Concordia Graduate Philosophy Conference: The World In Words

April 16, 2021 - April 17, 2021
Graduate Philosophy Student Association, Concordia University, Montreal


This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Concordia University

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In the ‘Western’ philosophical tradition—that tradition claims the Greek peninsula as its origin– the relation between philosophy and literature has been fiercely contested. Arguably, Plato was the first to draw a strong dichotomy between philosophy and literature; speech and written word; prose and poesy; truth and fiction. While skeptics of literature and poetic language remain to this day, especially in the Anglo-American tradition, the recent trend in European philosophy has been to blur the lines between philosophy and literature. Indeed, since at least Hegel, philosophers have taken literary works to offer privileged insight into, not just the arts, but the whole purview of philosophy: epistemology, ethics, ontology, social philosophy, political philosophy and so on.

Perennial reflection on the relation between philosophy and literature, and the philosophical content of literary objects, has proven an inexhaustible font for thoughtful consideration. Given the rise and fall of schools, methods, and perspectives within the discipline, the ever changing status and form of literary objects in society, and literature's own interest in various philosophical problems, the juncture between philosophy and literature invites, if not demands, continual consideration.

Keynote: Todd McGowan, University of Vermont.

The members of the Concordia GPSA invite you to submit to, and attend, our 2021 Graduate Conference which will focus on the storied relationship between philosophy and literature.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

●        What is the difference between literature and philosophy? In what ways are these forms similar and/or in tension?

●        Can/ should we attempt to mine plays, novels, poems etc. for philosophical content?

●        Can/should we read philosophy as literature? What would reading philosophy as literature entail methodologically?

●        Theoretical discussions or readings of literary works inspired by Hegel, Marx, Freud, Heidegger, Gadamer, Wittgenstien,  Benjamin, Adorno, Lacan, Derrida, Cixous, Butler, Zupančič, Žižek, Cavell, etc.

●        Philosophically inspired commentaries on literary works from any period—Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Kafka to Le Guin (plays, films, and song lyrics included)

●        What can literary forms tell us about cultural, political and economic history? Eg.: epic, ancient Greek tragedy, Roman comedy, closet plays, the invention of the essay, the predominance of trauerspiel, the emergence of the novel, etc.

●        What is the relation between genre and politics? Do certain genres have greater revolutionary power than others?

●        Can philosophical content be adequately captured in words? What kind of language is the most appropriate vessel for ideas? Is the analogy of language as a “vessel” problematic in itself?

●        What is lost in the translation of a text into another language? Is it possible for a translation to justice to the original? Are there some concepts which are ultimately untranslatable?

●        Issues of canonization. Is there such a thing as a literary or philosophical canon? Should something like a ‘canon be preserved, or should we attempt to explode the concept altogether?  If the notion of canon is preserved, what should it include? How do we diversify the canon? How important is it to read ‘problematic’ classics? What makes a work of literature ‘problematic’?

●        Why do philosophy and literature have such a longstanding relationship? Is philosophy dependent upon literature or visa-versa? Is philosophy literature? Is literature philosophy?

●        What is fiction, and what is its role? What does it mean for something to be true in a fiction? What kind of truth does fiction (and other forms of art) contain?

Submissions are welcome from all disciplines; however, preference will be given to students of philosophy, comparative literature, English literature, and modern languages. 300-600 word abstracts are due By Friday, February 12th, 2021. Proposals, along with the author’s contact information, should be submitted via e-mail to: [email protected]. Please put "[Abstract - Concordia Literature & Philosophy]" in the subject line. Abstracts should be attached in a separate document with no name indicated to allow for blind review.  Applicants can expect a response by the end of February.

The two day conference will take place online over Zoom on Friday April 16th and Saturday April 17th.

We look forward to reading your submissions.


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