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The newly founded Rutgers-Reed Philological Seminar (RRPS) is a collaborative venture between the German departments at Rutgers University and Reed College. In the coming years, the Seminar’s biannual meetings will take the form of one-day online colloquia. At the forefront of our deliberations will be the linguistic dynamics that are the condition of possibility and impossibility of our collective existence. Rather than organizing our discussions around particular concepts or themes, we will select an idiomatic expression to serve as a jumping off point for each gathering, although how participants choose to situate their interventions vis-à-vis this verbal signpost is entirely up to them. A laboratory for emergent ideas, the RRPS will offer scholars of all ranks, from undergraduates to senior faculty, the opportunity to present works-in-progress. Uncertified, unossified, and unapologetically bi-coastal, we hope to foster an open discourse unencumbered by stultifying hierarchies and conventions.

For questions about the RRPS, please reach out to Dominik Zechner and Jan Mieszkowski.


RRPS2: “Apropos of Nothing” on March 30, 2024


Consulting Franz Kafka’s diary on September 22, 1917, we find a single word: “Nothing.” The entry is potentially self-defeating, for the act of writing “nothing” is not nothing any more than the grapheme “nothing” is. It would appear that all discourse about nothing is at risk of betraying its object in virtue of the fact that its own positings, performances, and negations inexorably become its referent, a something that the discourse nonetheless insists on calling a nothing. If Kafka’s aim was to record an experience or an event that was not an experience or event of something, is this to say that he was trying to jot down something “apropos of nothing”? To write or speak “apropos of nothing” would not be to speak about nothing so much as to speak out of, because of, or on account of nothing; it would be to speak sans cause or purpose, to speak a language that would not signify or refer to anything at all. This language would be entirely lacking in context or occasion; it would take place neither for its own sake nor for the sake of something else, but merely for … nothing. And yet how can such a discourse “apropos of nothing” avoid being swallowed by the very nothingness that it proffers as its substance? How can it maintain its infinitesimally minimal status as something in the midst of all this nothing? It may be that the only way to speak or write “apropos of nothing” is to fall silent, although recalling King Lear’s admonishment to his daughter Cordelia, we will almost certainly be entreated to talk: “Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again.”


1–2:30pm Seminar on Walser’s “I Have Nothing” and “Nothing at All”

3–4:45pm First Panel

  1. Artun Ak (Rutgers), “Mon cher, cher papa!” Writing/Reading in Michael Haneke’s Time of the Wolf
  2. Anna Hunt (Illinois Urbana-Champaign), This space intentionally left blank
  3. Doğa Ayar (Reed), Liminal Spaces
    Chair: Jan Mieszkowski

5–6:45pm Second Panel

  1. Erica Weitzman (Northwestern), “––––––”: On Nihilism and Its Annihilations
  2. Stephanie Galasso (Rutgers), Necessity & Nothingness: Notes on Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude
  3. Jürgen Lipps (UCLA), The End of All Things (And the Beginning of Nothing!)
    Chair: Dominik Zechner

RRPS1: “Together as One” on November 18, 2023


The phrase “together as one” invokes a level of cooperation beyond co-operation; it envisions a whole that has entirely transcended its own status as a collection of parts. This could be a radically new kind of union, or in the spirit of Plato’s Symposium, it might be a return to a primal oneness that was lost when each of us was separated from our other half. Such fantasies of fusion point to a potential tension between identity and community. Can we imagine an amalgamation or conjunction of individuals without violence, and if to embrace the company of others is to renounce one’s very claim to singularity, are all calls for togetherness at heart totalitarian? In the search for forms of being-with that might avoid these dire political consequences, Jean-Luc Nancy conceives of a community that would interrupt the myth of communion. In these terms, to be “together as one” would be to actively undermine the oneness of communal being. The result would be a group—what Judith Butler calls an assembly—whose identification with itself is always in question: a community always more and less than One, forever in excess of itself while unrepentantly lacking the insular closure of pure or total unity.


1–2:30pm Seminar on Kafka’s “To All My Fellow Lodgers”

3–4:45pm First Panel:

  1. Kris Cohen (Reed), We, the Domitable
  2. Serena Lückhoff (Brown), Calls from the Deep: Bachmann with Hamacher
  3. Elisabeth Schäfer (SFU Linz), Being-with along an Interrupted Continuous Line, or Enigmatic Messages from the In-between: Philosophical and Psychoanalytical Reflections on Alterity
    Chair: Dominik Zechner

5–6:45pm Second Panel:

  1. Emily Trujillo (Rutgers), As One, As If!
  2. Ben Read (Reed ‘21), “The Overgrown Clearing”: Parataxis and Communio in Lisa Robertson’s “Utopia”
  3. Kasia Bartoszynska (Ithaca), The Voice of Experience
    Chair: Jan Mieszkowski

Organized by Jan Mieszkowski and Dominik Zechner.

Zoom info provided upon request.


Follow the RRPS Playlist on Spotify.