Cogut Institute for the Humanities

Political Concepts: The Literature Edition

March 3 – 4, 2023
Pembroke Hall 305, 172 Meeting Street

If we know anything about the relation between literature and politics, it is that what takes place or is spoken within a literary work cannot guarantee its political effects. What we call “content” may have little or nothing to do with the work’s political significance. “The more the opinions of the author remain hidden,” said revolutionary socialist thinker Friedrich Engels, “the better for the work of art.”

“Political Concepts: The Literature Edition” featured scholars from a variety of fields exploring concepts drawn from the realm of literature that may be revised, deconstructed, or created anew to shed light on our contemporary political climate.

The event, hosted by the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, was organized by Tim Bewes, Sharon Krause, and Adi Ophir.

View the conference playlist on YouTube


Session 1

John Cayley (Brown University) • “Literature” (video)
Bruce Robbins (Columbia University) • “Greatness” (video)

Moderator: Amanda Anderson (Brown University)

Session 2

Gabriele Schwab (University of California, Irvine) • “Transspecies Imaginaries” (video)
Erin Graff Zivin (University of Southern California) • “Exposure” (video)

Moderator: Thangam Ravindranathan (Brown University)

Session 3

Hannah Freed-Thall (New York University) • “Scrap” (video)
Emily Apter (New York University) • “Appropriationism” (video)

Moderator: Sharon Krause (Brown University)

Session 4

Leela Gandhi (Brown University) • “Ree-lay-shun-ship” (video)
Rolland D. Murray (Brown University) • “Aporia” (video)

Moderator: Alexander Weheliye (Brown University)

Session 5

Bonnie Honig (Brown University) • “Performative” (video)
Maya Kronfeld (Princeton University) • “Spontaneity” (video)

Moderator: Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University)

Session 6

Amanda Anderson (Brown University) • “Dialogue” (video)
Michael Sawyer (University of Pittsburgh) • “Lyricism” (video)

Moderator: Adi Ophir (Brown University)

Session 7

Alex Moskowitz (Mount Holyoke College) • “Imperception” (video)
Timothy Bewes (Brown University) • “Incoherence” (video)

Moderator: Jacques Lezra (University of California, Riverside)