Centre for Literature and Philosophy

Research statement

I. Intellectual scope and operation

The Centre for Literature and Philosophy was founded with a specific remit: to build on, and renew, existing traditions of collaboration between literature and philosophy at Sussex. Because of the wealth of recent work that addresses both subjects no period constraints have been set. Examples of such work include Martha Nussbaum's treatment of Aristotle, Stoicism, classical tragedy and modernist novel and Stanley Cavell's discussion of Shakespeare, Blake, Emerson, and Wittgenstein.

The distinguishing characteristic of the Centre is its explicitly pluralistic character. The aim is to open up communication between different approaches in the study of literature and philosophy. The reason for adopting this principle of openness is heuristic and theoretical fruitfulness.

The specific research questions that the Centre seeks to address are:

  1. How does literature contribute to our moral education, if at all? Related topics include the legitimacy of moral criticism of literary works, literary autonomy, the identification of moral values in literary works and the criticism of their transmission through dominant cultures.
  2. How does our engagement with literary works contribute to our understanding of imagination? Related topics include the psychology of fiction, passions and emotions as well as the metaphysics of truth and fiction.
  3. Why and how do different authors engage with literature as philosophy and with philosophy as literature? Related topics include writing and speech, style, metaphor, narrative, language.
  4. What do different critical and philosophical approaches to literature contribute to the experience of reading? Related topics include the contexts and limits of interpretation, evaluation of interpretations and interpretative approaches.
  5. What are the disciplinary boundaries between literature and philosophy?

II. Research aims

  1. To promote scholarship and research. Recent developments in the two disciplines indicate that public recognition of the intellectual kinship of literature and philosophy is timely and highly relevant to contemporary concerns.
  2. To focus and publicise existing expertise in and collaboration between the participating departments. This is clearly desirable for the professional development of participating members of staff.
  3. To attract students. A key benefit of such increased attention to available expertise and research possibilities is recruitment at graduate level (MA and DPhil). A dedicated MA has been approved, though cognate subjects taught at MA level will also benefit by the activities of the Centre.
  4. To attract new resources. It is a clear aim of the Centre to attract external funding for particular projects, students and researchers associated with it. Prospective funding bodies include: The British Academy, The British Council, AHRC, ESRC, and, possibly, The Andrew W Mellon Foundation East-Central European Research Fellowships.
  5. To enhance the student experience by creating a focus for student research activities, especially for the MA in Literature and Philosophy.
  6. To reflect and update the core values of high level research and interdisciplinary collaboration, which have shaped the institution.
  7. To contribute to the culture of the institution by strengthening the vital role of humanities teaching and research.
  8. To enhance the profile of the University. Sussex has a well-known and widely admired tradition in forging new research paths. Building on this tradition requires new ways of identifying and promoting areas of fruitful collaboration.

III. Management structure

The management structure includes a director, a core group (Dr Paul Davies, Dr Katerina Deligiorgi, Professor Andrew Hadfield, Dr Elena Gualtieri, Dr CĂ©line Surprenant), and a membership (with dedicated mailing list).

The director of the Centre is responsible for setting up the Centre, establishing the website, organising events, securing funding, monitoring progress and exploring possibilities for expansion and collaboration.

IV. Timescale

The distinctive approach of the Centre to literary and philosophical questions has not been previously attempted. The Centre seeks to bring together a range of approaches to the study of literature and philosophy, to mention a few: historical, literary-theoretical, psychoanalytic, ethical and political, metaphysical, psychological, epistemological, hermeneutic. In addition, the hope is to allow for the discussion of the relation between theory and practice. So to that extent the Centre attempts an experiment. It seeks to test the hypothesis that such pluralistic approach is fruitful. The following timescale is envisaged:

  • Years 1-3: establishment of the Centre exposition of the research principles underpinning the research questions; research undertaken on the questions. [2007-2010]
  • Years 4-6: building on the earlier foundations, adjusting revising research questions; testing the approach (how much interest there is within the University and outside it for the work of the Centre, publications, attendance at events, graduate recruitment, success in obtaining funds, other indicators including fellowships collaborative projects etc). [2010-2013]
  • Year 7: review of the Centre and its progress. Decision for the future direction of the Centre. [2014]