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Thinking in Forms I: Literature, Philosophy, and the Genres of Our Most Pressing Questions

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Organizer: Magdalena Ostas

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Scholars working at the crossroads of literature and philosophy have long been compelled by the idea that literary and artistic works offer us much more than fictions or representations and help us “think” about the world, about others, and about ourselves. Some of the most suggestive and persuasive work in this tradition of reading show us how literary works, for example, take up and tarry with long-standing philosophical questions about ethics, identity, epistemology, love, desire, or our forms of political orientation in the world.
This seminar asks how genre itself inflects such questioning in literary and artistic works. Do the poets, for instance, have a particular fluency in ideas about the human subject? How are the novelists especially suited to reflect on the moral dimensions of a life? What does still life help us understand about representation? What possibilities do forms and genres open out in the kinds of thinking that creative works carry on? What questions attach themselves (historically, conceptually) to specific aesthetic forms? In what ways does genre itself carry on conversations in the world of ideas? Papers are welcome that take up specific or general instances of classic genres (tragedy, lyric, the novel, portraiture) or newly emergent or more specific generic forms as well (remarriage comedy, autobiography, the Bildungsroman, the ode, improvisation, the new American TV, the Western).

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