CFP: “Romanticism and Philosophy,” SERA (Paris, Sept 28-29, 2012)

CFP: “Romanticism and Philosophy”

An international conference
co-organized by the SERA (Société d’Etude du Romantisme Anglais), by the Université Paris 7 – Denis Diderot and the Université Lille 3 – Charles de Gaulle
to be held at Université Lille 3 – Charles-de-Gaulle on 28-29 September 2012

The modern concept of literature first emerged in the writings of the Jena Romantics. In L’Absolu littéraire, Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe suggest that Romanticism is the moment when philosophy invested literature, defining it as an object of speculation, and when writers strongly asserted the reflexive dimension of their practice, opening up the field of literary theory. Romanticism has redrawn the boundaries of genres and disciplines, and blurred the line that separates literature from philosophy and from the other arts, thereby widening the possibilities for crossovers and raising the issue of hybridization. As Shelley points out in A Defence of Poetry, Plato and Bacon were essentially poets, and Shakespeare, Dante and Milton were philosophers in their own right. During the Romantic era, art was defined as a major object for speculative thinking, but it also turned into an alter ego and a rival for philosophy, as it strove to offer thought experiments that could sublate the inner contradictions of philosophical systems from the outside.

The “philosophical poem” Wordsworth calls for in The Prelude, “yearning toward some philosophic song / Of truth that cherishes our daily life”, is part of that endeavour. Truth, as well as life, can no longer be the objects of philosophy alone but also, perhaps above all, of art. As Emerson reminds us in “Experience”, “Life is not dialectics”, suggesting that life cannot be fettered by the constricting chains of philosophical systems but can be embraced by the supple and shifting lines of literary texts, in order to unfold, experience, test and understand itself. “Tell the truth but tell it slant”, Emily Dickinson later wrote, as a tribute to the indirection and obliquity of poetic writing, in stark contrast to the so-called rectilinear catenations of philosophical thinking, as a celebration of the revealing opacity of tropes and figures, set against the misleading transparency of concepts. “A philosopher must be more than a philosopher” (Emerson again, in “Plato, or the Philosopher”), he must be a poet, because art also thinks, in its own terms and figures. A mutual relationship emerges as art vies with philosophy, while it opens up new speculative fields for later thinkers to elaborate some of their distinctive concepts, such as Heidegger’s meditation on “poetic dwelling”, inherited from Hölderlin’s poetry, or what Stanley Cavell calls “the ordinary”, after Wordsworth, Emerson and Thoreau.

The conference will explore the kinship and the conflicts, the elective affinities and the dangerous liaisons which bind art to philosophy during three major phases of Romanticism, in Germany, England and the United States. Papers on all art forms are invited. Topics may include but are not limited to:

The philosophy of Romanticism
Romanticism and the philosophical tradition
Romantic legacies in philosophy and literary theory
The philosophy of poetics / the poetics of philosophy
Tropes and concepts
The Romantic subject
Romanticism and literary theory
Romantic aesthetics

Abstracts (300-500 words) should be submitted, together with a CV, to Thomas Constantinesco ( and Sophie Laniel-Musitelli ( before 15 September 2011.

Presentations will be expected not to exceed 30 minutes. Most presentations and papers will be in English. Final papers will be considered for publication following a peer-review process.

Scientific committee:
Prof. Mathieu Duplay, Université Paris 7 – Charles de Gaulle
Prof. Thomas Dutoit, Université Lille 3 – Charles de Gaulle
Prof. Jean-Marie Fournier, Université Paris 7 – Denis Diderot
Prof. Marc Porée, Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle
Dr. Thomas Constantinesco, Université Paris 7 – Denis Diderot
Dr. Sophie Laniel-Musitelli, Université Lille 3 – Charles de Gaulle


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