Contemporary philosophy and modernist literature


Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures (3rd level)

The Transformation of Modern Thought – Philosophy, psychoanalysis, culture

Course code: 49

Year of study: Not specified

Course principal:
Assist. Prof. Rok Benčin, Ph.D.


Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminar 30 hours

Course type: general elective 

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminars, discussion classes 

Aims and competences

Lectures and seminars in this course will focus on the stakes of philosophical reading of literature. Twentieth century philosophy which strived to abolish metaphysical systems and establish connections with other thought practices (science, politics, art) produced a vast number of philosophical treatises with literary works as their primary focus. The course will examine ways in which literary texts enter philosophical discourse and contribute to the construction of philosophical concepts. The implications of encounters between philosophical and literary thought will be followed along two lines. On the one hand, it will be explored what kind of philosophical questions and insights are enabled by way of literature and why thinking the present (also in the political sense) in philosophy so often entails thinking literature.

Thus, philosophical readings of literature will not be treated as secondary applications of basic philosophical notions but rather as a process of philosophical concept-development that has a key role in ontological, phenomenological as well as historical and political reflections. On the other hand, the course will look into the philosophical contributions to understanding literature itself in interaction with and in comparison to other theoretical practices that take literature as their primary subject (literary theory, comparative literature, linguistics, sociology, psychoanalysis). Furthermore, it will also be explored how philosophical interpretations of literature relate to interpretations of other forms of art (e. g. painting, music, photography). Students will be able to acquire knowledge on various contemporary philosophical branches and schools through modernist literature. The course is also designed to accommodate seminars where collective parallel readings of literary in philosophical texts will take place. Students will get to know ways of thinking the contemporary world through literature and understanding literature in terms of philosophical questions and problems. They will also gain the ability to use different methods of interpreting texts



None required.


Content (Syllabus outline)

  • Historical aspect: the role of art and literature in history of philosophy from Plato to Nietzsche.
  • Literary topics and contemporary philosophical thought: »grand narratives«, world and fiction, representation and emancipation etc.
  • Philosophy of literature: Sartre and the question of engagement, Blanchot and the problem of death, Deleuze and the concept of life, Rancière and the contradictions of literary metaphysics etc.
  • Case studies:
  • per philosopher: Heidegger on Hölderlinu, Benjamin on Baudelaire, Deleuze on Proust, Badiou on Mallarmé etc.;
  • comparative analysis per authors: various philosophical interpretations of Kafka, Joyce, Brecht etc.;
  • comparative analysis per artistic practices: literature and painting, music, photography; drama and theatre.
  • Hermeneutics and various methods of interpretation.
  • Interdisciplinary aspect: philosophy of literature and literary theory, narratology, lingusitics etc.



  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1991-1992. Notes to Literature, vol. I-II, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. 1999. Potentialities, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Badiou, Alain. 2004. On Beckett, Manchester: Clinamen Press.
  • Badiou, Alain. 2005. Handbook of Ineasthetics, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Benjamin, Walter. 1969. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Berlin: Schocken Books.
  • Blanchot, Maurice. 1982. The Space of Literature, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Deleuze, Gilles. 1997. Essays Critical and Clinical, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, Gilles. 2000. Proust and Signs, London: The Athlone Press.
  • Derrida, Jacques. 1983. Dissemination, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1971. The Order of Things, New York: Random House.
  • Heidegger, Martin. 2000. Elucidations of Holderlin’s Poetry, New York: Humanity Books.
  • Jameson, Fredric. 2007. The Modernist Papers, London in New York: Verso.
  • Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. 2010. Badiou and Deleuze Read Literature, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Rancière, Jacques. 2007. Aesthetics and its discontents, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Rancière, Jacques. 2011. Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.



  • Attendance and active participation in lectures and seminars.
  • Acquired knowledge and gained competences are demonstrated by students with a successfully defended paper of up to 20 pages on a subject, linked with the content of the course. The subject is chosen by the student with the lecturer’s assistance. Evaluation covers a) the capability of understanding, effectively summarising and adequately referencing sources, b) the ability to comparatively and critically analyse appropriate sources, c) the precision of the argument and the competence of independently formulating hypotheses.


Contemporary philosophy and modernist literature ǀ

Assist. Prof. Rok Benčin, Ph.D.,


Contemporary Theories on Art and Culture and the Esthetics of New Technologies ǀ

Prof. Marina Gržinić Mauhler, Ph. D. ,


Critical Aesthetics and Twentieth-Century Art ǀ

Prof. Aleš Erjavec, Ph. D. ,


Formation of the Concepts ǀ

Assist. Prof. Aleš Bunta, Ph. D. ,

Assist. Prof. Tadej Troha, Ph. D. ,


German Idealism and its Consequences ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Frank Ruda, Ph. D. ,


Ideology and Philosophy ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Jan Völker, Ph. D. ,


Philosophy and Psychoanalysis ǀ

Prof. Jelica Šumič Riha, Ph. D.,


Philosophy and Scientific Revolution ǀ

Assoc. Prof. Matjaž Vesel, Ph.D.,


Psychoanalysis and the Social Bond ǀ

Prof. Alenka Zupančič, Ph.D.,

Assoc. Prof. Peter Klepec, Ph. D.,