German Romanticism and its Fates in World Literature (ACLA, Vancouver, March 31-April 3, 2011)

full name / name of organization: 
Hiroki Yoshikuni, University of Tokyo; Matthew H. Anderson, SUNY Buffalo
contact email: 

This seminar seeks to examine world literature in the wake of German Romanticism. German Romanticism has often been seen as a response to a philosophical crisis that emerged from Kant's formulations of theoretical and practical reason. Because, from the standpoint of theoretical reason, phenomenal nature is always "contingent" and subordinated to the laws of causality, the world of nature is, by definition, not free. But Kant also maintains that freedom, in its resistance to phenomenal desires and causes, is the unique trait or mark of a humanity that is distinguished from animals and machines, though freedom itself cannot ever appear in nature, and thus cannot be theoretically known as such. Though the third Critique and the idealist movement that followed it are philosophy's attempt to resolve this division between nature and freedom, the Romantics' response to the crisis claimed that literature—or the literary Absolute as Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe have conceived it—could present what philosophy cannot. The task of literature is thus determined by a philosophical crisis; literature exists to tell us truths about the human subject. In the dissemination of this idea, post-Romantic writers maintained that literature was "the great Art of Telling the Truth"(Melville), or a way of "presenting" "the truth of the human heart"(Hawthorne). This seminar thus starts with the assumption that literature is a philosophical project, but it aims to investigate how it has negotiated with, and disrupted, its philosophical task and origin.

The deadline for 250 word paper proposals is NOVEMBER 12, 2010. Proposals should be submitted through the ACLA website: