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Philosophy + Literature Workshop with Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé

Tue February 7th 2023, 6:15 - 7:45pm
Event Sponsor
Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
Philosophy and Literature at Stanford
Building 260, Pigott Hall
450 Jane Stanford Way, Building 260, Stanford, CA 94305
German Library, Room 252

Before the session, please read Prof. Zumhagen-Yekplé’s draft chapter of her book, A Different Order of Difficulty. The reading is circulated by email: RSVP here


Is the point of philosophy to transmit beliefs about the world, or can it sometimes have higher ambitions? In this bold study, Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé makes a critical contribution to the “resolute” program of Wittgenstein scholarship, revealing his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as a complex, mock-theoretical puzzle designed to engage readers in the therapeutic self-clarification Wittgenstein saw as the true work of philosophy. Seen in this light, Wittgenstein resembles his modernist contemporaries more than might first appear. Like the literary innovators of his time, Wittgenstein believed in the productive power of difficulty, in varieties of spiritual experience, in the importance of age-old questions about life’s meaning, and in the possibility of transfigurative shifts toward the right way of seeing the world. In a series of absorbing chapters, Zumhagen-Yekplé shows how Kafka, Woolf, Joyce, and Coetzee set their readers on a path toward a new way of being. Offering a new perspective on Wittgenstein as philosophical modernist, and on the lives and afterlives of his indirect teaching, A Different Order of Difficulty is a compelling addition to studies in both literature and philosophy. 


Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé is Associate Professor in English at Tulane University, and a faculty affiliate in the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Film Studies Program, and the Program for Gender Studies. She specializes in comparative, interdisciplinary work in British, Transatlantic, European, and Latin American literature and thought of the 20th-21st centuries with a focus on comparative modernisms, their continued resonance in global fiction and film, and the relationship between philosophy and literature. Her most recent book Different Order of Difficulty: Literature After Wittgenstein argues that reading 20th-century literature after Wittgenstein—in light of his contemporaneous writing, and in the wake of recent scholarly thinking about his philosophy—allows for a deeper understanding of the interwoven commitments related to the concerns with difficulty, oblique ethical instruction, and a yearning for transformation that lies at the core of both Wittgenstein’s philosophical method and literary modernism, and which goes on to shape modernism’s afterlife in contemporary fiction.   


Dinner will be provided. Questions? Email sohnm [at] (sohnm[at]stanford[dot]edu) and dlclevents [at] (dlclevents[at]stanford[dot]edu)