ProjectAn-other Modernity? The Relationship of Literature and Philosophy in Russian Culture

Basic data

An-other Modernity? The Relationship of Literature and Philosophy in Russian Culture
11/29/2012 to 12/1/2012
Abstract / short description:

Within the Russian cultural system literature is considered to be the primary medium for self-reflexivity (and cultural self-definition). The often cited literary centrism is especially prominent in the classical realist novels which deal with a broad spectrum of questions ranging from religion, ethics, social philosophy and the philosophy of history to scientific and epistemological criticism. Then again the philosophical discourse often employs literary forms and genres (e.g., Čaadaev's Philosophical Letters) or uses literary and aesthetic issues as a departure point for philosophical thought (e.g., Geršenzon, Berdjaev).
The observation that philosophy and literature are closely intertwined in Russian culture however comes from a (Western) understanding of culture where individual discourses tend to be separated and differentiated more greatly. While the beginning of the separation of individual discourses tends to be associated with the Enlightenment – at the beginning of the macro-epoch modernity –, the fusion of literature and philosophy is often considered a discursive backwardness within Russian culture. Newer theories however question the notion that the differentiation of institutions and discourses is a signum of modernity.
Bruno Latour's thesis that „we have never been modern“ is a polemic against a temporal classification of societies into „modern“ and „non-modern“. In general, Latour considers discourse classification to be an illusion, which is where the Western and the Russian cases would converge. Moreover, there are phases in the macro-epoch, commonly described as modernity, where the fusion of literature and philosophy (or of discourses in general) is elevated to a cultural norm.
These foregoing considerations lead us to at least three complexes of inquiry we would like to focus on during the conference: (i) the culture-specific contact, resistance and mechanisms of appropriation between literature and philosophy in Russia; (ii) whether the phenomenon of mutual permeation of literature and philosophy is unique only to Russian culture and as such spatially limited, or whether this is symptomatic for specific epochs or currents and thus rather indicates a temporal phenomenon; and (iii) critique the concept of modernity which assumes the autonomy of discourses in light of the Russian example.
modern age

Involved staff


Institute of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Department of Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Department of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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