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21st Century Theories of Literature: Ethics, Tropes, Attunement

Interdisciplinary Conference

6 - 8 April 2017

Confirmed keynote speakers: Derek Attridge (York); Claudia Brodsky (Princeton); Maximilian de Gaynesford (Reading); Anthony Ossa-Richardson (Southampton); Constantine Sandis (Hertfordshire); Catherine Wearing (Wellesley College).

Following the success of the 2014 conference “21st-Century Theories of Literature: Essence, Fiction and Value”, which drew over eighty participants from across the globe and led to the essay collection Literary Studies and the Philosophy of Literature: New Interdisciplinary Directions, eds. Andrea Selleri and Philip Gaydon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016 – forthcoming), this conference seeks to broaden the avenues of conversation between aesthetics and literary studies opened on that occasion. We hope again to prompt scholars from both fields to engage with each other in an actively interdisciplinary study of topics shared by literature and philosophy.

This time, too, there will be three overarching themes: (1) Ethics; (2) Tropes; (3) Attunement. The main questions to be explored are, respectively: (1) whether and how literature and ethics can provide reciprocal illumination, and how each field’s established lines of enquiry can help the other; (2) how literary studies and the philosophy of literature negotiate non-literal meaning, and the linguistic models which the respective practices imply; (3) how the theories and practices of the two fields can be brought to bear on one another. For each of these themes there will be parallel sessions with papers by scholars at all stages of their careers, and a double keynote session that will feature established scholars from each field.

Abstracts of 400-500 words for 20-minute presentations should be sent to the organisers at by 25/1/2017. We would particularly appreciate an engagement with both philosophical and literary-critical literature, but this is not a requirement as long as your argument is broad enough to be of interest to an interdisciplinary audience. We welcome case studies and historical analyses, as long as there is an explicit theoretical dimension to the discussion. Possible themes may include but are not limited to:

Illustrations of ethical themes in fiction
Illumination of ethical themes through fiction
Doing, deeds and actions and consequences in fiction
Narrative and the formation of character
Fiction as experimentation with situation and response
Narration and judgement
Fiction and habitus
Implied attitudes in literature
The ethics of reading

Literary vs figurative meaning
Tropes as conveyors of philosophical meaning
Tropes and genre
Tropes across and between cultures
The evolution of tropes in history
Tropes and quantitative literary theory
Reading protocols and figurative language
Tropes and the history of hermeneutics
Tropes in expository vs non-expository prose

Generality and particularity in literature and philosophy
Literary affect and hermeneutic interpretation
Literary immediacy and concept generation
Modes of argument: what could each field take from the other
Literary plots: cases/examples for philosophers?
Literary works as case studies to illustrate philosophical issues: enrichment or appropriation?
The limits of language and how to tackle them
Philosophical contributions of “literary” writers
Philosophers and style

This conference is organised by Andrea Selleri (Warwick), Marianna Ginocchietti (Trieste), Alex Underwood (Warwick), Giulia Zanfabro (Trieste), and it is made possible by the generous funding of the British Society of Aesthetics and Warwick’s Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature and the Arts.

There is a £45 conference fee, and if you wish to attend the conference dinner on Friday night, there will be a further £35 for dinner. We will collect payment on arrival at registration (by cheque in GBP or cash).