Pedestrian Crossings: Walking in Philosophy, Literature, and Art


“The revolution,” says the actor playing Hamlet in Hamletmaschine, “begins with a walk.”  Not only revolutions but also ground-breaking literature and thought have been informed by this, the most pedestrian of activities. Whether it be Stifter’s childhood rambles around Oberplan or Kant’s daily constitutional in Königsberg, whether walking is social or solitary, in the wilderness or the city, this panel proposes to consider the “other” scene of writing outside of the scriptorium, the library, the seminar room, and the laboratory. How has this extracurricular activity informed our curricula? By which path(s) has walking, a figure which drifts into divergent directions—nomadic, fictional, historical, aimless, purposeful, and so on—strayed into the spheres of the literary, aesthetic and philosophical? Where has walking been an impetus for thinking and writing? And where has the inverse been true: to what extent can immobility and paralysis function as a Denkanstoß?  While Nietzsche famously writes that only those thoughts that come by walking have any value, others including Derrida have identified the epoch of writing with the suspension of being-upright.


This panel aims to investigate this and other unresolved tensions in the art of the walk.



Possible topics could include:


Romantic Wandering

Imaginary Walks

Physiognomy and gait

Choreographing walking in modern dance

Modern peripatetic thought from Nietzsche's “geistiger Nomadentum” to Deleuze's “géophilosophie”

W.G. Sebald and his peripatetic interlocutors (Hebel, Walser, Stifter)

The flâneur and invisible flâneuse in 19th century Paris and 20th century Berlin

Loiterature (Ross Chambers)

Ecocritical approaches to walking

Extracurricular pedagogies 

Crossroads and crossings

Walking and reading—the semiotics of the city

Spatial practices from the labyrinth to the landscape garden

Ascents and descents in literature


Please send a short abstract (200 words) of your proposed talk by February 10 to Jason Groves ([log in to unmask]) and Michael Powers ([log in to unmask]).

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