Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Leonardo F. Lisi works on European literature and philosophy of the long nineteenth century (ca. 1789-1918), with a particular focus on the evolution of literary forms and their relation to German idealist aesthetics. His first book, Marginal Modernity: The Aesthetics of Dependency from Kierkegaard to Joyce(Fordham UP, 2013) argues that the standard approach to modernist aesthetics in terms of a contradiction between autonomy and fragmentation rests on an understanding of truth and experience that cannot be treated as exhaustive of modernist forms. Instead, Lisi traces an alternative “aesthetics of dependency” that provides a different formal structure, philosophical foundation, and historical condition for modernist texts. Taking Europe’s Scandinavian periphery as his point of departure, Lisi examines how Søren Kierkegaard and Henrik Ibsen imagined an aesthetic response to the changing conditions of modernity different from those at the European core, one that subsequently influenced Henry James, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Rainer Maria Rilke, and James Joyce.
Currently Lisi is at work on two new book projects. The first, tentatively entitled The Fate of Suffering: Form, Philosophy, History in Modern Tragedy (under contract with Fordham UP), traces the evolution of modern tragedy and its philosophical discourses. The study includes chapters on Lenz, Schiller, Goethe, Espronceda, Leopardi, Ibsen, Strindberg, and Maeterlinck, and places these authors in relation to philosophers from Kant and Schelling, through Schopenhauer and Hegel, to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. On this basis Lisi shows how the formal transformations of modern tragedy have profound implications not only for philosophical accounts of human experience (the tragic) but also for the way in which we conceive of historical time itself (the modern). The second book project, Kierkegaard and the Logic of Faith: A Systematic Interpretation, offers a systematic account of Kierkegaard’s thought by placing it in the context of post-Kantian philosophy. Contrary to the prevalent view of Kierkegaard as a champion of irrationalism and someone whose writings should be seen as playful and ironic attacks on the very idea of systematic philosophy, Lisi in this study shows that Kierkegaard’s oeuvre is in fact highly consistent and systematic in nature. Kierkegaard’s theology thus emerges less as an early herald of the existentialism that followed, than as a late engagement with the Kantian legacy and its idealist aftermath that seeks to salvage much of its project and has relevant implications for contemporary debates on ethics and politics.
Lisi is the recipient of a number of honors and awards, most recently a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and Service, and is a member of the executive councils of the Ibsen Society of America and of the MLA Scandinavian Discussion Group. He has served as executive editor of the comparative literature issue of MLN, as co-editor (with Niels Jørgen Cappelørn) of Karsten Harries’ 2010 book, Between Nihilism and Faith, and is a member of the International Editorial Advisory Board for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. Lisi’s future research projects include a book-long commentary on Kierkegaard’s Either/Or as well as a study on the aesthetics of seduction from Richardson’s Clarissa to James’s The Golden Bowl. At Hopkins Lisi has taught courses on literary criticism, Kierkegaard, Henry James, the representation of loss in European modernism, modern tragedy, introduction to comparative literature, and the philosophy of tragedy from Schiller to Cavell.