Paul Kottman

Comparative Literature, New York
Fellowship: 01.10.2014–30.09.2015


Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, The New School for Social Research (Affiliation in the Department of Philosophy). Visiting Professorships at the University of Tokyo, Japan, 2012; Università degli studi di Verona, 2011; Istituto per gli studi filosofici, Naples, Italy, 2007; Visiting Professor and International Chair in Political Languages, Dipartimento di Politiche Pubbliche e Scelte Colletive (POLIS), Università del Piemonte Orientale, Italy, 2006. Series Editor, Square One: First Order Questions in the Humanities (Stanford University Press); Advisory Board, Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism and the Arts (Columbia University Press); Advisory Board, Corpus: Filosofie e sapere (Paparo Edizioni, Italy).


Fields of Research

  • Philosophy
  • Comparative Literature
  • Social Thought
  • Drama
  • Aesthetics
  • Shakespeare
  • Feminism


Project outline

Why Do We Care About Shakespeare?


My project considers Shakespeare’s importance to a central modern challenge: the construction of a public culture based on something other than a national or religious tradition. In particular, I look at the interpretive challenges posed by Shakespeare’s work — those questions that Shakespeare forces us to ask about ourselves, and our self-understanding. I argue that Shakespeare forces us to think about what justifies our self-expressive actions and values, but without relying on ›tradition‹ or ›revealed religion‹ or ›scientific knowledge‹ to fully do that thinking for us. I undertake my investigation with the help of some German philosophical readers of Shakespeare — Herder and Hegel, especially — since they were the first to see in Shakespeare’s work the possibility of this post-national, post-religious public culture.


Publications (Selection)

  • Tragic Conditions in Shakespeare: Disinheriting the Globe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).
  • A Politics of the Scene (Stanford University Press, 2008) [Translated into Italian, 2014].
  • Why Think about Shakespearean Tragedy? In: The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy, edited by Claire McEchern (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
  • Quid non sentit amor? Romantic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe. In: Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory, volume 19, number 3, 2012.
  • No Greater Powers Than We Can Contradict. In: Criticism volume 54, number 3, 2012, Special Issue on Shakespeare and Phenomenology, edited by Kevin Curran and James Kearney.
  • Defying the Stars: Tragic Love as the Struggle for Freedom in Romeo and Juliet. In: Shakespeare Quarterly, volume 63, no. 1, Spring 2012.
  • Novus Ordo Saeclorum: Hannah Arendt on Revolutionary Spirit. In: Political Theology on the Scenes of Early Modernity, edited by Julia Reinhard Lupton and Graham Hammill (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
  • Slipping on Banana Peels, Tumbling Into Wells: Philosophy and Comedy. In: Diacritics vol. 38, no. 4 (2008).
  • Avoiding Tragedy in The Merchant of Venice. In: The Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory, Volume 8, number 3 (2007).
  • Editor, with a critical Introduction, Philosophers on Shakespeare (Stanford University Press, 2009).