Universität Wien

090052 UE The Objects of Thinking: Literature, Philosophy, Materiality (2021W)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 9 - Altertumswissenschaften
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Update 20.11.2021: The course will be conducted in digital form during the lockdown.

Tuesday 12.10. 13:15 - 14:45 UZA2 Hörsaal 7 (Raum 2Z210) 2.OG
Tuesday 19.10. 13:15 - 14:45 UZA2 Hörsaal 4 (Raum 2Z221) 2.OG
Tuesday 09.11. 13:15 - 14:45 UZA2 Hörsaal 4 (Raum 2Z221) 2.OG
Tuesday 16.11. 13:15 - 14:45 UZA2 Hörsaal 4 (Raum 2Z221) 2.OG
Tuesday 23.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Tuesday 30.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Tuesday 14.12. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Tuesday 11.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Tuesday 18.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Tuesday 25.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

This course will seek to provide a historical and philosophical genealogy of contemporary debates over the word and concept of “materiality.” As a philosophical term linked especially with the era of the Enlightenment, materialism usually deploys reductive and mechanistic causal explanations of spiritual phenomena on the basis of matter alone, a signature trait which is again legible in the context of today’s biological conceptions of the subject. However, a genealogy of the concept of matter can be reconstructed which challenges this understanding and highlights closer links between matter and ideas. The question we will try to answer through readings of writers and philosophers who repeatedly evoke and reference objects in order to make their arguments is the following: “Why is it that philosophy cannot proceed without its objects and what does this persistence say not only about the role and place of objects within thinking but also about the materiality of thought itself?” The course is organized around specific objects that appear in the philosophies of the writers we read, and the course will unearth connecting threads among the semester’s readings. For example, between Lucretius’s matter formed by atoms and Bergson’s “aggregate of images,” between Christianity’s Eucharistic ritual, and Proust’s repetition of this ritual in his famous madeleine episode, between the spectral materialities we encounter in Hegel, Marx and Freud, between Hegel’s “substance as subject” and Adrian Johnston’s “transcendental materialism,” and between psychoanalysis and recent developments on materialism by Žižek and Dolar. Finally, the course will explore how this debate can shed light on the place of the material world/objects in the cultural politics of Modern Greek literature: from Romanticism to modernism to post-war literature, matter – be it nature, statues, or, simply, a box – asks us to think about the entire network of national, social, and political relations that is sealed within it (Dionysios Solomos, Constantine Cavafy, Giorgos Seferis, Aris Alexandrou) are authors we will discuss).

Assessment and permitted materials

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Participation in the discussion of textual sources, final short oral presentation, submission of a final paper on one of the topics of the course, written in English or German.

Examination topics

30%: Participation in class discussion
30%: Oral Presentation
40%: Essay of 2.500-3000 words (footnotes and Bibliography not included). Submission via email. Deadline: April 15 2022

Reading list

Johnston Adrian, Adventures in Transcedental Materialism
Guthenke Constanze, Placing Modern Greece: The Dynamics of Romantic Hellenism, 1770-1840
Sbriglia Russell and Slavoj Žižek (eds.), Subject Lessons: Hegel, Lacan, and the Future of Materialism
Pdf’s for weekly readings will be available on Moodle

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Fr 12.05.2023 00:14