“The Phoenix of Philosophy”

Thu, May 17, 2018, 10:00 am
245 East Pyne

Princeton University, May 17, 2018

An Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Student Conference

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures


SLA/ COM 310/369:

Philosophy and Literature: 

Western Thought and the Slavic Dialogic Imagination Presents 


 “The Phoenix of Philosophy”


Princeton University, May 17, 2018, 10 am to 7 pm

An Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Student Conference

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures


Keynote Speech at 4:30 pm: 


“Creative Thinking in the Humanities and Beyond”


By Mikhail Epstein


Anglo-American and Russian Philosopher, Literary Theorist and Critical Thinker, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Cultural Theory and Russian Literature at Emory University


Perhaps more than any other national literature, Russian literature has served as a surrogate and medium for philosophical inquiry. In the Russian context, literature, art and politics have all served as a kind of laboratory for experimenting with some of the most important philosophical frameworks of the 19th and 20th centuries. As our keynote speaker, Mikhail Epstein, has noted, “perhaps no other nation in the world has so totally surrendered its social, cultural, and economic life to the demands of philosophical concepts.”


“The Phoenix of Philosophy” will present papers and projects that investigate the contours and consequences of a historical position that marks itself as an intersection of the literary and philosophical. The questions that arise from the specific character of the Russian cultural legacy are at once peculiar to Russia, and universal: is the artistic imagination detrimental to systematic thought, or is it a necessary correlative? Is the literary inherently philosophical? Is there a sort of lyricism embedded within the philosophical, and are there philosophies that inhere in the poetic?


Drawing on the expertise of scholars in literary studies and philosophy, this interdisciplinary, undergraduate student conference aims to re-examine questions and topics central to both, including:


· At what point and in what context can a literary text be considered “philosophical”?


· What are the overlaps and divergences between literary and philosophical “truth”?


· To what extent does literary criticism conform to—or depart from—the concerns of philosophy?


· How has the interrelationship between literature and philosophy evolved in the Russian context?


· What does the future hold for the relationship between Russian philosophy and literature, both institutionally and intellectually?


· Is Russian culture (as philosophy departments in non-Russian universities are fond of claiming, and as some Russian thinkers themselves insist) inimical to the very concept of a systematic discipline of philosophy, at least as it has been known in the West since Plato?




Janice Cheon, Department of German 

“A Kantian Reading of Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov” 


Austin Ferrenti, Department of Chemistry

“Notions of Happiness in the Works of Gregory Skovorodaand Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov” 


Nina Filippova, Department of Physics

“The Adoption and Interpretation of Western Philosophy by Russian Intellectuals” 


Zachary Flamholz, Department of Molecular Biology

 “Gregory Skovoroda and the Baal Shem Tov: Skovoroda'sLife Philosophy and Hasidic Judaism"


Dylan Galt, Department of Mathematics

“On the Meaning of Love and Dualism in Ivan Goncharov’sOblomov and Ivan Turgenev’s Faust


Luke Gamble, Department of English 

“Notions of Alienation in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, AConfession, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich


Coby Goldberg, Department of East Asian Studies

“The Beautiful Soul and/or the Superfluous Man in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov


Paula Gradu, Department of Mathematics

“The ‘Germ of Enlightenment’ and the Critique of Instrumental Reason in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”


Nathan Leach, Department of Religion

“The Relevance of Leo Tolstoy’s Philosophy of Life and his Concept of “Reasonable Consciousness” for Contemporary Thought”


Michael Liapin, Department of Neuroscience

“Philosophical Origins and Literary Genealogies of Russian Nationalism or Slavophile Sensibilities in Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the House of the Dead”


Sarah Morrow, Westminster Choir College, Music Education 

“Modest Mussorgsky’s and Ivan Turgenev’s Adaptations of Goethe’s Faust” 


Tali Pelts, Department of Religion 

“A Reading of Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich through the Lenses of Heidegger and Levinas” 


Cecily Polonsky, Department of German 

“Conceptions of Authorship in Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov


Jacob Shteingart, Department of Molecular Biology 

“Lyrical Philosophy or Nietzschean Aspects of Russian Philo-Sophia” 



Isabel Ballan, PhD Student, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

Rachel Cristy, Postgraduate Research Associate, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University

Victoria Juharyan, Postgraduate Research Associate and Lecturer, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University

Sean Toland, PhD Candidate, Department of German, Princeton University 


Outline of Schedule:


10:00 - 12:00 Introductions and Panel 1


12:00 - 1:00 – Lunch (served outside of 245 East Pyne)


1:00 - 3:00 - Panel 2 


3:00 Coffee Break (served outside of 245 East Pyne)


3:00 - 4:30 - Panel 3 


4:30 - 5:30 - Keynote


5:30 - 7:00 Panel 4 


7:00 – Dinner/Reception (served outside of 245 East Pyne)


*SLA/ COM 310/369:

Philosophy and Literature: 

Western Thought and the Slavic Dialogic Imagination


This course is a study of the relationship between Western philosophy and Russian literature, specifically the many ways in which abstract philosophical ideas get ‘translated’ into literary works.  Russia does not have world famous philosophers. There are Solovyev, Rozanov, and Berdyaev, but very few of our colleagues at philosophy departments in the United States would recognize them and fewer still would have anything to say about them. Yet, most Russian writers were avid readers of philosophy and are often considered philosophers in their own right. On what grounds can, for example, Dostoevsky, such a notorious opponent of “reason,” be considered a philosopher? “I am weak in philosophy,” Dostoevsky has written, “but not weak in love for it; in loving it I am strong.” Dostoevsky weeps when he reads Hegel in Siberia. Can we find traces or consequences of this encounter in his texts? Or what happens when Tolstoy meticulously studies Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or falls in love with Schopenhauer, while claiming that Hegel’s philosophy is both incomprehensible and ‘incredibly stupid’? How are these engagements reflected in his fiction? We will not be talking about intertextuality, but rather about philosophical dialogues in fictional texts that might not be immediately noticeable but are nonetheless crucial for the texts.  From these dialogues we can derive and infer the author’s robust philosophical arguments, arguments that are both a part of the aesthetic structure and a partial reason for it.


For more information about the conference, please contact Victoria Juharyan at juharyan@princeton.edu 


MADMAN, a solo show by Jake Robertson

Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 2:00 pm
Location: Class of 1970 Theater at Whitman College on the Princeton University campus

MADMAN, a solo show by Jake Robertson

Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 8:00 pm

MADMAN, a solo show by Jake Robertson

Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 8:00 pm

"Music, Youth Culture, and Protest in Russia": a dialogue

Wed, Feb 20, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 245 East Pyne

“Dostoevsky on Sentiment and The Soul”

Thu, Feb 21, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 245 East Pyne

"Isaiah Berlin's Legacy: A Reassessment"

Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: Louis A. Simpson International Building, Room A71

Bodies of Knowledge Working Group

Thu, Feb 28, 2019, 12:00 pm
Location: 16 Joseph Henry House

“Starry Skies, Awful Hieroglyphs, and Eternal Silence: Philosophical Lyricism in ‘Anna Karenina’”

Slavic Majors Night

Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 7:00 pm
Location: TBA

"Your Language My Ear"

Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 9:00 am to Sat, Mar 16, 2019, 5:00 pm
Location: TBA