New Book: Wittgenstein and Modernism

Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé and Michael Lemahieu have written to us to announce their new co-edited volume, Wittgenstein and Modernism (University of Chicago Press). You can access the book’s page on the University of Chicago Press website here.

Here is the book description:

Ludwig Wittgenstein famously declared that philosophy “ought really to be written only as a form of poetry,” and he even described the Tractatus as “philosophical and, at the same time, literary.” But few books have really followed up on these claims, and fewer still have focused on their relation to the special literary and artistic period in which Wittgenstein worked. This book offers the first collection to address the rich, vexed, and often contradictory relationship between modernism—the twentieth century’s predominant cultural and artistic movement—and Wittgenstein, one of its preeminent and most enduring philosophers. In doing so it offers rich new understandings of both.

Michael LeMahieu Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé bring together scholars in both twentieth-century philosophy and modern literary studies to put Wittgenstein into dialogue with some of modernism’s most iconic figures, including Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Walter Benjamin, Henry James, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Adolf Loos, Robert Musil, Wallace Stevens, and Virginia Woolf. The contributors touch on two important aspects of Wittgenstein’s work and modernism itself: form and medium. They discuss issues ranging from Wittgenstein and poetics to his use of numbered propositions in the Tractatus as a virtuoso performance of modernist form; from Wittgenstein’s persistence metaphoric use of religion, music, and photography to an exploration of how he and Henry James both negotiated the relationship between the aesthetic and the ethical.

Covering many other fascinating intersections of the philosopher and the arts, this book offers an important bridge across the disciplinary divides that have kept us from a fuller picture of both Wittgenstein and the larger intellectual and cultural movement of which he was a part.

And here is the table of contents:

Part 1 Wittgenstein’s Modernist Context
1          Wittgenstein and Modernism in Literature: Between the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations
Anthony J. Cascardi
2          “To Become a Different Person”: Wittgenstein, Christianity, and the Modernist Ethos
Marjorie Perloff
3          The Concept of Expression in the Arts from a Wittgensteinian Perspective
Charles Altieri
4          Wittgenstein, Loos, and Critical Modernism: Style and Idea in Architecture and Philosophy
Allan Janik

Part 2 Wittgenstein’s Modernist Cultures
5          Loos, Musil, Wittgenstein, and the Recovery of Human Life
Piergiorgio Donatelli
6          Wittgenstein, Benjamin, and Pure Realism
Eli Friedlander
7          What Makes a Poem Philosophical?
John Gibson

Part 3 Wittgenstein and Literary Modernism
8          In the Condition of Modernism: Philosophy, Literature, and The Sacred Fount
Kristin Boyce
9          The World as Bloom Found It: “Ithaca,” the Tractatus, and “Looking More than Once for the Solution of Difficult Problems in Imaginary or Real Life”
Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé
10        Lectures on Ethics: Wittgenstein and Kafka
Yi-Ping Ong
11        Bellow’s Private Language
Michael LeMahieu

CFP: 21st-Century Theories of Literature: Ethics, Tropes, Attunement

NB: the deadline for the call for papers has been extended until 25/1. We particularly welcome new proposals on the themes of “tropes” and “attunement”.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Derek Attridge (York); Claudia Brodsky (Princeton); Maximilian de Gaynesford (Reading); Anthony Ossa-Richardson (Southampton); Constantine Sandis (Hertfordshire); Catherine Wearing (Wellesley College).

Following the success of the 2014 conference “21st-Century Theories of Literature: Essence, Fiction and Value”, which drew over eighty participants from across the globe and several of whose papers are about to be published as essays in Andrea Selleri and Philip Gaydon (eds.), Literary Studies and the Philosophy of Literature: New Interdisciplinary Directions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016 – forthcoming), this conference seeks to broaden the avenues of conversation between aesthetics and literary studies that were opened on that occasion by prompting scholars from both fields to engage with each other in an actively interdisciplinary study of topics shared by literature and philosophy.

This time, too, there will be three overarching themes: (1) Ethics; (2) Tropes; (3) Attunement. The main questions to be explored are, respectively: (1) whether and how literature and ethics can provide reciprocal illumination, and how each field’s established lines of enquiry can help the other; (2) how literary studies and the philosophy of literature negotiate non-literal meaning, and the linguistic models which the respective practices imply; (3) how the theories and practices of the two fields can be brought to bear on one another. For each of these themes there will be parallel sessions with papers by scholars at all stages of their careers, and a double keynote session that will feature established scholars from each field.

Abstracts of 400-500 words for 20-minute presentations should be sent to the organisers at by 25/1/2017. We would particularly appreciate an engagement with both philosophical and literary-critical literature, but this is not a requirement as long as your argument is broad enough to be of interest to a large interdisciplinary audience. We welcome case studies and historical analyses, as long as there is an explicit theoretical dimension to the discussion. Possible themes may include but are not limited to:



  • Illustrations of ethical themes in fiction
  • Illumination of ethical themes through fiction
  • Doing, deeds and actions and consequences in fiction
  • Narrative and the formation of character
  • Fiction as experimentation with situation and response
  • Narration and judgement
  • Fiction and habitus
  • Implied attitudes in literature
  • The ethics of reading


  • Literary vs figurative meaning
  • Tropes as conveyors of philosophical meaning
  • Tropes and genre
  • Tropes across and between cultures
  • The evolution of tropes in history
  • Tropes and quantitative literary theory
  • Reading protocols and figurative language
  • Tropes and the history of hermeneutics
  • Tropes in expository vs non-expository prose



  • Generality and particularity in literature and philosophy
  • Literary affect and hermeneutic interpretation
  • Literary immediacy and concept generation
  • Modes of argument: what could each field take from the other
  • Literary plots: cases/examples for philosophers?
  • Literary works as case studies to illustrate philosophical issues: enrichment or appropriation?
  • The limits of language and how to tackle them
  • Philosophical contributions of “literary” writers
  • Philosophers and style

This conference is organised by Andrea Selleri (Warwick), Marianna Ginocchietti (Trieste), Alex Underwood (Warwick), Giulia Zanfabro (Trieste), and it is made possible by the generous funding of the British Society of Aesthetics and of Warwick’s Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature and the Arts. We are able to provide travel bursaries of £700, so please let us know if you would like to be considered for one.

Johns Hopkins Humanities Center Under Threat of Closure

Dear Readers—

As many of you know, Johns Hopkins University has recently threatened to close its acclaimed Humanities Center.  A thorough account of the threat (including a play-by-play, possible rationales, and the resultant outcry) can be found [here].  (Kudos to Colleen Flaherty for her exhaustive reporting.)

Should you wish to join in protesting the closure, there is a petition circulating on which you can access [here].  Of course you may also contact JHU President, Ronald J. Daniels, or JHU Krieger School of Arts & Sciences Dean, Beverly Wendland, directly.  Their addresses, emails, and phone numbers are available at

All best—


New Volume of Interest: Commonplace Commitments

Thanks to Peter Fosl for passing along the following:

Richard Fleming has just published a new piece in this volume: Peter S. Fosl, Michael McGandy, and Mark Moorman, eds., Commonplace Commitments: Thinking Through the Legacy of Joseph P. Fell (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2016). Fleming’s contribution is called “Ordinary Studies: Conceptual Brackets—Textual Moments” (pp. 153-65 in the book). It “seeks to both disquiet and still the matters of the ordinary” by, among other practices, melding John Cage’s use of “time brackets” with more traditional etude aims and forms. The text’s conceptual brackets are selected from collected data descriptions of the ordinary first given in the afterword of part 1 of Fleming’s Threads of Philosophy. Click [here] for more information. And enjoy!


Thinking with Tolstoy and Wittgenstein: New Book by Henry W. Pickford

thinking-with-tolstoy-and-wittgensteinI’m afraid I’m a bit late to the party: Out last year from Northwestern UP, Thinking with Tolstoy and Wittgenstein: Expression, Emotion, and Art by Henry W. Pickford. From the publisher:


In this highly original interdisciplinary study incorporating close readings of literary texts and philosophical argumentation, Henry W. Pickford develops a theory of meaning and expression in art intended to counter the meaning skepticism most commonly associated with the theories of Jacques Derrida.

Pickford arrives at his theory by drawing on the writings of Wittgenstein to develop and modify the insights of Tolstoy’s philosophy of art. Pickford shows how Tolstoy’s encounter with Schopenhauer’s thought on the one hand provided support for his ethical views but on the other hand presented a problem, exemplified in the case of music, for his aesthetic theory, a problem that Tolstoy did not successfully resolve. Wittgenstein’s critical appreciation of Tolstoy’s thinking, however, not only recovers its viability but also constructs a formidable position within contemporary debates concerning theories of emotion, ethics, and aesthetic expression.


“This book is original, ambitious, and extremely well informed. Henry Pickford has managed to say an important new word in a vast intellectual field.” Boris Gasparov, author of Five Operas and a Symphony: Word and Music in Russian Culture
Thinking with Tolstoy and Wittgenstein is a beautifully written, philosophically sophisticated, and important work that should be of considerable interest to lterary theorists as well as to philosophers concerned with emotion.” Stanley Bates, Middlebury College

Images of History: New Book by Richard Eldridge

Richard Eldridge‘s most recent book, Images of History: Kant, Benjamin, Freedom, and the Human Subject, is sure to be of interest to those of us invested in questions of historicity, morality, and political community. See below for the publisher’s description. Click the image to be forwarded to the book’s Amazon page.



Developing work in the theories of action and explanation, Eldridge argues that moral and political philosophers require accounts of what is historically possible, while historians require rough philosophical understandings of ideals that merit reasonable endorsement.

Both Immanuel Kant and Walter Benjamin recognize this fact. Each sees a special place for religious consciousness and critical practice in the articulation and revision of ideals that are to have cultural effect, but they differ sharply in the forms of religious-philosophical understanding, cultural criticism, and political practice that they favor.

Kant defends a liberal, reformist, Protestant stance, emphasizing the importance of liberty, individual rights, and democratic institutions. His fullest picture of movement toward a moral culture appears inReligion within the Bounds of Mere Reason, where he describes conjecturally the emergence of an ethical commonwealth.

Benjamin defends a politics of improvisatory alertness and consciousness-raising that is suspicious of progress and liberal reform. He practices a form of modernist, materialist criticism that is strongly rooted in his encounters with Kant, Hölderlin, and Goethe. His fullest, finished picture of this critical practice appears in One-Way Street, where he traces the continuing force of unsatisfied desires.

By drawing on both Kant and Benjamin, Eldridge hopes to avoid both moralism (standing on sharply specified normative commitments at all costs) and waywardness (rejecting all settled commitments). And in doing so, he seeks to make better sense of the commitment-forming, commitment-revising, anxious, reflective and sometimes grownup acculturated human subjects we are.

F. R. Leavis Symposium, April 2016 Issue of Philosophy and Literature

The April issue (Vol. 40, No. 1) of Philosophy of Literature features a symposium on F. R. Leavis: Teacher, Critic, Philosopher. See below for the complete Table of Contents + links.





Lines to Time: A Poem by V. Penelope Pelizzon pp. 1-33 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0008 by M. W. Rowe

Sculpting Ideas: Can Philosophy Be an Art Form? pp. 34-43 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0012 by St. Hope Earl McKenzie

The Crisis of Subjectivity: The Significance of Darstellung and Freedom in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman” pp. 44-58 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0016 by Elizabeth Purcell

Melville and Nietzsche: Living the Death of God pp. 59-75 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0020 by Mark Anderson

The Function of Kant’s Miltonic Citations on a Page of the Opus postumum pp. 76-97 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0000 by Sanford Budick

Joseph Conrad and the Epistemology of Space pp. 98-123 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0003 by John G. Peters

Symposium: F. R. Leavis: Critic, Teacher, Philosopher

Introduction pp. 124-126 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0006 by Danièle Moyal-Sharrock

Leavisian Thinking pp. 127-136 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0010 by Ian Robinson

Rethinking Leavis pp. 137-156 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0014 by Chris Joyce

Leavis, Tolstoy, Lawrence, and “Ultimate Questions” pp. 157-170 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0018 by Edward Greenwood

Creativity and Pedagogy in Leavis pp. 171-188 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0022 by Michael Bell

Leavis on Tragedy pp. 189-205 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0002 by Paul Dean

Leavis and Wittgenstein pp. 206-225 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0005 by Bernard Harrison

Absolute Pitch and Exquisite Rightness of Tone pp. 226-239 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0009 by Paul Standish

Wittgenstein and Leavis: Literature and the Enactment of the Ethical pp. 240-264 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0013 by Danièle Moyal-Sharrock

Notes and Fragments

Levinas and the Plot against Literature pp. 265-272 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0017 by Joseph G. Kronick

The Myth of Narcissus as a Surreptitious Allegory about Creativity pp. 273-284 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0021 by Greg Stone

The Idea of the “Good” pp. 285-296 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0001 by John C. Hampsey

Wittgenstein’s Remarks on William Shakespeare pp. 297-308 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0004 by Derek McDougall

On The Philosophy of Poetry, ed. John Gibson pp. 309-314 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0007 by A. J. Nickerson

La Guerra Dei Poveri: A Response to A. J. Nickerson pp. 315-316 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0011 by John Gibson


The Cognitive Value of Philosophical Fiction by Jukka Mikkonen (review) pp. 317-319 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0015 by László Kajtár

Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach by Philip Kitcher (review) pp. 320-324 | DOI: 10.1353/phl.2016.0019 by Iris Vidma

David Kangas Rest In Peace

David Kangas, author of the book Kierkegaard’s Instant: On Beginnings (2007) and numerous articles on thinkers as diverse as Reiner Schürmann and Marguerite Porete, passed away September ninth in Turlock, California where he was an assistant professor in the Philosophy department at Stanislaus State. David was fifty-one and is survived by his wife and young children.

David will be remembered for his openhearted curiosity and insight. I invite you to commemorate him in the comments section below.

With sincere condolences to his family and friends, CL

Duke PAL: Upcoming Events

An embarrassment of riches this month at Duke’s Center for Philosophy, Art, and Literature. See for more info on the following:

  • September 6, 2016 – Writing and Academic Works English Working Group Meeting –

An Investigation of what Academics can Learn from Literary Non-fiction, particularly the Essay and the Memoir

A Call for Participation for 2016-2017

Sarah Beckwith and Toril Moi

The English Department has generously sponsored a working group on “Writing and Academic Work” for 2016/17. We are writing to invite anyone interested in the topic to participate in the year’s work. If you are interested, please attend our planning meeting on SEPTEMBER 6th at 5.30pm in 314, Allen Building.

  • September 13, 2016 – Concepts, Figures, Art Forms Seminar 2016/17

Call for participation


Toril Moi, Literature and Romance Studies, English, Philosophy, Theater Studies (, Corina Stan, English (

Come to the first, exploratory meeting!

If you are interested in exploring the concept of the Other this academic year, please come to the first, exploratory meeting of this new FHI/PAL seminar at 5 p.m. on Tuesday 13th September, FHI Conference Room, Smith Warehouse (enter in Bay 4, the room will be the first on your left.)

  • September 13, 2016 – Film Screening “Jimmy P Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian”

Join co-sponsors, PAL and FHI for film screening of French director Arnaud Desplechin’s  “Jimmy P Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian,” a 2013 English-language movie, set in Topeka Kansas, based on the memoir of the Hungarian -Jewish ethnologist/psychoanalyst Georges Devereux about his work with Jimmy Picard a Blackfoot Indian and Second World War veteran.  On Tuesday, September 13th at 7:00pm at Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall, Smith Warehouse, Bay 4.

  • September 15, 2016 – Panel Discussion “Jimmy P Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian”

Join co-sponsors, PAL and FHI for a panel discussion on French director Arnaud Desplechin’s  “Jimmy P Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.”

On Thursday, September 15th at 6:00pm at Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall, Smith Warehouse, Bay 4.  Reception at 5:30pm.
Panel Speakers:  Markos Hadjiouannou, Deborah Jenson, Ranjana Khanna, Brandon Kohrt, Toril Moi, Dhipthi Mulligan.