In his new book, The Philology of Life: Walter Benjamin's Critical Program (Fordham, 2023), Kevin McLaughlin traces the development of a theory of literature and a method of criticism in Benjamin's early interpretations of a nexus formed by the poetry of Hölderlin, the criticism of the German romantics, and Goethe's novel, Elective Affinities. McLaughlin's lecture will focus on Benjamin's thesis of what he calls Goethe's "new approach" to aesthetic matters as it gathers around the enigmatic term Gehalt.
McLaughlin is George Hazard Crooker Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and German Studies at Brown University, and director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Advanced Study. He served as Brown's dean of the faculty from 2011 to 2022. He became the editor of the journal Novel: A Forum on Fiction in 2023. He has been the recipient of research grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright program, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. He is the author of three previous books: Writing in Parts: Imitation and Exchange in 19th-Century Literature (1995), Paperwork: Literature and Mass Mediacy in the Age of Paper (2005), and Poetic Force: Poetry after Kant (2014). He is also the co-translator with Howard Eiland of Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project (1999).
Presented by the Program in Critical Theory
Cosponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities