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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

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

09/21/2020 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
On Nietzsche and Doing Less with Cynicism
Helen Small, Oxford University (England, UK)

Respondent: Etienne Balibar, Sorbonne Université (France) and Columbia Unversity

10/21/2020 Online Meeting
4:15 PM
Making Worlds: Affect and Collectivity in Contemporary European Cinema (introduction and epilogue)
Claudia Breger, Columbia University

Respondent: Nico Baumbach, Columbia University

11/16/2020 Online Meeting
7:15 PM
Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form
Sianne Ngai, University of Chicago

Respondent: Lee Konstantinou, University of Maryland, College Park

02/02/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
The Second Secularization, or, The Humanities and Society Today
Simon During, University of Queensland (Australia)

Respondent: Stathis Gourgouris, Columbia University

03/15/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
meeting cancelled