Indiana University Bloomington

Spring 2024 Events


William Slaymaker Graduate Essay Prize in Critical Theory

Monday, March 25, 2024, 4 - 5:30 pm, Maxwell Hall 112

Nicolas Noé: "Spirals of Emancipation: Frankétienne’s Exhausting Intermedial Schizophony and Jean-Luc Nancy’s Ex-haussement of Reason"

My paper explores Frankétienne’s L’Oiseau Schizophone, an intermedial 'spiral' (a Haitian literary genre) whose fundamental fragmentation contributes to the creation of a poetics that challenges the use of our traditional tools of critique. I propose to link Frankétienne’s poetics with the philosophical ideas of Jean-Luc Nancy, who conceives of the world as a fragmented entity whose meaning lies outside of it. Holding Nancy and Frankétienne together, I question whether there is meaning beyond text and, especially, whether Frankétienne’s disconcerting aesthetics is an invitation to connect with and read the artwork differently. In linking Haiti and France, I confront the absence of transatlantic perspectives and I aim to place French critical theory and Haitian poetics on an equal footing.

Nicolas Noé is a PhD student in French and Francophone Studies. He holds an MA in comparative literature and an MA in modern French literature from Sorbonne Nouvelle. He is interested in the decolonial reassessment of the French literary canon and understanding the factors influencing the reception of 20th and 21st-century Caribbean literature and philosophy in France. His dissertation will likely examine the evolution of Francophone Caribbean theoretical production from 1981 to 2007, using the metaphor of metabolism to analyze the dynamic interplay of degradation and synthesis within Caribbean thought.


Honorable Mention:

Hoon Lee (English Department), "The 'Lyric' Mode of Address in Being and Time"


Reading Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit Today

Friday, March 29, 2024, Mies van der Rohe 200

Conveners: Michel Chaouli, Patrick Dove, Jennifer Fleissner, Andrés Guzman, and Oana Panaïté


9:00 am - Coffee and welcome 

9:15-10:15 - Todd McGowan: “Thinking from the End: Reading the Phenomenology Backwards”
Moderator: Andrés Guzmán

By thinking from the standpoint of the end, Hegel ironically produces a new form of philosophy, a new way of doing philosophy. This way of doing philosophy alters philosophy’s relationship to politics. Hegel’s philosophy doesn’t attempt to guide politics, but it also doesn’t abandon politics for conformism, as some of his critics allege. He neither tries to create a new world nor provide support for the old one. The Hegelian project consists in seeing what is in a way that transforms our relationship to ourselves and the world. Hegel’s philosophy doesn’t aim at inventing a new mode of living but at discovering what’s at stake in how we already live. This move has a radicality to it because it highlights the transformation that lies implicit in the present waiting to be unleashed. 

Todd McGowan teaches theory and film at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Embracing Alienation, The Racist Fantasy, Emancipation After Hegel, Capitalism and Desire, Only a Joke Can Save Us, and other works. He is also the cohost of the Why Theory podcast with Ryan Engley.

10:15-10:30 - Coffee break 

10:30-11:30 - Robert Lucas Scott, “Representing Spirit: Recollection and Figuration in Hegel’s Phenomenology
Moderator: Michel Chaouli

What are the relationships between philosophy, the history of philosophy, and the aesthetic? How does philosophy recollect its own history, and orient itself in critical relation to what came before? This paper will argue that Vorstellung (translated variously as “representation” or “picture-thinking”), epitomized by das Bild (“the image”) occupies an essential role in Hegel’s thought as the medium of spirit’s self-recollection. This complicates the traditional interpretation whereby representation, for Hegel, merely corrupts or obfuscates the purity of the concept and must therefore be finally overcome. It will also claim in turn, and against the prejudice that Hegel is unrelentingly and even unnecessarily difficult, that Hegel’s speculative thinking requires a moment of radical simplification, aesthetic abbreviation, and even caricature. This can help us to account for the proliferation of literary figuration throughout the Phenomenology, and for Hegel’s own recollection of this work as a “gallery of images.”

Robert Lucas Scott is the author of Reading Hegel—Irony, Recollection, Critique, forthcoming with The University of Chicago Press in 2025, and an editor of Gillian Rose’s Marxist Modernism lectures, forthcoming with Verso in August 2024. His work has also appeared or will soon appear in Textual Practice, Angelaki, Critical Horizons, Los Angeles Review of Books, Thesis Eleven, and Critical Quarterly. He completed his PhD in English at the University of Cambridge on Hegel and ‘speculative reading’, and will return to Cambridge in October 2024 to begin an Arts Research Fellowship on Gillian Rose and literary theory.

11:30-11:45 - Coffee break

11:45-12:45 - Angelica Nuzzo, “‘Figures of Consciousness’ and ‘Figures of the World’: The Notion of Gestalt in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
Moderator: Patrick Dove

In this paper, I discuss the relevance of the notions of “figure”/Gestalt and the process of “figuration”/Gestaltung to the structure and immanent dialectical movement of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Quite generally, what is a “figure of consciousness”? And why does the “world” articulate itself phenomenologically and historically in a succession of “figures”? What is the relation between the two? In sum, my claim is that Gestalt is the structural dynamic unity and the very subject of the phenomenological development.

Angelica Nuzzo is Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center and Brooklyn College (City University of New York). Among her books are Approaching Hegel’s Logic, Obliquely. Melville, Molière, Beckett (SUNY, 2018); Memory, History, Justice in Hegel (Macmillan, 2012), Ideal Embodiment. Kant’s Theory of Sensibility (Indiana University Press, 2008), Kant and the Unity of Reason (Purdue University Press, 2005).

12:45-2:00 - Lunch break

2:00-3:00 - Jensen Suther, “The Desire for Desire: Hegel’s Constitutive Model of Rationality in Chapter IV”
Moderator: Jonathan Elmer

A longstanding interpretive issue concerning Chapter IV of the Phenomenology is how to understand the singularly difficult discussion of the role of life in the development of self-consciousness. Some readers hold that self-consciousness consists in the recognition of one’s independence from the demands of life, while others have argued that self-consciousness is both life and more than life at once. This paper rejects these readings and contributes to the ongoing discussion surrounding “additive” versus “transformative” models of rationality by arguing that Hegel develops a third way in Chapter IV, what I call the constitutive model of rationality (CMR). I argue that the master-slave dialectic in Chapter IV vindicates the CMR by attempting to deny it. On my reading, Hegel shows that organic desire in creatures like us cannot be satisfied as such in the absence of the reciprocal recognition of the rationality of desire. 

Jensen Suther, a former Fulbright Scholar, received his PhD from Yale University. He is currently a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. His writing has appeared in a range of academic and public-facing venues, including Representations, The Hegel Bulletin, Modernism/modernity, The New Statesman, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He is currently working on two books—“Spirit Disfigured” and “Hegel’s Bio-Aesthetics”—which explore Hegel’s legacy for Marxism in aesthetic, political, and philosophical contexts. 

3:00-3:15 - Coffee break

3:15-4:15 - Dean Moyar, “‘Spirit is a Bone’: The Poorest and Richest Judgment in the Phenomenology of Spirit
Moderator: Jennifer Fleissner

This paper examines the enigmatic transition at the end of the Phenomenology’s “Observing Reason” section in light of Hegel’s claim in “Absolute Knowing” that this transition is central to the book’s overall project. The transition centers on the judgment, “the being of spirit is a bone,” which is the basic judgment of the science of phrenology. I unpack what Hegel means in contrasting an impoverished representational view of this judgment to a spiritually rich conceptual view of the judgment. I argue that this contrast underwrites the move to the practical shapes of reason to the development of a world of value.

Dean Moyar is Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He has published extensively on classical German philosophy, especially Hegel, and is the author of Hegel's Value: Justice as the Living Good and Hegel's Conscience. He is currently editing a volume on Moby-Dick for the Oxford Studies in Philosophy and Literature series.

4:15-4:30 - Coffee break

4:30-5:30 - Rocío Zambrana, “On Fetishism”
Moderator: Oana Panaïté

This talk will consider Hegel’s—as well as Marx’s—discussion of the fetish in relation to David Marriott’s account of racial fetishism in Fanon. I explore forms of abstraction in the discussions of the fetish in Hegel as well as Marx, aiming to understand the work that this famous notion does in the Lectures on the Philosophy of World History and Capital

Rocío Zambrana teaches philosophy at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. She writes about the epistemic and historical-material bases of capitalist modernity and its racial/gender order, especially from decolonial thought and praxis, particularly in the context of financial capitalism in the Caribbean. She is currently writing a book entitled Metamorphosis of Value: Epistemic Protocols in the Long Durée. She is also working on a collection of essays on Hegel, race, and modernity. Zambrana is the author of Hegel’s Theory of Intelligibility (University of Chicago Press, 2015), and Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico (Duke University Press, 2021).


5:30-5:45 - Coffee break

5:45-6:30 - Closing discussion

We are grateful to the Department of Philosophy and to the Mary-Margaret Barr Koon Fund of the Department of French and Italian at Indiana University Bloomington for their generous support.




For an archive of events, see here.