Conference Topic

Literature

FEATURED CONFERENCES

The Impartial Spectator in Adam Smith and Jane Austen

This conference compared Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments with special attention to the idea of the impartial spectator compared to the partial narrative offered by Elizabeth Bennet.

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The Pursuit of Liberty in Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison

The conference examined the moral, social, and political foundations for liberty among Black Americans through reading fiction, essays, and autobiographies written by Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison.

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ALL Literature CONFERENCES

Liberty and Responsibility in the Films of Clint Eastwood

In this conference, we considered a selection of films directed by Clint Eastwood, all of which interconnected with Liberty Fund themes, such as individual responsibility, law, justice, power, and liberty.

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Freedom and Responsibility in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”

Conferees read Ralph Ellison's novel The Invisible Man for themes of freedom, responsibility, recognition, and the American Dream. The rights and obligations of American citizenship as they are linked to questions of individual liberty and group identity were also considered.

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Measuring Man in Goethe’s “Faust II”

This conference focused on the measuring of man, his limits, and his capabilities in Goethe's Faust II. Readings included selected poems by Goethe, paired with acts from his play—a combination that helped us map the heart and perimeter of Faust II, its questions about man's liberty and responsibility, and Goethe's…

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Liberty and Utopia in the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne

The conference explored the relationship between the idea of a perfect society and the idea of liberty, primarily through two novels, The Scarlet Letter and The Blithedale Romance. Conferees considered whether or not the attempt to achieve utopian perfection is in itself inimical to liberty.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Duty in Midwest Literature

This conference considered the value and importance of liberty in the Midwest and America in general, with a special focus this time on members of the Indiana legal community and some conferees from the academy and other professions. In this way we gained a unique perspective on the ideal of…

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Chivalry and Freedom in “Don Quixote”

Repeating a 2004 conference, this colloquium explored themes of individual liberty and responsibility in Miguel de Cervantes's celebrated novel, Don Quixote. The timing of this conference coincided with the 400th anniversary of Cervantes's death (1616).

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Liberty and Responsibility in Homer’s “Odyssey”

This conference, directed by Professor John T. Kirby, focused on Homer’s Odyssey, which raised questions about the relationship of liberty and responsibility, authority, the individual and the community, and the impact of war upon individuals.

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Liberty in the Writings of John Milton

Conferees examined the idea of liberty in Milton's works over the course of his lifetime.

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Liberty and Authority in the Works of T. S. Eliot and José Ortega y Gasset

This conference explored the future of Western civilization and the cultural crisis of our times through the works of Jose Ortega y Gasset and T. S. Eliot. Themes discussed included the rise of mass man, the decay of traditional principles, and the impact of this decline on liberty.

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Liberty, Autocracy, and Violence in Early Twentieth-Century Europe: Joseph Conrad’s “Under Western Eyes” and Some Contemporaries

The conference considered such themes as the perversion of human liberty by ideology, and whether liberty can be achieved through violence through reading Conrad's Under Western Eyes and some theoretical works from the same period.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Classical Greek Theater and Philosophy

This colloquium examined the nature of freedom and responsibility through three of the greatest works of Greek tragedy, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, together with Veatch’s primer in neo-Aristotelian ethics, Rational Man, recently published in Portuguese by Liberty Fund.

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War and Peace

This conference explored the themes of liberty and responsibility through selected readings from Tolstoy's classic War and Peace.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Swift and Burke

Swift and Burke produced works that are indispensable to an understanding of the thought of eighteenth-century England, and each made liberty and responsibility central themes of his major writings. Both writers were dedicated to protecting the liberties enjoyed by Englishmen against the rising tide of destructive ideology and dangerous abstraction.

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Works of Franz Kafka

This conference explored the themes of liberty and responsibility in two of the novels and in one of the short stories of Franz Kafka. The events in these works challenge the reader to consider how human freedom can be seriously compromised when confronted by absurd and incomprehensible bureaucratic forces, and…

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Liberty and Responsibility in the “Aeneid”

This conference discussed personal liberty and the individual's relationship to the state in Vergil's Aeneid.

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Central Planning and Culture in Francis Spufford’s “Red Plenty”

Francis Spufford's Red Plenty embodies the essential issues of the socialist economic calculation debate in a compelling and historically responsible narrative of the Soviet economic experiment of the sixties. Paired with relevant readings from economists, this conference considered not only Spufford's work, but the question of the calculation debate, and…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Goethe’s “Faust I” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

The colloquium explored the connection between liberty, responsibility, and the pursuit of happiness through the study of two important works of literature from the Romantic era: Goethe's Faust and Oscar Wilde's reimagining of the Faust tale in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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Balzac’s Capitalism: Money, Passions, and Morality in “Père Goriot”

Conferees discussed the characteristics of French capitalism, one of the central powers in the century of liberalism, through the eyes of Balzac as depicted in Père Goriot.

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Flannery O’Connor: Grace, Responsibility, and Liberty

Conferees examined the extent to which Flannery O'Connor's fiction involves principles of political philosophy that are germane to liberty and responsibility. More specifically, the conference was organized around the challenges or obstacles to human flourishing, as O'Connor perceived them, and individuals’ responsibility to respond to the natural and divine grace…

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Liberty, Creation, and Art in Mario Vargas Llosa

The conference repeated an earlier conference on the intellectual trajectory of the renowned novelist and classical liberal thinker Mario Vargas Llosa.

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Revolution, Reform, and Liberty in John Wilson Croker, Edmund Burke, and Thomas Babington Macaulay

Besides marking an important event in the history of liberty, the French Revolution became a lens through which the British viewed their own politics from the 1790s into the 1830s. Conferees used the writings and speeches of John Wilson Croker, Edmund Burke, and Thomas Babbington Macaulay to explore the connection…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”

This conference explored themes of individual liberty and responsibility in Cervantes's celebrated novel, Don Quixote. The timing of this conference roughly coincided both with the 400th anniversary of the publication of the final version of Don Quixote (1615), and the 400th anniversary of Cervantes's death (1616).

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Liberty and Morality: The Politics of Samuel Johnson

Drawing on a wide range of his writings, conferees explored the political thought of Samuel Johnson.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Dystopian Literature

This colloquium revisited those utopian aspirations that once inspired these now fallen regimes by examining the critique of such longings in dystopian literature.

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Responsibility and Liberty in Genesis 4: Cain and Abel

Through an examination of primary texts and contemporary analysis and literature, this seminar dealt with the freedom of Cain to choose how to act, and the dimensions of what responsible action entails.

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Liberty in the Book of Genesis

This conference, a repeat of an earlier successful conference, considered liberty as represented in Genesis, biblical writings that contain remarkably artful insights into the nature of human liberty.

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Liberty’s Claims on Man and Citizen in the Writings and Life of Albert Camus

The conference explored issues of liberty through notions of rebellion, revolt, and moral obligation in the thought of Albert Camus. Readings included selections from both his philosophical and his literary works, including his novel The Plague.

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Albert Camus: Individual Liberty and the Philosophy of Revolt

This conference examined the main traits of Camus's complex thought regarding individual liberty, the philosophy of revolt that he espoused since the end of World War II, and the paramount importance he put on justice.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Greek Tragedy

Conflicts over how to understand the possibilities of and constraints on individual human liberty and responsibility are a major theme in ancient Greek tragedy. The conflicts concern both human beings’ relationships with each other, privately and publicly, and the relationship between the human and the divine. The plays read in…

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Liberty and Power in Mexican Fiction

The social and political revolution Mexico experienced at the beginning of the twentieth century shaped the nation’s future for the next seventy years. The conference discussed how fiction written during the PRI period reflects and portrays this struggle for liberty.

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Freedom and Responsibility in the Thought of Robert Musil and His Contemporaries: Critical Views of Art and Culture, Politics, and Ethics in Austria

This colloquium on Robert Musil and his contemporaries centered on the challenges that the ideas of freedom, autonomy, and responsibility faced in the first half of the twentieth century in Austria and Germany, which at the time were struggling in a complex and socially mobile world incompatible with traditional outlooks…

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Moral Philosophy in Smith, Hume, and Austen

This conference paired Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility with philosophical discussions of morality and sentiment from Smith and Hume as ways to discuss the development of character and the virtues necessary in a free society.

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Capitalism, Entrepreneurship, and Liberty in the Novels of Émile Zola

This conference explored themes of economic competition, entrepreneurship, financial speculation, and consumer culture in two novels by Zola, The Ladies' Delight and Money.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Self-Made Man

Conferees examined the model of the self-made man presented in three narratives: Franklin's Autobiography, and two novels, The Autobiography of an Ex–Colored Man and The Great Gatsby. Participants also read essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Ayn Rand on the themes of responsibility for self and liberty.

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Liberty, Family, and Self-Direction in Jane Austen

This colloquium explored themes of liberty and responsibility in two of Jane Austen's last novels, Emma and Persuasion.

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Russian Literature, Political Change, and Liberty

This colloquium used a selection of nineteenth century Russian literature and explored themes associated with political and social change. One of the goals of the conference was to investigate whether the treatment of such themes in these literary works was of value, mainly in understanding social and political developments only…

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Economics in the Early Modern Theater

This conference will consider a set of early modern English plays with strong economic and business themes. Participants will discuss perennial questions about the relationship and nature of business and money, business and law, and the effects--both positive and negative--of trade on human character and culture.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita”

Conferees examined themes of liberty and responsibility in Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita, a fantastical story set in Stalin's Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that is a fable of personal liberation and a reflection on the possibilities of freedom in an unfree world.

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Liberty, Religion, and Fortune in “The Arabian Nights”

This conference used readings from The Arabian Nights to explore questions of liberty and responsibility.

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Liberty and the Rhetoric of Adam Smith

This conference examined Adam Smith's philosophy of rhetoric and its relation to liberty. In addition to reading Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric and writings on language, we considered his critique of Shaftesbury, Swift, and Johnson, and we read a selection from each of these authors.

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The Liberty and Responsibility of Moral Sentiments: Sympathy, Duty, and Virtue in Adam Smith and Jane Austen

This conference explored the moral psychology of Adam Smith in Theory of Moral Sentiments and how it could be applied to Jane Austen's Persuasion.

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Political Liberty, Moral Responsibility, and the Formation of States in South America: Andrés Bello and Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad's 1904 masterpiece, Nostromo, addresses crucial questions of liberty and responsibility on both the political and personal levels. Conferees read the novel in conjunction with several short selections from Andres Bello, chosen to amplify some of the novel’s key themes.

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Freedom and Responsibility in Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men”

The conference examined the ways in which "power tends to corrupt" as well as the nature of personal responsibility through reading selections from the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel All the King's Men and watching the two film versions of the novel.

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Liberty and Dystopia in the Works of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut

This conference used the speculative fiction of writers Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut to explore the themes of liberty and responsibility. Special attention was focused on how tyranny emerges and maintains itself.

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Resistance, Responsibility, and Authority in Contemporary Drama

Conferees read four plays from the twentieth century that contain themes relevant to the subject of “liberty, justice, and resistance.”

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Liberty and Modernity in Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain”

This colloquium explored the political and philosophical ramifications of the main themes in Thomas Mann's masterpiece, The Magic Mountain (1924). The intense exchanges in the novel between champions of liberal humanism on the one hand, and different collectivist doctrines on the other, reflect Mann's own political transformation and was the…

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Autonomy and Entanglement in the “Odyssey” of Homer

The boundaries of the human condition as well as the commitments and relationships that we seek out and are subject to are explored in Homer’s Odyssey, but it is also a book that offers a poetic account of the origin of civil and political institutions. This conference explored the complementariness…

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Liberty and the Individual in German Culture

This conference will consider German culture's particular and peculiar conceptions of the individual and liberty by examining philosophical and literary texts written both prior to and following the French invasion of 1807.

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The Politics of Shakespeare in the Age of James I

The conference explored political issues such as the nature and purpose of politics, the relationship between religion and politics, the proper balance between the personal and the political, as well as between the sovereign and subordinate units within the political order, using selected readings from five plays written late in…

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Walker Percy on Alienation, Liberty, and the Modern World

This conference concentrated on Walker Percy's essays and his first novel The Moviegoer. Discussion focused on themes of alienation and the roles of science, religion, and pathologies of modernity, within the context of Percy's views of freedom in the human condition and the obstacles to freedom and individual flourishing.

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The Journey to Liberty in Homer’s “Odyssey”

Via a reading of Homer's Odyssey, this colloquium investigated questions of human liberty and responsibility. Conferees focused particularly on the question of how the individual negotiates both the various challenges to liberty and his or her competing responsibilities.

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C. S. Lewis and Liberty

This conference examined the work of C. S. Lewis on science, technology, religion, and literature, using selections from both his fiction and nonfiction writings. Lewis cautioned against reductionism in science and social thought, arguing that it ultimately led to the oppression of humanity under the unchecked power of the state…

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“Don Quixote” and Modern Liberty: Religion, Race, Politics, and Economics

Four hundred years ago, in November of 1615, the long-awaited publication of the second part of Miguel de Cervantes's masterpiece, Don Quixote de la Mancha, brought to a close the adventures of the mad Spanish hidalgo. This colloquium discussed the meaning and relevance of Cervantes's magnum opus for the modern…

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Liberty and the American West in the Films of John Ford

This conference examined the themes of liberty, honor, responsibility, law, and courage in six of John Ford's Western films.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

In honor of the bicentennial of Frankenstein's publication, the conference examined the novel's "monstrous conceptions" and how they contribute to a timeless discussion of rights and responsibilities, particularly in relation to scientific experiments, parenting, race, labor, revolution, and the unintended consequences of our actions. In conjunction with Mary Shelley's text,…

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Freedom and Rebellion in Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”

This conference explored the themes of liberty and responsibility in Dostoevsky's masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. Especially important in this exploration were Dostoevsky's views about the tensions between faith and reason and his ambivalent views on the limits of human freedom.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy

Paul Cantor's 2017 monograph, Shakespeare's Roman Trilogy: The Twilight of the Ancient World, offers an excellent frame through which to reconsider the roles of liberty, Christianity, and globalization in Shakespeare's representations of Rome during its transition from republic to empire. The conference considered three of Shakespeare's plays on their own…

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Liberty and Liberalism in Early Twentieth-Century England: Hobhouse and Forster

Primarily via a reading of L. T. Hobhouse's “Liberalism” and E. M. Forster's “Howard's End,” this conference explored the possibilities and limitations of liberalism as they were conceptualized in England at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Liberty, Community, and Mortality in the “Iliad”

This colloquium explored the tensions among individual liberty, duty and responsibility, leadership, fate, merit, and justice, as these themes were developed in Homer's Iliad.

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Liberty, Creativity, and Individualism in the Work of Ray Bradbury

Conferees explored ideas of liberty, technology and creativity in the literature and nonfiction of Ray Bradbury, including two of his novels, Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Individuality in Jorge Luis Borges

This conference explored several ethical, social, and political themes in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), a pivotal figure in the literature of the twentieth century. His writings continually engage questions of the nature of self, liberty, and tyranny, and personal responsibility versus conformity to the will of the…

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Responsibility, Liberty, and Individualism in the Writings of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) was one of the leading black novelists and conservative writers of the 1930s and 1940s. This conference encouraged conferees to consider a wide range of her political and literary works—with particular attention paid to those that focus on individualism and politics.

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Free Will, Character, Fate, and Dharma in the Mahabharata

This will be the first Liberty Fund conference focusing on the Mahabharata, the classic epic poem of Indian and world civilization. Themes of this work explore issues of character and destiny, free will and fate, duty, love, and spiritual freedom.

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Income, Initiative, and Personal Responsibility in American Realist Literature

Personal finance is the driving force for the plots of American Realism. Dreiser’s Sister Carrie is essentially an extended meditation on the personal impact of employment, salaries, debt, and rent. Frank Norris’s McTeague attends to all those subjects and adds in a chilling consideration of the effect of unearned wealth.…

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Liberty, Politics, and Economics in Daniel Defoe

This conference considered themes of liberty, economics, and sovereignty in the political thought of Daniel Defoe (1660–1731). The readings for the conference consisted primarily of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe’s great narrative of the origins, nature, and purposes of human society, juxtaposed session by session with less widely known writings from Defoe.

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia”

This conference put conservative thinker Samuel Johnson in dialogue with Adam Smith to explore their moral theories, particularly their views on happiness, ambition, moral psychology, and Stoicism.

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Liberty and the Great Plains: Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder

The colloquium revolved around two novels written in the first third of the twentieth century: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie (1935) and Willa Cather's O Pioneers! (1913). Conferees considered the impact of settlement on native inhabitants; interactions among individuals, family, and community; the idea of manifest destiny;…

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