Rethinking Humanism

June 28, 2012 - July 1, 2012
Institute of European Cultural Identity Studies, University of St. Andrews

Union Street
Fife KY16 9PH
United Kingdom

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Keynote speakers:

Terry Eagleton
Lancaster University
Martha Nussbaum
University of Chicago


Nigel Rapport
University of St. Andrews
Gustavo San Román
University of St. Andrews

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The term "humanism" has been used with a variety of meanings and associated with some significant moments in intellectual history. Traceable to ancient times in Protagoras' "Man is the measure of all things" and central to the renewal enterprise of the Renaissance and to the optimism of the Enlightenment, it was popularised during the nineteenth century and reached its contemporary peak with existentialism in the twentieth. In its widest sense of a discourse that speaks for all of humanity, for "being human" and for "human-centredness", it has now been in crisis for several decades, accused of exhibiting a range of biases in areas that include gender, race and ethnicity as well as haughtiness about the place of humans in the greater scheme of nature. Its correlates in politics and economics have also suffered significant attacks from critics of liberalism and capitalism. The crisis of the humanist project has been highlighted in recent years through new coinages such as transhumanism and posthumanism. Still, for some thinkers humanism continues to be the best form of speaking about humankind in general terms, whilst granting that the criticisms must be taken on board. The alternatives, it is argued, seem to lead into a fragmentarism which prevents us from seeing the human wood for the subcultural trees.

The aim of the conference is to problematize the representation of human values, identities and behaviours in literature, film and other cultural products, from Antiquity to the present day. An ultimate achievement of this interdisciplinary gathering may well turn out to be catching a glimpse of a revived, more self-conscious, more sensitive and more durable New Humanism.

Cost to delegates: £145 to include tea/coffee breaks, lunches and Friday Conference Dinner. Accommodation and dinners on Thursday and Saturday not included.

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