On one definition, formalism refers to a consideration of aesthetic artifacts apart from the intentions of whoever created them, the responses they provoke, or the contexts in which they appeared. On another, formalism refers to an evaluation of ethical or legal actions independently from their circumstances and consequences. On still another, formalism refers to a way of demarcating and representing an object of study, a kind of a priori schema that might organize an infinite number of particular observations. Formalism often seems to be a term defined by negation, as all that remains once we subtract intention, outcome, context, content, and subject matter from the analysis. As academic, social, and artistic movements, however, the diverse formalisms have also seen the promotion of one or another set of values or ways of being. Our goal for the year will be a comparative discussion of formalism across the disciplines and an attempt to answer a seemingly intractable question: what do we talk about when we talk about form? The question is at once as old as Plato and ripe for a sustained interdisciplinary conversation.
Directors: Jonathan Kramnick (English) and Jonah Siegel (English)
Faculty Fellows: Mary Frances Egan (Philosophy), Nicholas Gaskill (English), David Kurnick (English), Paul McLean (Sociology), Anjali Nerlikar (AMESALL), Susan Sidlauskas (Art History)
Predoctoral Fellows: Shannon Connelly (Art History), Mark DiGiacomo (English), Neha Gondal (Sociology), Naomi Levine (English), Emily Zubernis (English)
Postdoctoral Fellows: Stephanie Hershinow (English, Johns Hopkins), Jessica Merrill (Slavic Languages and Literatures, Berkeley)
Affiliated Scholars: Ala Alryyes (Comparative Literature, Yale), Sam Lebovic (History, U. of Chicago)
Mellon Fellow: Rachel Feder (English, U. of Michigan)