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The Good-Enough Reader

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Organizer: Johanna Winant

Co-Organizer: John Lysaker

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Philosophy has long worried about how to respond to art. Should one be suspicious of it, learn from it, or, simply appreciate it? In literary studies, suspicious, pedagogical, and pleasurable replies are not mutually exclusive. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick picks up Paul Ricoeur’s phrase to argue that the hermeneutics of suspicion often underlie our scholarly productions of knowledge, and while pleasure is found in reparative readings, there is at least the avoidance of pain in suspicious ones. Nonetheless, this question is live. The range of correct responses or relations to art is the subject of recent books by Rita Felski, Merve Emre, and Toril Moi. And outside of conversations between scholars and critics, the correct response to art is also what those who teach literature attend to in the classroom, where we try to convey to students that “you can never be paranoid enough” (Sedgwick's words) and also, following Wallace Stevens, that art "must give pleasure.”

This seminar’s title alludes to D. W. Winnicott’s concept of the “good enough mother” as well as Stanley Cavell's conception of "good enough justice." It asks: what does being a good-enough reader require? Might it involve contrary, even contradictory responses? If so, how do we balance them, presuming "balance" is even the goal? Also, how confident are we that we know what different artworks solicit from us? 

Originating in the intersection of literature and philosophy -- particularly the literature and philosophy of modernity -- we welcome papers that draw on either or both disciplines as we clarify the terms according to which we declare a reading "good" (or "good enough"). 

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