About this Project
2014 – 2015
Self-sacrifice, suicide, conversion, the exile, the founder, the internal enemy – these tropes and their ilk structure the social and political imaginary across the tradition. They change over time, but come back in surprisingly resilient forms. One of the great challenges in scholarship and pedagogy alike is to negotiate strategies for linking thought at the minute level of philology with the maximalist level of thinking about politics, culture, and the social bond across the history of ideas. Barbara Vinken (Professor of Romance and Comparative Literatures at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich) visited the University of Chicago in the Winter quarter of 2015 to participate in a faculty seminar devoted to exploring methods for tracing such figurations over the longue durée. Questions addressed included the difference between a trope and a motif, the relation between the figures of thought described by the classical rhetorical tradition and persistent cultural figurations, and whether the standard repertory of tropes still visible in nineteenth-century literature has become unintelligible today. The participants in the seminar represented a wide range of national literatures and traditions of political thought: Classics, Comparative Literature, French, German, Italian, Political Theory, and Russian.
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