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Philosophy + Literature

It all started in 2004.

For most of the twentieth century, philosophers and literary scholars were often at odds. But this was not for lack of common concerns. On the contrary, our deepest questions often overlap, and we have an enormous amount to learn from one another. In 2004, ten Stanford professors from across literary studies and philosophy came together to debate, cooperate, and deliberate about more productive ways forward. Ultimately they laid the foundation for a joint teaching program. The Philosophy and Literature Initiative was born.

Today, Philosophy + Literature is a vibrant and growing community.

Undergraduates are taking courses and pursuing major tracks; graduates are selecting PhD minors and participating in research workshops; faculty are collaborating on research and teaching. Philosophy + Literature at Stanford remains one of only a few programs of its kind—nationally and internationally—which combine rigorous, disciplined literary study with the full historical and analytical toolkit of philosophy.

Philosophy and literary studies have much to teach one another.

Philosophy + Literature provides an opportunity for serious and sustained engagement between the disciplines, and the possibilities for mutual illumination are vast. Recent interests of participating faculty include:

  • literature and self-fashioning
  • literature and moral improvement
  • literature and cognitive science
  • mimesis and make-believe
  • intention and interpretation
  • irony and ironism
  • metaphor
  • aesthetic theory and practice in the modern world
  • the nature and value of beauty
  • styles and genres of philosophical writing
  • non-semantic effects of literary texts