Primo Levi Conference

6th Jul 2012 - 12:00am

Edge Hill University

A Sort of Wisdom – Exploring the Legacy of Primo Levi

An international conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of Primo Levi’s death is taking place at Edge Hill University from 6th-7th July 2012.

Primo Levi (1919-1987) was born and lived his entire life in or near Turin, with the exception of the years 1944-45, when he was captured as an anti-fascist partisan, deported to Auschwitz, and then released into war-torn Europe. After liberation, with ‘a torrent of things to tell the civilised world’ and ‘the tattooed number on [his] arm burning like a sore’ he wrote a series of remarkable books, including If This is a Man, The Periodic Table, and The Drowned and the Saved. He is now viewed as not only one of the key literary figures of the twentieth century and one of the most important survivor-writers of the Holocaust, but for many he is an ethical writer of great depth and even a subtle and humane ‘political philosopher’.

Although he famously asked his readers not to treat him as a ‘prophet, oracle, or seer,’ Primo Levi also suspected that there was ‘a sort of wisdom that seeps through from my books which I don’t feel within myself.’ What sort of wisdom do we find in Levi and how can we critically appropriate his legacy without encouraging what Bryan Cheyette has called ‘reductive discourses which have engulfed Levi’s life and work’ and risk turning him into a ‘saint-like figure’?

Keynote Speakers

Norman Geras

  • ‘Hope, Shame and Resentment: Primo Levi and Jean Améry’
  • Norman Geras is Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester, and author of The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy After the Holocaust.

Robert S.C. Gordon

  • ‘Outrageous Fortune: Primo Levi, Luck and the Holocaust’
  • Robert Gordon is a Reader in Modern Italian Culture and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College University of Cambridge, and author of Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics.

Anthony Rudolf

  • ‘Best Regards from Home to Home: Reading Primo Levi through his Letters to a UK Friend and Publisher’
  • Anthony Rudolf is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and author of At an Uncertain Hour: Primo Levi’s War against Oblivion.

Paul Salmons

  • ‘True Witnesses? Holocaust Education and the Legacy of Primo Levi’
  • Paul Salmons is Head of Curriculum and Development at the Holocaust Education Development Programme, Institute of Education.

Judith Woolf

  • ‘An Atom of Carbon: Primo Levi and Science’
  • Judith Woolf is Senior Lecturer in English and Italian at the University of York and author of The Memory of the Offence.

Call for Papers

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers or for conference panels on any aspect of Levi’s legacy and from any discipline – including Literature, Cultural Studies, Political Philosophy, Ethics, Educational Studies, Social Theory, History and Holocaust studies.

Topics are not limited to, but may include:

  • Levi and Ethics
  • Levi and Memory / Story-Telling / Witnessing
  • Levi and the Holocaust
  • Levi and the ‘Two Cultures’ of Science and Literature
  • Levi and Work
  • Levi and Friendship
  • Levi and Writing
  • Levi and Language
  • Levi and Violence and War
  • Levi and Humour
  • Levi and Political Philosophy after the Holocaust
  • Levi and Humanism
  • Levi as an Educator
  • Representations and Receptions of Primo Levi

Please send an abstract of your paper (maximum 500 words) and a short CV to Professor Alan Johnson by emailing or sending your abstract to:

  • Professor Alan Johnson, Department of Social and Psychological Sciences, Edge Hill University, St Helens Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire, L39 4QP

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 1st February 2012.

The conference will be accompanied by a call for papers for an edited collection of essays on Levi’s work.

Conference Team

Dr Arthur Chapman

Professor Alan Johnson

Dr Minna Vuohelainen

Please note, the above image is © Copyright Jillian Edelstein.