Symposia and Seminars - 2016 Archive

Women in 19th Century Philosophy


Tuesday 6 December 2016
Kevin Lee Room
Level 6, Lobby H
Quadrangle Building
The University of Sydney

In this seminar, Associate Professor Kristin Gjesdal (Temple/Oslo) and
Dr Dalia Nassar (Sydney) will introduce their project on women in 19th century philosophy.

While over the last few years there has been an increase of interest in early modern women philosophers, less attention has been paid to women in the 19th century, especially those writing in the German context. Yet, 1800 marks a period of great transition in German philosophical and literary culture, one that provided women with increased access to cultural spaces (the Berlin Salons of Henriette Herz or Rahel Levin Varnhagen, for instance) and greater opportunities to publish – whether in journals, such as Schiller's Die Horen, or through newly established publishing houses. Women, furthermore, played a decisive role in the development of one of the most significant philosophical movements of the 19th century in Germany – Romanticism. By contributing not only to the new social structures embodied by the Romantic circle, but also to the philosophical, critical and artistic outputs of the movement, women like Dorothea Schlegel, Caroline Schlegel-Schelling, Karoline Günderrode and Bettina von Arnim, helped create Romantic philosophy. The same is true of women’s contributions to socialism in the mid-19th century, and to the anarchist feminist movement of the late 19th century.

The aim of the seminar is to provide a space for discussing this nascent project, and the questions and challenges that are involved in investigating women’s contributions to the history of 19th century philosophy.

Dante’s She-wolf: Luxury and Greed in the Divine Comedy


Thursday 13 October 2016
SLC Common Room
536 Brennan MacCallum Building.
University of Sydney

Greed is a literary theme and an obsession that permeates the Divine Comedy, but also an everyday reality that Dante considers responsible for his own exile, the disorder and turmoil of society, and the current overcrowding of Hell. This paper will focus on Dante’s analysis of greed and of its pervasive, economic, social and moral consequences on the quality of people’s lives.

Lino Pertile is Carl A. Pescosolido Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, and former Paul E. Geier Director of Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence (2010-2015).

A graduate of the University of Padua (Italy), where he studied Classics and French, he taught Italian Literature in France and Italy (1964-68), and the United Kingdom (1968-1995) before joining Harvard in 1995 as Professor of Italian Literature in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. At Harvard, he served as House Master of Eliot House for ten years (2000-2010) and was named Harvard College Professor in 2005, a special recognition awarded to faculty members who devote time and energy especially to teaching undergraduates. From 2010 to 2015 he was the director of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. He has published essays on the French and Italian Renaissance, in particular on Montaigne and French travellers to Italy. His research has focused on the Latin and Italian Middle Ages (Dante), the Renaissance (Bembo and Trifon Gabriele), and 20th century Italian literature (Pavese and the contemporary novel).

His books on Dante include the critical edition of the 16th century commentary Annotationi nel Dante fatte con M. Triphon Gabriele (Bologna: Commissione per i testi di lingua, 1993), and the volumes La puttana e il gigante: dal Cantico dei Cantici al Paradiso terrestre di Dante (Ravenna: Longo, 1998; Premio Zingarelli), and La punta del disio. Semantica del desiderio nella Commedia (Florence: Cadmo, 2005). He has coedited, and contributed to, various volumes on Italian literature from Dante to the 20th century, including The New Italian Novel (Edinburgh University Press, 1993, paperback 1998), The Cambridge History of Italian Literature (1996; paperback 1999) and Dante in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Among his most recent essays, Songs Beyond Mankind: Poetry and the Lager from Dante to Primo Levi (Binghamton: Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, 2013).

Special Occasions: Sacrifice, Robinson Crusoe, and the Occasional Conformity Crisis in England

Robinson Crusoe

Wednesday 7 September 2016
Rogers Room
Woolley Building
University of Sydney

Professor Sophie Gee (Princeton University) is a special guest of Long C18 Reading Group. In her paper, Gee makes the case that, with the rise of the novel, readers and writers encountered a new kind of invisible world, one that resembled, and yet radically differed from, the unseen world of divine mysteries, which English Protestants debated so fiercely from the Reformation onwards. Secular fictions, perversely, posed many of the same problems as Revelation: how to regulate and interpret one’s private conscience correctly in response to powerful but unverifiable representations. Daniel Defoe wrote on both sides of the ostensible divide between secular and sacred relations with the unseen. In pamphlets he addressed the politics and theology of religious revelation; in novels he explored the unsettling, inadequately understood experience of encountering fiction’s imagined worlds. This talk brings Defoe’s writing on dissenting theologies into dynamic contact with models of fictional representation presented in Robinson Crusoe.

Sophie Gee is an Associate Professor at Princeton University and a specialist in Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature from Milton to Jane Austen, Her first book Making Waste: Leftovers and the Eighteenth-Century Imagination is published by Princeton University Press. She is currently working on a new scholarly book about belief and the eighteenth-century novel.

Schiller and Løgstrup on the Good Samaritan

Aimé Nicolas Morot

Friday 26 August 2016
Muniment Room S401
The University of Sydney

In this seminar, Stern considers similarities and differences between Schiller and Løgstrup on the way they understand the parable of the Good Samaritan, and what this tells us about ethical action. Stern will suggest that there is important common ground, but also important divergences – and also that Kant is closer to them on this issue than either seem to quite realise.

Robert Stern is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, current President of the British Philosophical Society and world-renowned Hegelian. His main interests in the history of philosophy are in nineteenth century post-Kantian German philosophy. Sterns books include Hegel, Kant and the Structure of the Object (Routledge,1990), Transcendental Arguments and Scepticism (Oxford, 2000), Hegel and the 'Phenomenology of Spirit' (Routledge, 2013), Hegelian Metaphysics (Oxford, 2009), Understanding Moral Obligation: Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard (Cambridge, 2012) and Kantian Ethics: Value Agency, and Obligation (Oxford: 2015). Most recently, Bob has been awarded an AHRC Fellowship for 2015-17, for a project on 'The Ethical Demand: Løgstrup's Ethics and Its Implications', to work on the ethics of the Danish philosopher and theologian K. E. Løgstrup. His main aim is to write the first monograph in English on Løgstrup's key work The Ethical Demand (1956), as well as the translation of one of his books from German, on Kierkegaard and Heidegger, in a critical edition. In August, Stern is sharing his research on this project with colleagues and students as SIHN Scholar-in-Residence.

“Sprung it from piety, or from despair?”: Intentionality and the Contradictions of Fasting as Feminism in the Eighteenth-Century.


Wendlandt, O.J. "Living Statuary; how it may be successfully produced by amateurs. Illustrated" British Library HMNTS

Thursday 9 June 2016
Rogers Room
Woolley Building
University of Sydney

Discussion Group led by Jessica Hamel-Akré

Reading: The Experience of Mrs H. A. Rogers (1796)

This discussion group will consider the feminist reception of eighteenth-century bodily practices of desire that communicate protest. Led by SLAM visiting research fellow, Jessica Hamel-Akré, discussion will begin byway a short presentation on the contradictions of interpreting fasting as feminist act. While women’s mental illnesses have been interpreted as acts of rebellion against patriarchal systems, idealizing illness as anti-social rebellion comes with certain risks. Fasting may at first be seen to be a strong act of will, an effort to distinguish oneself, or valuing of the inner self, but it turns over time into an illness and obsession through which the outer world and the body, withered, are cast aside. Before opening up discussion to the wider topic of historical feminisms and bodily autonomy, Jessica will reflect on prominent eighteenth-century Methodist Hester Ann Rogers’s adolescent fast that brought her to the brink of death. A key question will then be, can a woman’s self-destruction truly be understood as “feminist”?

Then and Now: Reading, Writing, and Diagnosing Eating Disorders across the times and disciplines

 Ann Moore of Tutbury - engraving

Ann Moore of Tutbury, 1812, engraving.

Tuesday 12 April 2016
Rogers Room
Woolley Building
University of Sydney

Women’s eating disorders have been a source of curiosity for centuries. Because eating disorders are, from their earliest to most recent manifestations, understood as cultural woes rather than clearly identified biological illnesses, the study of eating disorders can provide insight into the social contexts surrounding individual sufferers. This cross-disciplinary seminar will ask how society and individual relate by considering historical religious, literary, and medical examples, as well as in contemporary psychological research on anorexia and spirituality.

Ursula Potter on 17th century religious concepts of the pure female body.

The seventeenth century witnessed an exceptionally high rate of religious melancholy cases in England, documented by physicians and divines alike and commonly manifesting as eating disorders. By far the majority of sufferers were women and among them it was the young who suffered most, often at puberty. For girls brought up in godly households the arrival of the flowers (menstruation) may well have become a fearful sign of the invasion of the body with sin, not a joyful sign of future motherhood, but a foretelling of the curse of Original Sin grounded in the unclean female body. For doubt-ridden girls fasting was a sanctioned means to spiritual and bodily purity through suppression of the menses. These girls had much in common with anorexia sufferers today such as age of onset, guilt over food, and desire to control and purify the body.

Jessica Hamel-Akré on 18th century literary and medical aspects of self-starvation.
According to the eighteenth-century cult of sensibility, both a literary and medical phenomenon, the body testified to the hidden desires of the soul, or the inner self. Medical men and members of the literati both questioned how one’s truth was superficially expressed. At the same time, various somatizations such as blushing, swoons, fits, or displays of appetite were often feared to be dishonest gestures when expressed by women in particular. The key was, then, to correctly interpret the body. However, because the female body continued to be seen as naturally chaotic well throughout the eighteenth century, the époque of sensibility challenged the development of women’s personal narrative authority and credibility. While one woman may claim divine intervention or spiritual motivation as the catalyst to her loss of appetite, others asked if her food refusal was sincerely pious or self-indulgent-evidence of a moral problem, rather than medical or miraculous. This presentation aims to highlight the complexities of ‘narrating’ or ‘self-narrating’ women’s self-starvation.

Daniel Akrawi on current research on the relationship between spirituality and anorexia.
The nature of modern day religious practice amongst young people has significantly transformed from the 17th and 18th centuries. In western societies, there has been a shift towards evangelical belief systems, which prioritise an all forgiving relationship with God over ‘works’. However, we still see religiosity and spirituality playing similar roles in the development of eating disorders today. This is reflected in the current research where differing aspects of religiosity and spirituality have been linked in differing ways to disordered eating, psychopathology and body image concerns. Throughout the literature, we see strong and internalised religious beliefs, coupled with a secure and satisfying relationship with God, being associated with lower levels of disordered eating. Conversely, a superficial faith, coupled with a doubtful and anxious relationship with God, has been associated with greater levels of disordered eating. This presentation will consider current developments in this field, and present the results of our latest study involving students from USYD and WSU.

Romantic Climates

J.M.W. Turner,

Joseph Mallord William Turner, English, c. 1826, Sea View. Watercolour on blue paper.

Thursday 10 March 2016
10am-4pm (tea and coffee will be available from 9.30am)
Rogers Room
Woolley Building
University of Sydney

Keynote speaker: Nikki Hessell, Victoria University of Wellington.

The bicentenary of the 'Year without a Summer' is our vantage point from which to reconsider both how the people we call the Romantics responded to the climates of their day - whether political or meteorological - and what the climate for Romantic studies might look like in 2016 and beyond.


Keynote Nikki Hessell (Victoria University, NZ): “The most backward season that has ever been noticed”: Keats outdoors in the spring of 1816

Elias Grieg (Sydney): Cosy sublimity or death by exposure: Wordsworth and the tropics of Cumberland

Jennifer Mensch (WSU): Climate of Fear: Science and Representation from Nogaret to Hoffmann

Alexis Harley (LaTrobe): On the Naming of Clouds


Anne Collett (Wollongong): “Earth glows no more divine”: the climate of Enclosure in John Clare’s “The Moors”

Judith Barbour (Sydney): “a goldfish bowl”: Orphic poets, waving and drowning in full view of the neighbours, Villa Diodati, Lac Léman, 1816

Olivia Murphy (Sydney): Apocalypse not quite: Mary Shelley’s The Last Man and the aftermath of 1816

James Phillips (UNSW): John Ruskin on reading the weather signs

Jennifer Crone (Sydney): Louise Glück’s post-Romantic critique of the pathetic fallacy

A.J. Carruthers (Sydney): Joan Retallack's Procedural Ecologies: “Romanticism” and conventional verse cultures