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Colloquium “Herder’s Reading of Sophocles: On Pain, Language and Sympathy”
12 December 2019 @ 15:00 - 17:00
Colloquium Geschiedenis van de Filosofie, Universiteit Utrecht
“Herder’s Reading of Sophocles: On Pain, Language and Sympathy”
Iedereen is welkom!
Date: Thursday December 12th, 15:00-17:00
Venue: van Ravesteynzaal, Kromme Nieuwe Gracht 80 (1e verdieping), Utrecht
In his “Treatise on the Origin of Language” (1772) Herder presents the origin of language in what he calls “a language of sensations” comprised of cries, moans and other immediate expressions of sensations and passions. According to Herder, the origin of language lies in pain’s immediate expression in a cry, in both man and animal, and in the immediacy with which we hear and feel the pain of others. Interestingly, Herder accompanies this argument with a short reference to the Greek hero Philoctetes as presented in Sophocles’ dramatic version of the story. Philoctetes is a figure whose identity is characterized, perhaps even defined, by his terrible cries of pain and abiding isolation, however, his story is also a story about the possibility (or impossibility) of sympathy towards the pain of another. In my talk, I elaborate on Herder’s reference to Philoctetes and provide a close reading of the play in light of Herder’s theory of language, pain and sympathy. By bringing Herder and Sophocles together, I demonstrate the forceful relationship between a philosophical argument and a literary figure.
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