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Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies Research Unit Seminar Series

2011 Seminar Series

Convened by Professor Andrew Benjamin

All seminars at 3:30 – 5:00 pm in room W710, Menzies Building, Clayton Campus.

16 March

Art and Technology: Comparing Heidegger and Cassirer

Professor David Roberts

In 'The Question Concerning Technology' Heidegger asks in what way technology is like but also unlike art, a question which has been overshadowed by Heidegger's reading of the essence of modern technology as enframing. By reducing modern technology to enframing Heidegger obscures his own more fundamental question concerning art and technology. In my paper I argue that Cassirer's essay "Form and Technology' offers a more adequate interpretation of the essence of technology, which opens the way to 'unframing' the question of the relation between modern technology and art.

Professor David Roberts is Emeritus Professor of German at Monash University. He has published widely on topics in Philosophy and Literature. He is currently completing a book on the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk.

23 March

The Changing Meaning of “Privacy”, Identity and Contemporary Feminist Philosophy

Dr Janice Richardson

This paper draws upon contemporary feminist philosophy in order to consider the changing meaning of privacy and its relationship to identity, both online and offline. For example, privacy is now viewed by European Court of Human Rights as a right, which when breached can harm us by undermining our ability to maintain social relations. I briefly outline the meaning of privacy in common law and under the European Convention in order to show the relevance of contemporary feminist thought, in particular the image of selfhood that stresses its relationality. I argue that the meaning of privacy is in the process of altering as a result of a number of contingent factors including both changes in technology, particularly computer mediated communication (CMC), and extensive feminist criticism of the liberal public/private divide. This latter point can be illustrated by the feminist critique of the traditional reluctance of the liberal state to interfere with violence and injustice within the “privacy” of the home. In asking the question: “how is the meaning of “privacy” changing?” I consider not only contemporary legal case law but also the influential philosophical analysis of Thomas Nagel on privacy.

Janice Richardson is a Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty at Monash University. She is author of two books: "Selves, Persons, Individuals: Philosophical Perspectives on Women and Legal Obligations " and "The Social Contractarians: Critical Perspectives from Feminist Philosophy and Law. She is co-editor of Feminist Perspectives in Law and Theory and has been published in Law and Critique, Feminist Legal Sudies, Angelaki, Ratio Juris, Law and Economics and British Journal of Politics and International Relations. She is currently working on a book on privacy.

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30 March

Confronting Governments? Michel Foucault and the Right to Intervene

Dr Jess Whyte

In 1981, Michel Foucault delivered the statement “Confronting Governments: Human Rights” at the UN in Geneva. Addressing “all members of the community of the governed”, he argued that the “suffering of men”, too often ignored by Governments, “grounds an absolute right to intervene”. In this period, he worked closely with Bernard Kouchner (then head of Médecins san Frontieres/Médecins du Monde, and, until recently, France’s Foreign Minister) who is credited with playing a central role in the development of the norm of humanitarian intervention. This paper will trace the mutual influences between what Foucault termed “the right of the governed”, and the new generation of activist humanitarian NGO’s that originated in the wake of the 1968 Biafra conflict with the founding of Médecins san Frontieres.

Dr Jessica Whyte completed her doctorate on the political thought of Giorgio Agamben in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University in 2010. She has published on continental philosophy and political theory, and is a co-editor of the Theory and Event Symposium “The Beautiful Day of Life: Giorgio Agamben, Ontology, Politics” (2010) and of the Agamben Dictionary (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming, 2010.) She is currently lecturing in ‘Introduction to Critical Theory; in CLCS.

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13 April

Sexuality and Un-Reason in the Poetics of Realism: De Sade and Dostoevsky

Associate Professor Millicent Vladiv-Glover

On the basis of an analysis of Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom (1785) and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Double (1846), a claim is made about the foundational connection between the themes of sexuality and un-reason as constituents of reason and the poetics of Realism in the European canon of the 19th century (Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Dickens). Reason/un-reason is framed by Kant’s aesthetics and the conceptualization of the supersensible self.

Millicent Vladiv-Glover is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature (ECPS) and Slavic Studies (LCL). Her latest article is “Post-Structuralism in Georgia: the Phenomenology of the ‘Objects- Centaurs’ of Merab Mamardashvili,” Angelaki: The Journal of the Theoretical Humanitie. Special Issue on Philosophising in/on Eastern Europe. 15(3) 2010:27-39. Her most recent monograph is Poetics of Realism: Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Tolstoy [in Serbian]. (Belgrade:”Ariadna”, Pančevo: “Mali Nemo”, 2010), 182 pp. She is chief editor of The Dostoevsky Journal: An Independent Review.” Her current research is on film and TV adaptations of the literary canons in the new Eastern European states (2000-2011).

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May 4

Anonymity and Fear: Finding Antidotes. Notes after Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

Professor Andrew Benjamin

Universality as it figures within a great deal of philosophical writing is produced by an economy of abstraction. This positioning gives rise to the fear that accompanies universality: the fear of becoming anonymous. This paper will trace the work of the economy of abstraction in aspects of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Responding to Hegel means, in this instance, responding to fear. The final part of the paper involves developing a response in terms of an ‘antidote’.

Professor Andrew Benjamin is Professor of Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics in the Faculty of Arts Monash University. His recent publicaions include: Place, Commonality and Judgment: Continental Philosophy and the Ancient Greeks. Continuum Books. (2010) Of Jews and Animals. Edinburgh University Press. (2010) Writing Art and Architecture. Re:press Books. (2010)

May 11

Spinoza and Income Inequality

Dr Beth Lord

What makes sustainable and "happy" communities? In this paper I present some ways of thinking about this question from the perspective of 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. I will compare his ethical and political views to recent research in the social sciences that links income inequality to numerous negative social outcomes. On one reading, Spinoza appears very much in line with the view that inequalities in income necessarily have negative outcomes, but on a more Nietzschean reading, he can be seen to advocate such inequalities as the best and most rational way to live.

Beth Lord is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Dundee, Scotland. She is author of Kant and Spinozism: Transcendental Idealism and Immanence from Jacobi to Deleuze (Palgrave Macmillan 2010), and Spinoza's Ethics: An Edinburgh Philosophical Guide (EUP, 2010).

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Past and Present Conferences and Seminars

Visit our archives of conferences and seminars - recordings of many papers are available for download: