Literature and Philosophy

A four week course, beginning Monday, 25th August at 7pm.

$99/$80 (Member/Low Income) 

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Course Description

At least since the German Romantics of the late eighteenth century, European philosophy has been fascinated with literature. Since this time, literature also has been an exemplary space, where philosophical questions are re-articulated and developed in ways that philosophers have often felt compelled to take serious notice. Many philosophers have been both serious writers and poets. Their philosophical journeys have been inseparable from literary and poetic exploration and interpretation. This course explores these intersections.  


Course Outline

  1. Philosophy becoming literature and literature becoming philosophical in Early German Romanticism: The Romantic project of re-enchanting the world and reading it as a literary text. Friedrich Schlegel Atheneum Fragment 116, Novalis’s fragment “The world must be romanticized”; H. v. Kleist’s “On the Marrionette Theatre;
  2. Nietzsche’s literary philosophical practice. “How the true world finally became fiction” in Twilight of the Idols; “On Truth and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense” and “Vita Femina” from The Gay Science
  3. The ethics of passivity in response to Herman Melville’s “Bartelby the Scrivener”. Readings of Melville’s Bartleby by Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze;
  4. The misery of theory without poetry. Philosophical and filmic readings of Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem Remembrance (Andenken) and The Ister by Martin Heidegger, Peter Szondy and Avital Ronell. 


Planned Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1. Discuss the diverse ways in which philosophy and literature support and enrich one another;
  2. Critically evaluate the indebtedness of nineteenth and twentieth century European literature and philosophy to the work of the Early German Romantics;
  3. Explain the fundamental importance of language for philosophy through an appreciation of the similarities and differences of philosophical and literary approaches;
  4. Develop a position on the debate whether philosophy as a practice exists today simply independent of the history of art and literature.  



Suggested Reading



Avital Ronell “Special Topic: On Poetry: The Poverty of Theory without Poetry” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America. Vol. 120, No. 1, 2005,

Alander Nehemas Nietzsche: Life as Literature Harvard UP, 1985

The Ister: A film based on Martin Heidegger’s wartime Hölderlin lectures by David Barison and Daniel Ross (2004) 

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism SUNY Press, 1988.

Herman Melville “Bartelby the Scrivener

Selections from the Atheneum fragments; Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, Twilight of the Idols, Gilles Deleuze The Bartleby Effect, H. v. Kleist “On the Marionette Theatre”.


About the Tutor

Doctor Peter Banki is Research Associate in Philosophy at the University of Western Sydney. He holds a Ph.D from New York University. He has published a number of articles in peer review journals in the fields of continental philosophy and literature. He has recently spoken about his research on sexuality on the Radio National Program “The Philosophers’ Zone” and has tutored and lectured in philosophy and literature at the University of Western Sydney, TAFE Sydney Institute and also at the University of Sydney. His website is