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Literary Forms, Philosophical Uses
Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association
26-29 March 2009
It has become conventional to talk of philosophy's colonization of literature through literary
theory. But does the project of colonization go both ways? From Plato's use of the dramatic to
Sartre's use of the novelistic, philosophers have often relied on a rich reserve of generic
conventions drawn from literature to convey their ideas. Yet the ways in which the literary forms
of plays, poetry, and novels both shape and pervade philosophical expression have been
obscured by philosophical analysis that focuses on extracting arguments or ideas from these
texts. This panel seeks to go beyond the usual debates about the seeming paradoxes of truth-
seeking under the guise of fiction, exploring how and why particular literary genres have been
chosen to convey philosophical ideas. Rather than looking at the relation of literature and
philosophy through the lens of the truth-fiction dichotomy, we are interested in exploring the
question of what happens to literary genres when they are brought into the realm
of the philosophical. Why have philosophers as diverse as Hume, Rousseau, Kierkegaard,
Nietzsche, and Heidegger been drawn to the formal qualities of plays, poetry, and novels? Are
literary works ever treated not only as vehicles, but also as equivalents to philosophical views?
Can literary forms provide new ways of philosophizing? This panel invites papers analyzing
examples of philosophical uses of literary genres or exploring the philosophical significance of
literary texts from the point of view of literary form.
More information about the conference, and its seminar structure, may be found at http://
www.acla.org/acla2009. All paper proposals are due by 1 November 2008 and must be
submitted by means of the appropriate forms on the conference website. These forms are found
by following the "Propose a Paper or Seminar" link on the conference homepage.
Please send all inquiries to seminar organizer Yi-Ping Ong at ypong_at_fas.harvard.edu.
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Received on Tue Oct 14 2008 - 14:08:10 EDT