Wittgenstein's Voice: The Sound of the Unsystematic

Marjorie Perloff, Tom Pepper, Rosmarie Waldrop and Sissi Tax examine the voice of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein


Fields of Knowledge
  • Artistic legacies
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Public culture


The Austrian Cultural Forum New York, the Dietrich W. Botstiber Foundation, and the Society of Friends of Slought

Opens to public



Austrian Cultural Forum
11 East 52nd Street New York City, New York


75% Formal - 25% Informal

"After several unsuccessful attempts to weld my results together into such a whole, I realized that I should never succeed. The best that I could write would never be more than philosophical remarks; my thoughts would be soon crippled if I tried to force them on in any single direction against their natural inclination." -- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Preface to Philosophical Investigations

Wittgenstein's Voice takes the form of a conversation between preeminent American and Austrian writers, artists, and thinkers, with the aim of examining the specific voice of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)--a philosopher that has inspired so many poets, writers, and artists active today. Wittgenstein's philosophy presents a way of thinking, but not necessarily a system of thoughts. In this sense, his way of thinking, his anti-systematic attitude, can be defined as an experimental disposition in the manner of John Cage's experimental music or even Karlheinz Stockhausen's compositions, for whom composing is "not something preliminary, but rather a permanent condition."

The conversation is inspired by David Markson's novel Wittgenstein's Mistress, a book that explores Wittgenstein's thinking through the texture of his philosophical universe, rather than through recourse to his biography. In particular, the conversation will focus on the impact of Wittgenstein's aesthetics on modern literature and the arts. The event features conversants Marjorie Perloff (Los Angeles), Tom Pepper (Minneapolis), Rosmarie Waldrop (Rhode Island), and Sissi Tax (Berlin), and will be moderated by Jean-Michel Rabaté, Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Curator of the Philadelphia-based Slought Foundation, with an introduction by Martin Rauchbauer, Deputy Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum NY.

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Marjorie Perloff is the Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities at Stanford (1990—2000, Emerita from 2001). Her work has been especially concerned with explicating the writing of experimental and avant-garde poets and relating it to the major currents of modernist and, especially, postmodernist activity in the arts, including the visual arts and cultural theory. Perloff's books include Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy, The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir, Poetry On and Off the Page: Essays for Emergent Occasions, Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary, Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media, Poetic License: Studies in the Modernist and Postmodernist Lyric, The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture, and The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition.

Tom Pepper is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. His primary research interests are the histories of western philosophy and of psychoanalysis. He spent his German Chancellor Fellowship year at Freie Universität Berlin and Universität Freiburg.

Sissi Tax, an author of novels, holds a Ph.D. from Graz University and has been living in Berlin since 1982. Until 1980, she was a member of the editorial team of the literary journal manuskripte. Since her move to Berlin she has published and lectured regularly. From 1986 till 1988 she was the head of the Literaturhaus Berlin. She is a member of the Graz Authors Assembly and won the Holfeld-Tunzer Prize in 2001.