Mindful of Othernesss: Literature and Ethics Graduate Conference

Event title (long): 

Mindful of Otherness: 


Literature and Ethics graduate conference


13 June 2009


Goldsmiths, University of London


Plenary speaker: Robert Eaglestone


Call for papers


GLITS, Department of English & Comparative Literature, Goldsmiths University of London
Closing date for submissions: 
26 March, 2009
Event dates: 

‘To respond to the demand of the literary work as the demand of the other
is to attend to it as a unique event whose happening is a call, a challenge, an obligation:
understand how little you understand me.’
(Derek Attridge)

“All ethical predication based on recognition of the other
should be purely and simply abandoned.’
(Alain Badiou)

The conception of ethics as ‘responsibility to otherness’ has dominated literary criticism for the last forty years. With this approach, alertness to the opacity of meaning in the text provokes respect for that which is unknown in the other person. This view of ethics is oriented around the category of the other - a category that is being met with new resistance.


Prominent voices are beginning to contest the ‘ethics of otherness’ in the name of ethics based on universal truths and identity. Where it was once radical for literary studies to affirm the dissolution of subjectivity, the stability of the subject is now being upheld. Where ‘particularity’ was once in vogue, the ‘universal’ is now the buzzword. The ‘impossibility of truth’ is gradually being eclipsed by ‘Truth’ claims. What does this backlash against literary theory mean for the ethics of literature? Why is it taking place now? How will it change the way we read literary texts?

The conference aims to acknowledge a crisis in the ethics of otherness. English and interdisciplinary proposals for twenty-minute papers on any aspect of ethics and literature are invited. We welcome work that considers how recent critiques of ‘otherness’ have affected both the reading and writing of literature. Contributions on both sides of the debate are encouraged: those that are mindful of the otherness of literature in the sense of ‘seeking to protect it’ and those that display a mindful ‘wariness’ of otherness. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Literary otherness versus identification, empathy, reciprocity
  • The assumption of liberal humanistic values in literature and criticism
  • Translation and the problem of the self/other gap
  • The role of imagination in representing the other
  • The postmodern orientation away from concepts of the good, truth and progress
  • Embracing universal ethical truths in literature and theory
  • Debates on ethics and literature in response to political crisis, violence or trauma
  • Religious roots of ethical thought
  • The representation of the sexual and/or racial other

Proposals for twenty-minute papers (500 words) are invited by March 25 2009.
Please email abstracts and enquiries to: .
Attendance is free of charge.
Further information can be accessed via the conference website: http://www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/ecl/literature-and-ethics