David Cunningham – Genre without Genre: Romanticism, the Novel and the New



Event Date 8 – 9 May 2013

Room 22/26
Senate House
University of London
London WC1E 7HU

Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy


Romantic Transdisciplinarity: Art and the New Conference

2011–2013 (AHRC 914469)

This conference is dedicated to discussion of the transdisciplinary legacies of early German Romanticism in contemporary theory and practice in the arts and humanities, with particular reference to the construction of the concepts ‘art’ and ‘the new’. Themes to be discussed include: Romanticism and disciplinarity; aesthetics as a transdisciplinary field; transdisciplinary constructions of art, nature and the new; medium, media and transmedia as transdisciplinary concepts.

The conference is in collaboration with the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Professor David Cunningham (English, University of Westminister) – Genre without Genre: Romanticism, the Novel and the New

In its emancipation from traditional or a priori forms, the novel, Ian Watt argues in his classic 1956 study, suggests itself as ‘the logical literary form of a culture which … has [itself] set an unprecedented value on originality, the novel’. This paper traces such a conception of the novel’s specific modernity to the early German romantic philosophy of art, in Schlegel and Novalis, and the response to it to be found in some famous pages of Hegel’s Aesthetics. Central to this is a theory of the novel for which such modernity is, above all, a function of the emergence of the artistically ‘new’ as that without genre. If this concurs with what both Lukacs and Bakhtin will, some 100 years later, take to be definitive of the novel as a form – its essential heterogeneity or hybridity – its significance for what the latter described as more general ‘novelization’ of other modern cultural forms, provides the basis for considering the novel as a kind of transdisciplinary ‘model’ of the new that exceeds the disciplinary structure of literary studies. At the same time, however, in anticipating aspects of what Adorno referred to as an ‘advance of nominalism’ in modernism, the early philosophy of the novel also raises questions about the threat of the ‘radically particular’ work’s dissolution into ‘contingency and absolute indifference’ that have considerable contemporary resonance.

David Cunningham is Deputy Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture and Principal Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Westminster. He is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy and has written on modernism, aesthetic and urban theory, and capitalism and the novel, including in the edited collections on Adorno and Literature (2006) and Photography and Literature in the Twentieth Century (2005). He is currently working on a book to be entitled The Dynamics of Modernism.






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