The Interior Life: Literary, Psychoanalytic, and Spiritual Perspectives

Jan 28, 2015
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture
1025 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Jonathan LearUniversity of Chicago

Bernard McGinnUniversity of Chicago

Lisa RuddickUniversity of Chicago

Rosanna WarrenUniversity of Chicago


a symposium with
Jonathan Lear (University of Chicago)
Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago)
Lisa Ruddick (University of Chicago)
Rosanna Warren (University of Chicago)
Thomas Pavel,  Moderator (University of Chicago)

cosponsored by the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought


Many of the cultural products of the world’s civilizations have arisen out of the inner life of religious figures, poets, and philosophers, in which the roots of self-knowledge, creative imagination, or communion with God are found. Without neglecting the interior lives of ordinary people, one can cite as examples Socrates’s mystic trances, St. Teresa of Avila’s discovery of an “interior castle,” Keat’s practice of “negative capability,” or the self-knowledge Freud found in his dreams and self-analysis. What does it mean to have an interior life and to what extent is such a life made more difficult in the busyness of our technological culture?

Jonathan Lear is the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy and is the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago. He works primarily on philosophical conceptions of the human psyche from Socrates to the present. He also trained as a psychoanalyst at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis. His recent books include: Happiness, death and the remainder of life (2000), Therapeutic action: an earnest plea for irony(2003), Freud (2005), Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (2006), and A Case for Irony (2011).

Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and the Committees on Medieval Studies and on General Studies at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively about the history of apocalyptic thought, spirituality, and mysticism. McGinn's many books include Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with EvilThe Presence of Goda multivolume history of Western Christian mysticism, and most recently Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography.

Lisa Ruddick is Associate Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD from Harvard University, and has taught at the University of Chicago since 1981. Her teaching and research focus on modern British fiction, literature and psychoanalysis, and poetry and poetics; and more specifically the question of the feeling of aliveness, especialy among scholars in the humanities. She is author of numerous scholarly works, including Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis.

Rosanna Warren is the Hanna Holborn Gray Distinguished Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.A. from the Writing Seminar at Johns Hopkins University. An acclaimed poet, Prof. Warren’s research interests include translation, literary biography, literature and the visual arts, and relations between classical and modern literature. Her second collection of poetry, Stained Glass, received a Lamont Poetry Selection award from the American Academy of Poets in 1993. Her most recent book of poems is Ghost in a Red Hat (2011). She is also the author of a book of literary criticism, Fables of the Self: Studies in Lyric Poetry.