Workshop on Literature, Philosophy, & Aesthetics

The BU Workshop on Literature, Philosophy, and Aesthetics is an annual meeting of literary scholars and philosophers whose work reflects upon the problems and themes shared across their different disciplines. That there are common problems and themes hasn’t always been appreciated. At least since Plato, philosophy has been associated with abstract general claims and a detached attitude toward the world. Literary critics, by contrast, value playful language, depictions of dramatic action, inventive expressions of moods rather than neutral, impartial stances. Philosophers make assertions and prize truth; critics are attuned to fictions and masks, attending (to adapt Keats) to an Iago as readily as an Imogen, relishing the “dark side of things” as much as “the bright one.” These venerable divisions have been challenged in various ways for over a century, but “Phil.” and “Lit.” are still often at odds—or mutually indifferent—in the American academy. The “ancient quarrel” persists.
The BU Workshop is designed not to end the quarrel but to better understand it, highlighting some of the most innovative new work exploring the lines between literary studies and philosophy. This year’s inaugural meeting will feature a wide-ranging and eclectic mixture of papers addressing all the major literary genres (speakers will be addressing poetry, fiction, and drama) as well as a remarkable variety of concepts and topics: language, affect, the mind, personal identity, moral action, modernity, race, and political justice, among other things.