Walter Benjamin: The Novel, A Lecture by Kevin McLaughlin (Brown)

Wednesday, February 7, 2024 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
HQ, 320 York Street, Room 136

Kevin McLaughlin’s new book, The Philology of Life:  Walter Benjamin’s Critical Program (Fordham University Press, 2023), traces the development of a theory of literature and a method of criticism in Benjamin’s early interpretations of a nexus formed by the poetry of Hölderlin, the criticism of the German romantics, and Goethe’s novel, Elective Affinities.  McLaughlin’s lecture will focus on one strand in Benjamin’s approach to Goethe in order to show how this early “philology of life” informs his later reflections on the novel in the famous essay, “The Storyteller.”  In this way McLaughlin will suggest how Benjamin’s academic writing on German literature around 1800 shapes his turn to literary and cultural criticism composed for a broader public.

Kevin McLaughlin served as Dean of the Faculty from 2011-2022 at Brown University. He is currently George Hazard Crooker Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and German Studies at Brown and the Director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Advanced Study at Brown. McLaughlin became the Editor of Novel: A Forum for Fiction in 2023. He has been the recipient of research grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Program, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. He is the author of four books, Writing in Parts: Imitation and Exchange in 19th-Century Literature (Stanford UP, 1995); Paperwork: Literature and Mass Mediacy in the Age of Paper (U of Penn P, 2005); Poetic Force: Poetry after Kant (Stanford UP, 2014); and The Philology of Life: Walter Benjamin’s Critical Program (Fordham UP, 2023). McLaughlin is also the co-translator with Howard Eiland of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project (Harvard UP, 1999).