August 14, 2018

Library of Living Philosophers receives grant for new publication

by Hannah Erickson

NEH logoCARBONDALE, Ill. — On the cusp of its 36th publication, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Library of Living Philosophers, housed in the philosophy department, will receive funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of a new and unique collaborative research project.

The $39,300 awarded to Sara Beardsworth, Library of Living Philosophers series editor and project director for the collaborative research grant, will support the upcoming publication of “The Philosophy of Julia Kristeva,” which is scheduled for release in 2021.

With the goal of supporting vital research, education and the preservation of educational resources in the humanities, the NEH is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

The Endowment accomplishes its mission by awarding grants for the top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. The organization has only awarded seven grants nationally in the category of collaborative research in 2018.

Volume dedicated to the work of French philosopher Julia Kristeva

Currently edited by Beardsworth, associate professor of philosophy at SIU, the Library of Living Philosophers series has been published by Open Court Publishing Co. since 1963, and recognizes notable philosophers throughout the world. Following the 2017 volume on Umberto Eco, the upcoming publication will feature the thoughts of Julia Kristeva.

As an award-winning French philosopher, psychoanalyst, feminist theorist and novelist, Kristeva is one of the foremost intellectual women in contemporary humanities and has earned the accolade of being one of the esteemed scholars of her generation, genuinely able to be a public intellectual.

“She is really a strong figure who brings the humanities into relation with central contemporary concerns,” Beardsworth said.

Connecting intellectual discussion with everyday concerns

Set as a unique collaborative effort, the project starts with an autobiography from Kristeva, but then branches into a discussion with other scholars.

“First of all, I work with Julia Kristeva to arrange for an intellectual autobiography and consult with her on a list of interpreters and critics of her work,” Beardsworth said. “Then for part two, the largest part of the volume, I work with invited national and international authors. They compose essays, to which she writes replies.”

Organized in topical sections, the volume will represent authors from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, language and semiotics, literature, psychoanalysis, art and religion. By hearing from multiple fields, the goal is to build a diverse work that addresses a range of contemporary topics and concerns.

The mission for this specific project remains true to the original purpose of the Library of Living Philosophers, Beardsworth explained.

“It’s dedicated to the public understanding of major contemporary intellectual ideas and cultural movements,” Beardsworth said. “Its unique format provides dialogue between the principal figure, the subject philosopher, and his/her foremost interpreters and critics, both national and international.”

Library of Living Philosophers has a long history at SIU

The first volume in the Library of Living Philosophers appeared in 1939, and was edited and managed by late professor Paul Schilpp. Schilpp brought the ongoing project to SIU in 1965. His main goal for the series was to provide an avenue to address issues in a living philosopher’s thought directly, so the many controversies that often follow a philosopher’s career might be avoided.

While the project did receive occasional funding in the past, Beardsworth said that to the best of her knowledge, it has not received grants in recent history. Since being appointed as editor in 2015, Beardsworth is working to revitalize the series by including amongst the subject philosophers a world-class woman intellectual with a significant public impact, and by preparing a volume that will provide models to relate the humanities to public concerns.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.