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The Poetics of Personhood - Conference on 22 September

Dr Michael Minden & Dr Annja Neumann from the Department of German & Dutch, together with Prof Leonard Olschner from QMUL are organising a one-day conference 'The Poetics of Personhood' at Magdalene College on 22 September 2017. The event is generously supported by the Schröder Fund.

The specific status of the individual human creature has been defined in a multitude of ways since the beginning of history and probably before.  This persistent need for a functioning support in language for the entity upon which society and morality are founded is encapsulated in the word ‘person’.  ‘Person’ refers to the individual body of the creature but also that body’s place in the network of meanings through which a given society orders itself.  As a word, it lacks secure referential anchorage, not only because how the ‘person’ is defined, and who qualifies as one, change over time and place, but because this need for definition has to operate in between the body and social organisation.  It faces two ways, as it were, combining the consciousness of the embodied self with the shared currencies of conscious society.  This double meaning is suggested by the historical and etymological link between the word person and the word for mask.

The interest that this workshop is intended to serve is to test the resonance of the word ‘person’ today by looking again at its history in literature and especially lyric poetry.  The focus is on lessons to be learned from these honest and uncorrupted language practices.  These lessons, it is to be hoped, would be relevant to the actual life, the reality, of the enigma of personhood in a possible future. 

The full programme is now available. 

To register for this event, please email Ulrike Balser on, with your full name, status (MPhil / PhD student / lecturer etc), name of institution, email address and dietary requirements (as snacks and small lunch will be provided). 


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