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Previous LCE annual lectures

POSTPONED! LCE Annual Lecture 2020: Stefan Collini - Beauty and the footnote: the place of “literature” as an academic discipline

This year’s LCE Annual Lecture will be held by Stefan Collini.

Time and place: May 4, 2020 2:00 PM–4:00 PM, Aud 1, Georg Svedrups Hus

The study of literature in modern languages has become an established, even central, part of the university curriculum over the past century or more. But in some ways literature has been an awkward recruit in an institution that has understood its role largely in terms of the accumulation and transmission of impersonal empirically-grounded knowledge. From its beginnings as an academic discipline, the study of literature has been derided as ‘merely subjective’ and ‘too impressionistic’, criticisms that have been extended in our time to include representing it as a ‘soft’ or ‘useless’ subject, irrelevant to the needs of the labour market. This lecture examines some of the justifications that have been put forward to justify the inclusion of literary study in the curriculum, and especially on the tensions between the cognitive and aesthetic claims made on its behalf. It addresses such issues as the imaginative enlargement of human sympathies, the idea of a ‘national literature’, the emphasis on ‘personal response’, and relations between scholarly and lay literary cultures.

Stefan Collini is Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge University, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of, among other books, Public Moralists (1991), Matthew Arnold: a Critical Portrait (1994), English Pasts: Essays in History and Culture (1999), Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (2006), Common Reading: Critics, Historians, Publics (2008), Common Writing: Literary Culture and Public Debate (2016), and, most recently, The Nostalgic Imagination: History in English Criticism (2019). He is also a frequent contributor to The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Nation, and other publications. In addition, he has contributed to international debates about higher education, principally through his 2012 book What Are Universities For? and its sequel Speaking of Universities (2017).  


Literature, Cognition and Emotions

LCE Annual Lecture 2019: Siri Hustvedt on Poetic Logic

Time and place: May 27, 2019 4:00 PM–6:00 PM, Georg Sverdrups Hus, Auditorium 1

Siri Hustvedt, renowned author of novels, poems, essays as well as non-fiction, used her own mother and Jane Austen as starting point for a discussion of the cognitive sciences and the workings of the mind in a lecture entitled “Poetic Logic”.

“Poetic Logic” opens with a story about Hustvedt's mother’s vivid recollection of a passage from Austen’s Persuasion despite the fact that she is suffering from dementia. Her mother’s failing memory and the Austen text serve to ground Hustvedt's discussion of cognitive science, memory and emotion and the mind/body bifurcation of first generation theory in CCTM as well as the complexities and disagreements of second generation embodied theory. The foci here are on emotion and consolidation, mental space in comprehension of literature, and the development of intersubjectivity as crucial to understanding cognition. Poetic logic is borrowed from Vico, the anti-Cartesian, who is discussed, as are ancient spatial memory systems, neuroscience findings, but always returning to her mother as reader and the Austen text.

Siri Hustvedt is the author of a book of poems, four collections of essays, seven novels, and several works of nonfiction. In 2012 she was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. Her novel The Blazing World was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Los Angeles Book Prize for Fiction 2014. Hustvedt has a PhD in English from Columbia University and is a lecturer in psychiatry at the Dewitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry in the Psychiatry Department of Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages.


Rolf Reber

Published Mar. 25, 2022 12:14 PM - Last modified Mar. 25, 2022 12:17 PM