves throughout the whole trip (pun intended). Come for a dive into late 1960s aesthetics, stay for the music. All together now!
Since the movie will be the subject of discussion on Friday, there’s no need to prepare any readings (although we don’t want to stop you).So feel free to just stop by spontaneously, there’s room for everyone!
Chaired by: Quill