Indiana University Bloomington


(For an archive of events, see here)


Spring 2014

Forum: Discussion of Work-in-Progress

Kevin Houser (Doctoral candidate, Philosophy), "The Ethical Origins of Objectivity"

Thursday, Jan. 23, 8 pm, 1220 E. 1st Street, Bloomington



Style, Ethos, Image I

Saturday, Feb. 15, 10 am - 4 pm, Oak Room, Indiana Memorial Union

10 am: Taylor Carman (Philosophy, Barnard College)
"Merleau-Ponty on Painting and the Promiscuity of Vision"

Taylor Carman is one of the foremost phenomenologists working today. He is the author of Heidegger’s Analytic: Interpretation, Discourse, and Authenticity in Being and Time (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and of Merleau-Ponty (Routledge, 2008) as well as co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Merleau-Ponty. He has published many articles on phenomenology, existentialism, and hermeneutics, among other topics.

Abstract: How are vision and pictorial representation related? Seeing a picture as a picture of something means seeing it as having a unique visual presence of its own, midway between perceptual objects as such and mere signs or symbols indicating them abstractly. How do pictures manage to present themselves to us as neither abstract signs nor mere things? Not merely by resembling them, since similarity is not representation, but by manifesting a style, a way of seeing. To do this, they must be visually present in a way that is both intertwined with and yet distinct from what they depict. That intertwining is possible only because, as Merleau-Ponty says, “perception already stylizes.”

11:15 am: Coffee break

11:30 am: Jennifer Fleissner (English, Indiana)
"Romancing the Real: Ian McEwan's Enduring Love"

Jennifer L. Fleissner is the author of Women, Compulsion, Modernity: The Moment of American Naturalism (Chicago) as well as numerous essays in such venues as Critical Inquiry, ELH, American Literature, American Literary History, Novel, Studies in Romanticism, and The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Her current book project, Maladies of the Will, explores the conjoined fates of fiction, philosophy, and psychology over the long nineteenth century, in order to make an argument for the novel form as centrally concerned with the dysfunctionality of the human will.

Abstract: This paper considers the turn toward "surface reading" that opposes itself to "depth" models via Ian McEwan's 1997 novel, in which the members of a sparring couple—-one a science writer, the other a literary critic—-embody these differing interpretive modes. I claim that the book cannot be understood unless we see the way it sets up reason itself in the position of imperiled innocence. Yet this very fact allows us to recognize McEwan's enduring fascination, even in this "neuronovel," with Gothic or "romance" modes as Henry James defined them. I argue that humanistic scholarship must always incorporate, alongside our present drive toward epistemological transparency, a recognition of the ways that what James calls the real—-"the things we cannot possibly not know, sooner or later"—-nonetheless become the objects of what he calls romance—-the persistent phantoms of "our thought and our desire."

12:45 pm: Lunch

2:15 - 4 pm: Seminar with Taylor Carman on Image and Perspective (on Merleau-Ponty and Hubert Damisch)

Funding from the Departments of English and Germanic Studies is gratefully acknowledged.



Style, Ethos, Image II

Sunday, March 30, 10 am, Bridgewater Lounge, Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.


10 am: John Plotz (English, Brandeis University)
"The Great Stoneface and His Hats: Buster Keaton’s Style"

John Plotz is a Professor and Chair of English at Brandeis University. He is the author of The Crowd (California, 2000) and  Portable Property (Princeton, 2008), and his current project is entitled “Semi-Detached: The Aesthetics of Partial Absorption.”  His first children’s book, Time and the Tapestry: A William Morris Adventure, is due out in May, 2014.

Abstract: Buster Keaton’s style--porkpie hats, deadpan visage and all--depends on three aspects to succeed. First, his playful inversion and deformation of the film, theatre, and vaudeville antecedents that make up his professional milieu (what Gaudreault calls a “cultural series” and Charles Tilly a “cultural repertoire”). Second, his film’s slippery formal devices, which bespeak a complex and subtle sense of the varied meanings audiences might attribute to his films. Finally, his capacity to suggest his own partial absence even when present on screen. Manifest for example in his perennial stoneface and his endearing otherworldliness, we might call this aspect of Keaton’s style his semi-detachment.

11:15 am: Coffee break

11:30 am: Daniel Morgan (Cinema & Media Studies, University of Chicago)
"The Morals of Style"

Daniel Morgan's research and teaching focuses on the intersection between cinema and aesthetics, and in particular the way in which the close analysis of films supports or enables a range of theoretical and philosophical arguments. His first book, Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema (2012), is about the films and videos of Jean-Luc Godard since the late 1980s. He is currently writing a book on the history and aesthetics of camera movement, and co-authoring a book on film and philosophy with Richard Neer.

Abstract: The familiar account of the history of politically committed film and film criticism centers on montage, emphasizing topics such as dialectical juxtaposition, the production of new meanings out of disparate fragments, and the creation of critical viewpoints. This paper explores a different tradition, one that emerges explicitly in debates in post-war French film culture around the use of camera movements in contemporary films—from Orson Welles to Kenji Mizoguchi to Gillo Pontecorvo to Alain Resnais. I argue that rather than a politics of form, these filmmakers and critics were articulating a relation between style and ethics.

12:45 pm: Lunch

2:15 pm: Anne-Lise François (Comparative Literature/English, UC Berkeley)
“'Je sauterai le bonheur': Signing Happiness and the Staccato of Stendhalian Style”

Anne-Lise François's book, Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford University Press, 2008), was awarded the 2010 René Wellek Prize by the American Comparative Literature Association. Questions of how to value unused powers and recognize inconsequential action also inform her essay on Wordsworthian natural piety and genetically engineered foods, as well as an earlier article on the gentle force of habit in Hume and Wordsworth. Her current book project, “Provident Improvisers: Parables of Subsistence from Wordsworth to Benjamin,” focuses on figures of pastoral worldliness, provisionality, and commonness.

Abstract: This paper returns to the question, already well elaborated by Gérard Genette, of the relation between pudeur (feminine reserve) and directness in Stendhalian style. Through a series of fragmentary readings of moments in the novels and in Stendhal’s own marginalia to the Champer edition of La Chartreuse, the paper hopes to illuminate the paradoxical coincidence of feminine paresse or laziness, absence of forethought, improvisation, and discipline, evident in the famous precision--rapid ‘éclat’--and simultaneous ellipsis of his sentences.

3:30 pm: Coffee Break

4 - 5 pm: Open Discussion



Lecture: Boris Groys (Aesthetics and Media Theory, University of Arts & Design, Karlsruhe; Global Distinguished Professor, New York University)
"The Inside View: Aesthetics of the Gesamtkunstwerk"
Friday, April 11, 4 pm, Oak Room, IMU

Boris Groys is among the most renowned theorists of art and media working today. He made his mark with his pioneering study The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond (1992), which prompted a thorough re-evaluation of the relationship of modernism and socialist realism. He has followed suit with a large number of publications on a vast range of topics in aesthetics, philosophy, and art history. Among his books published in English are Ilya Kabakov: The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment (2006), Art Power (2008), The Communist Postscript (2010), and Introduction to Anti-Philosophy (2012). He currently holds the position of Global Distinguished Professor at New York University.

Abstract: The history of modern and contemporary art is a series of attempts to undermine the position of the spectator as an independent outsider and to integrate the spectator inside the artwork. But how one can speak about the style of such a Gesamtkunstwerk that allows only insider’s perspective? Here one can speak of the “universal style” that is at the same time “negative style” – the style that emerges as a result of the collapse of all the particular styles.

Seminar with Boris Groys, Sat., April 12, 10 - 11:30 am, Distinguished Alumni Room, IMU.

Boris Groys will discuss his essay "Comrades of Time" as well as the lecture he presented the day before.



Forum: Discussion of Work-in-Progress

Patrick Dove (Spanish/Portuguese)
“October 17th, 1945: Aesthetics and Politics at the Origins of Peronism in Argentina”

Wednesday, April 23, 8 pm, 1220 E. 1st Street.

Abstract: The “birth” of Peronism in Argentina during the months of September and October 1945 initiated, among other things, a profound reconfiguration of social structures and sensibilities that had remained more or less intact for much of the previous century under Liberal, oligarchic rule. The Peronist movement emerges from a complex mixture of class, cultural and ethnic or racialized points of conflict, primarily between mestizo migrants from the country’s interior and an urban population dominated by criollo (of Spanish descent) and European immigrant populations. The talk will look at several of the iconic images and discourses associated with the origin of the Peronist movement by juxtaposing two theoretical perspectives: Laclau’s reworking of the Gramscian account of hegemony and Rancière’s theorization of disagreement as a site where politics and aesthetics (writ large) touch on one another. While Laclau and Rancière draw their conceptual inspirations from similar philosophical and theoretical sources (Marx, post-Marxism, post-structuralism), I will propose that an analysis of the “primal scene” (or scenes) of Peronism can help to illuminate some fundamental differences between the two.


For older events, see here.