Call for Papers
Benjamin and Leibniz: On Expression
Conference and Workshop
Conference: 27 June 2017 @ RHB 342
Workshop: 28 June 2017 @ RHB 142
Location: Goldsmiths, University of London
Walter Benjamin London Research Network
Hosted by the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths
Supported by the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy and the London Graduate School, Kingston University
Keynote Speaker: Professor Peter Fenves, Northwestern University
Deadline for abstracts: 20 April 2017
‘The idea is a monad—that means briefly: every idea contains the image of the world’, writes Walter Benjamin in The Origin of the German Mourning Play. ‘Expression’, in the writing of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, denotes an isomorphic relation between the universe and its components, or monads. Every monad contains an image, or reflection of the universe; ‘each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and (…) consequently it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe (§56, Monadology). This conference seeks to reanimate Benjamin’s encounter with Leibniz, and considers, particularly, the manner in which Leibniz’s concept of expression informs Benjamin’s thought.
As Gilles Deleuze writes in Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, the concept of expression, rediscovered by Spinoza and Leibniz, ‘already had behind it a long philosophical history, but a rather hidden, and a rather forbidden history’. Walter Benjamin’s engagement with Leibniz’s philosophy was an enduring one as well. Explicit references to Leibniz’s philosophy may be found from Benjamin’s doctoral dissertation on early German romanticism to his final text, the ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’. Yet the Leibniz-Benjamin encounter might be considered a hidden one too, and—from the dearth of critical commentary on the subject—the scope of Leibniz’s influence on Benjamin may appear equally forbidding. Whence the furtive nature of those themes appropriated from Leibniz in Benjamin’s writing, and to what extent might ‘expression’ be the sign under which less visible dimensions of such themes can, paradoxically, be made legible?
Both the concept of expression—as a point of convergence between the philosophy of Leibniz and Benjamin—and its bearing upon their philosophy more generally, have gone underinvestigated. This conference will bring together researchers working on different aspects of expression in Benjamin and Leibniz’s philosophy. The workshop—to be held on the following day—will offer participants an opportunity to read texts by Leibniz, Benjamin and others, and to investigate the role played by the themes of expression and monadology in and between disciplines in the 20th and 21st centuries.
We welcome papers on a range of topics including but not limited to:
* The role of the Monadology in Benjamin’s ‘philosophy of ideas’ and philosophy of language
* Between expression (Ausdruck) and perception (Wahrnehmung) in Walter Benjamin’s writing
* The place of Leibniz in Benjamin’s encounter with Romanticism
* Leibniz’s concept of expression in Benjamin’s philosophy of history
* The concept of expression between Leibniz, Deleuze and Benjamin
* Monadic/expressive use of philosophical terminology in Benjamin
* Benjamin’s disputations with infinitesimal calculus
* Leibniz’s concept of expression and Benjamin’s writing on poetics
* The ‘virtual’ in Leibniz; virtuality in Benjamin and Derrida
* Leibniz, Benjamin and theories of the coming philosophy
* Logical expression, historical expression: Benjamin’s responses to Cohen
Proposals (250-300 words) for 20 minute long papers, accompanied by a brief biographical note (100 words) should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 20th, 2017.
Organization: Noa Levin / Christopher Law
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