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21st-Century Theories of Literature: A Critical Reflection on an Interdisciplinary Event

Philip Gaydon, Andrea Selleri


The authors reflect upon the successes and difficulties of developing and running 21st-Century Theories of Literature: Essence, Fiction, and Value, an interdisciplinary conference held at the University of Warwick on 27-29 March 2014.

The aim of the conference was to encourage a more sustained focus on the overlap between two disciplines which, prima facie, have a lot in common: philosophical aesthetics (and in particular its literary branch, the philosophy of literature) and  literary studies (of which literary theory may be considered a subdivision). Because both deal with literature and have an investment in the idea of theorisation, one might have thought that there was no need to encourage active dialogue and it would arise naturally from the needs of each field. However, in the current institutional state of affairs where philosophy departments and literature departments often have little overlap, ‘aesthetics’ and ‘literary theory’ are two very distinct entities, and interaction is underdeveloped even when room for it does exist. As such, we judged that there was a need for such a prompting. This piece presents the rationale for our conference, and describes its preparation, development and outcomes.

Photo credit: Wittgenstein Vector, copyright eXegesis -  J. Robles, M.D. Rose-Steel, S. M. Steele, 2014.


philosophy and literature; interdisciplinary; multidisciplinary; literary theory; aesthetics; conference

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