NHC Summer Institute in Literary Studies: Toril Moi on Lessing’s The Golden Notebook

We wanted to let you know that Toril Moi (Literature, Duke University) will be leading one of the National Humanities Center’s two 2011 Summer Institutes in Literary Studies. Applications for Prof. Moi’s seminar are now being accepted (postmark deadline: March 11, 2011), and information about how to apply can be found here.

Here is the description of Prof. Moi’s seminar, which is entitled “Reading The Golden Notebook” (full information here):

For a long time The Golden Notebook (1962) was taken to be a feminist tract. Doris Lessing herself objected strongly to this: her aim was to warn us against emphasizing differences, not to reinforce them, she wrote in her 1971 preface. While she is obviously right to insist that her novel cannot be reduced to questions about gender and sexuality, this seminar will take issue with the assumption that a feminist reading is doomed to emphasize gender differences, however irrelevant they may be.

In fact, The Golden Notebook is a hugely ambitious novel that sets out to give the true measure of the political, personal, and historical conflicts and contradictions of the postwar world, as they appeared to a white Rhodesian living in London. In its ambitions to understand its epoch, The Golden Notebook inherits the realist ambitions of George Eliot; in its attempt to capture reality and experience through new forms, it belongs to high modernism; in its ceaseless questioning of the relationship between writing and truth, it anticipates postmodernism. The Golden Notebook‘s analysis of the world of intellectuals and artists in postwar London parallels that of The Mandarins (1954), Simone de Beauvoir’s magisterial investigation of the politics and passions of French intellectuals after World War II.

Intellectually and politically, The Golden Notebookengages with Marxist theory and psychoanalysis, with communism and capitalism, race and racism, and decolonization, yet without abandoning its skepticism towards any theory or politics that pretends to reduce the world to a simple explanation. The novel broke new literary ground in its radical attempt to convey with unparalleled honesty the feel and texture of women’s lives in the era so stylishly represented in the current TV series Mad Men. Finally, The Golden Notebook also lays bare the prejudices of its time: as many critics have pointed out, its representation of homosexuals and homosexuality are deeply problematic to contemporary readers.

The seminar will engage in close reading of The Golden Notebook, both in order to reach deeper levels of appreciation of this remarkable text, and as a way to explore different ways (“approaches”, “methods”) of reading women’s writing today. It will question the idea that there is something specific or characteristic about the ways in which women write. Inquiry will start from the assumption that women do not write in one way, any more than men do. Yet it does not follow that the author’s gender is always irrelevant to literary criticism. So what is a literary critic to do? Is the author dead or alive? The question of the relationship between the author’s person, and the author’s life, and his or her text is not just important to feminism, it remains crucial to critics concerned with race, postcolonialism, sexuality, class, and history.

This seminar will explore different ways of reading a mid-twentieth century European novel. It will engage in at least some of the following kinds of reading: historicizing, political, postcolonial, feminist, Marxist, psychoanalytical, formal, literary historical, and philosophical. By discussing the assumptions underpinning such different inquiries, the seminar will strive to achieve some insights about when (under what circumstances) to take the author’s person, the author’s life, or the author’s gender, into consideration in literary criticism.

Audio: J.L. Austin’s voice

I’ve finally had a chance to watch a few of the Logic Lane episodes that we recently posted, and I was delighted to discover that the 5th part of the episode on Oxford philosophy of the 1930s (featuring a conversation between Isaiah Berlin and Stuart Hampshire) includes a brief audio clip of J.L. Austin lecturing. I wanted to draw it to your attention, in case, like me, you too have never heard Austin’s voice before.

[Note: see Nat Hansen’s comment below for more about this recording of Austin lecturing]

The clip begins about 1 minute into the 5th section of the film (which, for your convenience, I’ll embed again below):


New Graduate Certificate Program at PAL (Duke Univ.)

We have very exciting news: Duke University’s Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature, under the direction of Toril Moi, will begin offering Graduate Certificates in Philosophy, Arts, and Literature. To learn more about this program, visit PAL’s website for the new certificate by clicking here (includes information about approved courses, program requirements, and the program’s steering committee). This is a wonderful new curricular initiative, which we find deeply heartening. Congratulations to Prof. Moi and her colleagues at PAL for making this happen!

2nd Wittgenstein Summer School: on PI sections 1-89

This looks like a wonderful opportunity for those who are still enrolled in university programs:

2nd Ludwig Wittgenstein Summer School

Augustine’s Picture of Language: Names, Samples and Simples (PI §§ 1 – 89)

Location: Kirchberg am Weschel (Lower Austria)

Instructors: Peter Hacker (Oxford) and Joachim Schulte (Zurich)

Required qualifications: The summer school is addressed to advanced university students in philosophy. Elementary knowledge of Wittgenstein’s philosophy is desirable. Applicants are asked to send a performance record and a 3-page essay on one or several remarks taken from §§1-89. Teaching language: English. Application deadline (registration and payment): 31 March 2010. Information concerning acceptance/non-acceptance: 30 April 2010 (Full reimbursement in case of non-acceptance). For more information about the summer school (including information about how to apply, and about the fees), please visit their webpage by clicking here.

Here is the poster for the program (click on poster to enlarge):

Philosophy and Literature at Stanford


[Posted by BR]

For a while now, I’ve been hearing good things about a “philosophy and literature” initiative at Stanford University. So I decided to take a peek at their website, and indeed, it looks like very exciting things have been happening there under the leadership of Joshua Landy (French & Italian) and R. Lanier Anderson (Philosophy). I thought some of you would also like to know how the philosophy and literature initiative at Stanford is developing. To learn more, visit their website by clicking here.

I am particularly impressed by the curricular arm of the initiative, which now offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level tracks of study that integrate the study of literature and philosophy. For more information about the various curricular tracks, please click here. Here is an overview of the program:

It has long been understood that philosophy and literary studies have much to teach one another, but the opportunity for serious and sustained engagement between the disciplines is a new one, and the possibilities for mutual illumination are vast.

The undergraduate program of study affords students access to critics specializing in the full range of national literatures and to philosophers working on theories of language, mind, action, aesthetics, ethics, and political thought; our aim is to train students in the full range of philosophical tools and traditions (both “continental” and “analytic”), as well as a wide array of critical traditions.

Since, in our experience, the best work in the area manifests a thoroughgoing integration of specialized skills and knowledge drawn from both literary and philosophical disciplines, the major tracks offer students serious mainstream training within criticism and within philosophy, as well as courses designed to synthesize the two. Ideally, our students will contribute fresh insights into what literature and philosophy are capable of in combination, by first reaching an understanding of what each is and does on its own.

The undergraduate major tracks are offered through participating departments; for detailed information on the shape taken by the course of study in a particular department, please click on the relevant link. [Click here to access the links.]

At the graduate level, we offer a workshop and are hoping soon to be able to offer a PhD minor in Literature and Philosophy within English, French, Comparative Literature, German, Italian, Philosophy, and Slavic, on the model of the Classics and Philosophy minor. Further developments will be announced on the PhD Minor page.

Videos: Intro to Literary Theory (Paul Fry, Yale Univ.)


Yale University has begun to provide free online access to videos of some of their introductory lecture courses. And Open Yale Courses the name of this digital initiative — has recently made available videorecordings of an English department course called “Introduction to Theory of Literature,” taught by Professor Paul Fry. We thought many of you would be interested in this new online resource, and in Prof. Fry’s course in particular.

Here is the description of the course:

This is a survey of the main trends in twentieth-century literary theory. Lectures will provide background for the readings and explicate them where appropriate, while attempting to develop a coherent overall context that incorporates philosophical and social perspectives on the recurrent questions: what is literature, how is it produced, how can it be understood, and what is its purpose?

And here are three sample videos: of the first lecture (the introduction to the course), the tenth lecture (the first of two on deconstruction), and then the twenty-fifth lecture (on “The End of Theory?; Neo-Pragmatism”).

To access all the recorded lectures, please click here. Here is a list of the topics covered in each of the recorded lectures:

  1. Introduction
  2. Introduction (cont.)
  3. Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle
  4. Configurative Reading
  5. The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork
  6. The New Criticism and Other Western Formalisms
  7. Russian Formalism
  8. Semiotics and Structuralism
  9. Linguistics and Literature
  10. Deconstruction I
  11. Deconstruction II
  12. Freud and Fiction
  13. Jacques Lacan in Theory
  14. Influence
  15. The Postmodern Psyche
  16. The Social Permeability of Reader and Text
  17. The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory
  18. The Political Unconscious
  19. The New Historicism
  20. The Classical Feminist Tradition
  21. African-American Criticism
  22. Post-Colonial Criticism
  23. Queer Theory and Gender Performativity
  24. The Institutional Construction of Literary Study
  25. The End of Theory?; Neo-Pragmatism
  26. Reflections; Who Doesn’t Hate Theory Now?

Online Foucault Audio Collection @ U.C. Berkeley


The Media Resources Center at U.C. Berkeley has just placed online a new collection of audio recordings of Michel Foucault. We thought some of you would like to know of it. Here is the Center’s announcement, including a link to the collection:

The Media Resources Center is proud to announce the unveiling of…

Michel Foucault Collection

This is the most comprehensive collection to date of online audio recordings of lectures and courses by the renowned French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. The English language collection features two lecture series–on Truth, Subjectivity, and Parrhesia–delivered at UC Berkeley in the 1980’s. The French language collection offers five complete semester-length courses, covering such quintessentially Foucauldian topics as Parrhesia, governmentality, neoliberalism, security, biopolitics, and sovereignity. The collection includes recordings spanning two decades of thought and instruction, including Foucault’s final 1984 course at the College de France.

All recordings can be accessed from the Michel Foucault Audio Archive:


This collection was generously donated to the Media Resources Center by Paul Rabinow, Professor of Social Cultural Anthropology, and digitized and edited by Gisele Binder, Operations Supervisor, Media Resources Center.

Wittgenstein Research Centre at University of East Anglia


[Posted by BR]

I recently stumbled upon the website of the Wittgenstein Research Centre, affiliated with the School of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Many of the distinguished scholars who are associated with the center were already well known to me, but the existence of the center itself was not. In case any of you also had not heard of this research group before, I thought I’d post a link to their website here. To read the “Research Profile” of the center’s faculty members, click here.

And here is a brief description of the center:

The Wittgenstein Research Group is an international team of leading Wittgenstein experts who combine rigorous exegetical scholarship with innovative application of Wittgensteinian ideas in different areas of philosophy and in interdisciplinary debate.

In its revolutionary stage, much analytic philosophy was shaped by the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The assimilation and criticism of his ideas drove the development of analytic philosophy until the 1960s. And although more accessible concepts then moved to the fore of philosophical discussion, Wittgenstein’s enigmatic work has continued to provide inspiration for original and innovative research beyond the confines of mainstream analytic philosophy.

The Wittgenstein Research Centre in Norwich has been set up by an international team of philosophers who share this bi-partite research perspective: they combine rigorous exegetical and historical work on Wittgenstein and his context with innovative philosophical and inter-disciplinary research which develops Wittgensteinian ideas in new directions.

The founding members are Eugen Fischer, Garry Hagberg, Oskari Kuusela, Catherine Osborne, and Rupert Read.

Job: Assistant Professor in Philosophy and College of Letters (Wesleyan)


[Posted by BR]

I just came across the job listing below on Inside Higher Ed, for an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University, to be jointly appointed in both the Department of Philosophy and in the College of Letters. I don’t intend to make a habit of posting job advertisements on this blog, but I thought this one — which specifies “philosophy of literature” and “aesthetics” as desirable areas of competence — would be especially appealing (and suited) to some of our regular readers (or perhaps some of their friends, colleagues, or students: you can use the “share” button located at the upper right-hand corner of this post to email it to others). A few years ago, Ethan Kleinberg (Dept. of History, and chair of the College of Letters) organized a wonderful conference at Wesleyan on “philosophy and literature,” which I was able to attend. My experience at that gathering leads me to believe that Wesleyan would be an especially stimulating and welcoming place for anyone who works on the connections between philosophy and literature. Here is the ad:

Wesleyan University invites applications for an Assistant Professor. Joint Appointment in Department of Philosophy and the College of Letters. Area of specialization: Nineteenth Century European Philosophy (including Kant), with a preference for German Philosophy. Area of competence: Philosophy of Literature, Aesthetics, or the Philosophy of History. The College of Letters is an interdisciplinary department in predominantly European literature, history, and philosophy. Team teaching of material from all three disciplines, over the period from antiquity to the present, is required. Broad literary and historical interests are thus essential. Ph.D. in Philosophy complete or very near completion expected by the time of appointment. Send letter of application, c.v., three letters of reference, a one-page thesis abstract, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and a chapter-length writing sample to Chair, Search Committee, Philosophy Department, Wesleyan University, 350 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459. Applications received by December 1, 2009 are assured full consideration. Wesleyan is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer, and welcomes applications from women and members of historically under-represented groups.

The Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature (Duke University)


[Posted by CS]

PAL Banner 4

There is much to look forward to for those of us who are interested in ordinary language philosophy, or who work more generally at the intersection of literature, philosophy, and the arts: a new institute has opened this fall at Duke University under the direction of Toril Moi, called PAL (for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature). It promises to become a stimulating place for research, broad-ranging conversations, and intellectual exchange, and this not only for Duke faculty and students, but potentially for scholars worldwide. A series of major events is already planned, including an inaugural lecture to be given by Stanley Cavell on October 12, a visit by British novelist A. S. Byatt (October 15), a workshop for young scholars from various universities who work on philosophy and literature (February 2010), and a one-day symposium on art and philosophy with Michael Fried (Johns Hopkins University) and Robert Pippin (University of Chicago) on March 4, 2010. While we are announcing the official inauguration of the institute, it is worth mentioning that the Center in fact developed out of a series of ordinary language philosophy workshops which brought together students and faculty from various departments at Duke over the course of the past two years: in 2007-2008 we had the pleasure of hosting Tim Gould (Denver Metropolitan University), Nancy Bauer (Tufts University), Sandra Laugier (University of Amiens, France), and Richard Fleming (Bucknell University); and last year, in what seemed like a tour de force over several weekends, we read the Philosophical Investigations “remark by remark” under the perceptive guidance of Professor Fleming. PAL already has an elegant website, where you can read more about upcoming events, as well as courses and texts relevant to ordinary language philosophy studies. To visit PAL’s website, please click here.