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This seminar has had a long and distinguished history at Columbia. Originally called Theory of Literature (469), it was revived under its current title in 2006 with a view to pursuing the relations between literature, philosophy, and the politics that pervades our cultural production and its study. For some time now, literary studies has been engaged in wider theoretical approaches to texts and to the very idea of literature and criticism, and the seminar hopes to take philosophical stock of this tendency as well as to try to bring to it, wherever possible, more creative and more rigorous angles. These goals will initially be pursued broadly and ecumenically and should it turn out that one or other theme surfaces, which demands our sustained focus, the seminar will very likely take it up for a whole year, approaching it from different angles. For the most part, one of the members will circulate a paper, introduced for the seminar by another member, but occasionally, we will invite a speaker from outside the membership.

The Columbia University Seminar in Literary Theory meets several times per semester to discuss new work on the relations between literature, philosophy, and politics. A paper is pre-circulated and discussed at the seminar. We invite faculty and graduate students of all institutions to attend. Please contact the rapporteur for a copy of the paper.

Before the seminar, there is usually a dinner at Faculty House at 6 pm. There is no need to reserve a spot for the seminar, but please email the rapporteur as soon as possible if you would like to come to dinner. It may be possible to accommodate extra dinner guests at the last minute, but it cannot be guaranteed. The cost for dinner $30 per person, and is only payable by check.

Professor Bruce Robbins

Milan Terlunen

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.

Meeting Schedule

10/21/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:15 PM
Michel Foucault, Psychiatry, Anti-Psychiatry, and Power
Camille Robcis, Columbia University

Respondent: Etienne Balibar, Columbia University and Universite de Paris X-Nanterre (France)

12/04/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
"Difference" (from Philosophies of Defeat: The Jargon of Finitude)
Bruno Bosteels, Columbia University


We'll be discussing a draft chapter by Bruno Bosteels (Columbia University) from his forthcoming book Philosophies of Defeat: The Jargon of Finitude. The chapter is accessible at the following link:

Respondent: Robert J. C. Young, New York University

02/10/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:15 PM
Jane Austen, Secret Celebrity and Mass Erotics
David Kurnick, Rutgers University

Respondent: Joseph Albernaz, Columbia University