Simone Weil: Sketches for an Unwritten Biography

Herbert Marder

Reviewed by Christopher Hamilton

10 May 2016


She was small and wiry, five feet two inch­es, thin as a rail but able to car­ry heavy loads and oper­ate heavy machin­ery. Idle­ness was a dead­ly sin. Her old­er broth­er said Simone Weil had been in train­ing to become a saint since the age of three, when she indig­nant­ly refused to wear a bead neck­lace. I hate lux­u­ry!” She ate lit­tle. The bot­tom of the pot, she said, was good enough for her. Sweets were anath­e­ma. She loved read­ing ancient lan­guages in the small hours. Her belief in self-sac­ri­fice was as fixed as a law of nature.

Born in Paris in 1909, Simone’s life was framed by the two world wars. When France fell to the Nazi armies in the spring of 1940 and her fam­i­ly fled to the unoc­cu­pied zone, she knew that her life was over. She must leave France with­out any thought of return­ing. Find a way to join de Gaulle and the Free French though all the routes to Eng­land were blocked. How to get to Lon­don, enlist and die on the bat­tle­field? She want­ed to cross behind ene­my lines, to merge her patri­ot­ic duty as a sol­dier and her desire for self-sac­ri­fice into one inescapable neces­si­ty that would not break God’s com­mand­ment against suicide.


Simone and her par­ents flee Paris on June 13th 1940 before the Ger­man armies enter the city. They take the train to the end of the line; then join hun­dreds of oth­ers on the road, trudg­ing south. From a win­dow in Nev­ers they watch a Nazi col­umn enter the city. They con­tin­ue south to the unoc­cu­pied zone, stop­ping with friends in Vichy at the begin­ning of July, Toulouse at the end of August and reach­ing Mar­seille on Sep­tem­ber 15. Mar­seille, the ancient port city swarm­ing with fugi­tives look­ing for pas­sage any­where out of reach of the Nazis and their French col­lab­o­ra­tors. The Weils rent an apart­ment on the shore over­look­ing the Mediterranean.

Ear­ly one morn­ing four gen­darmes from the local precinct knock on their door, look­ing for Simone. They rifle through her papers. She looks on, appar­ent­ly lost in thought. An elder­ly police­man, see­ing Dr. Weil’s face, pats him on the shoul­der — stay calm, he says; don’t take it so hard. They haul his daugh­ter away for questioning.

At the sta­tion the inter­roga­tor waves a note in Simone’s face. It’s addressed to a mem­ber of the resis­tance. She knows very well, he says, that her moth­er and father are sit­ting in the café right across the street, wait­ing for her release. Unless she answers all his ques­tions — besides, he knows every­thing — she will be thrown into a prison cell. It would be a shame. A schol­ar who has won the high­est hon­ors. Shar­ing a cell with the low­est thieves and whores. She says she has always want­ed to learn the minds of real out­casts from soci­ety. She can think of no bet­ter place to do it than in jail.

The police strat­e­gy is to wear her down, keep­ing her in a cor­ner of the inter­ro­ga­tion room. She sits on her bench, motion­less, ready to stay there all night. The gray-haired cop looks in every now and then. She gives no sign of notic­ing him. A pres­ence carved out of stone. An unnerv­ing still­ness stream­ing off her. Hour after hour pass­es. The cop breathes hard. She’s a lit­tle bitch, he screams, doing this to her par­ents! Simone looks up, sur­prised, look­ing into his eyes, hard­ly blink­ing. It’s life in a mad house. He throws up his hands. Crazy — no rea­son­ing with her — throws up his hands in dis­gust and escorts her to the court­room. The judge frowns. Why do you bring me such cas­es? And they let her go.


The Vichy régime pass­es anti-Jew­ish laws — Jews no longer allowed to teach at the lycée. There’s wide­spread hunger among the poor. She seeks work as a farm hand, liv­ing on the land, turn­ing her labor into pota­toes, car­rots and onions. Gus­tave Thi­bon, a gen­tle­man farmer, takes her on as a favor to a friend. Thi­bon dis­likes Jews and sup­ports the fas­cist régime at Vichy, though he admits it’s unfair brand­ing all Jews as traitors.

He meets Weil at the gate, over­look­ing the Rhone val­ley, dis­tant vine­yards, hills under clouds. Still­ness envelops her, a still­ness in her eyes. Even after she notices his pres­ence the aura envelops her as she ris­es to the sur­face. Weil has nev­er worked on a farm before. Every­thing is new to her. After the first night she refus­es to stay in the house. Refus­es the soft bed and warm room — they’re too luxurious.

She finds an aban­doned cot­tage in the fields. Four walls, a leaky roof — for­mer­ly used as a stor­age shed for farm ani­mals. Thi­bon and his wife are dumb­found­ed. Crum­bling stuc­co walls, earth mixed with peb­bles on the floor. Weil sweeps away the spi­der webs and rat turds, spreads her bedroll on planks on the ground and lights a fire on the hearth. The riv­er a short walk away pro­vides cold clear water. Ice melt.

She strug­gles to keep up with the oth­er farm hands. Most days she eats a Spar­tan din­ner at the com­mon table in the house. She eats no meat. Some­times she stays at the cot­tage and picks berries for her din­ner at the cot­tage — her fairy­tale house, she calls it. This is as good as life gets, sit­ting on a rise after a back­break­ing day pulling weeds in the vine­yard. Sit­ting on a rise look­ing across the riv­er at a hill in the dis­tance, dap­pled, flame-col­ored Octo­ber trees. A cup of water, a slice of bread. She’s spoiled she writes her par­ents, liv­ing so close to nature, which pro­vides all her needs.

Weil reads Thibon’s philo­soph­i­cal writ­ings. They have much in com­mon. She adapts Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy to fit her own faith that the laws of physics gov­ern the mate­r­i­al world. There are no mir­a­cles. But ghost­ly arms can touch you. She has opened her­self to anoth­er real­i­ty and God is there. Thi­bon, a devout Catholic, debates with her. Weil is a Jew whose her­itage links her to the Hebrew prophets, though she argues the true God is uni­ver­sal, which is what the Greek catholi­cus means. Inter­pret­ing the tra­di­tion­al teach­ings of the Church, Thi­bon is com­pelled to see his own faith in a new light. Weil is tire­less when the spir­it inspires her and their debates go on till he’s exhausted.

But she can be charm­ing. Her wry sense of humor, iron­ic but nev­er mean or unkind, makes her an excel­lent com­pan­ion. Their con­ver­sa­tions stretch out over weeks. They wear each oth­er down; then they wear each oth­er in, till they bond over their differences.


The qui­et coun­try­side, the rhyth­mic motions of the earth…. In a dream Simone lies under the vines as day­light fades, too tired to stand, still pick­ing grapes, a roar like falling water behind her, lives end­less­ly falling, limbs, bod­ies flow­ing head­long over a precipice.

She pass­es out ille­gal papers and forged doc­u­ments and col­lects cash for refugees, going on her errands to every cor­ner of Mar­seille. She offers lessons to any­one who asks — exam­ines the fine points of ancient Greek gram­mar and adjusts her rou­tine to coach a child on arith­metic, focus­ing on the times table as seri­ous­ly as on trans­lat­ing Dawn with her rose-red fin­gers and the wine-dark sea.

She makes a pow­er­ful impres­sion on her con­tacts in the resis­tance. She and Mal­ou Blum, who is in charge of the dis­trict, form their own mini-con­spir­a­cy. Ten years younger than Simone, Mal­ou admires the sin­gle-mind­ed clar­i­ty of her com­pan­ion. In her lat­er life she remem­bers her as a staunch activist test­ed as a leader of strik­ing work­ers, always ratio­nal and deter­mined to assign any seri­ous risks to her­self. They learn to hide their inten­tions and keep their work for the resis­tance secret, lying even to their clos­est friends and fam­i­ly. If they are caught they plan to put on a show to make sure the author­i­ties arrest Simone. Mal­ou is good at play­ing the role of the ingénue and enjoys act­ing. Simone cau­tions that decep­tion is rarely jus­ti­fied, though it may be the less­er of the evils. It should nev­er be tak­en light­ly. She has a hor­ror of all lies.

Look­ing back, Mal­ou says their con­ver­sa­tions are one of the high points of her life, lumi­nous moments that changed her per­ma­nent­ly. As an activist, Simone is always prac­ti­cal — noth­ing saint­ly about her, not in the least stand-off­ish, fear­less, full of humor, some­times extrav­a­gant­ly so. For Mal­ou her charis­ma becomes mag­ni­fied and clar­i­fied by the pas­sage of time. Simone trans­mits the shock waves sweep­ing across Europe and trans­forms her­self into a sound­ing board for suf­fer­ing and oppres­sion all over the world; she zeros in on the crush­ing of native cul­tures by the French in Viet­nam and Alge­ria. At the same time, she anchors her­self local­ly in Mar­seille, hid­ing refugees and feed­ing the hun­gry on her own street. Mal­ou lights up at the mem­o­ry — it’s Simone’s fire, and close up the soft­ness in her face, the veiled depths of her eyes.

Simone is anchored in place. And free — free enough to weigh the twin Jug­ger­nauts, Hitler and Stal­in, and dis­miss them, anchored in the cer­tain­ty that words (she writes con­stant­ly) have lit­tle impor­tance — only actions count and are the mea­sure of what she believes, a moral imper­a­tive that per­mits no excep­tions. Dan­ger has the advan­tage that it anchors her more firm­ly in those certainties.


Many loy­al­ists fled across the Pyre­nees when the Span­ish civ­il war end­ed, and were held in intern­ment camps. Simone hears about Anto­nio, a fight­er who knows no one in France, and nev­er gets mail. The guards sin­gle him out as a scape­goat. Anto­nio suf­fers silent­ly and nev­er com­plains. The sto­ry takes on a lus­ter like one of Simone’s favorite para­bles. Here is a per­son who can give the mil­lions in unmarked graves on bat­tle­fields and in con­cen­tra­tion camps a voice and a human face. She sends him a let­ter and a care pack­age, apol­o­giz­ing for enter­ing his life with­out a prop­er intro­duc­tion. She hopes he will accept her fel­low feel­ings and agree there can be nat­ur­al affini­ties between strangers. She already knows him though they have nev­er met. They begin exchang­ing let­ters. She sends small sums of cash when she has any to spare. Simone builds a pic­ture of a man of the peo­ple, strong and dig­ni­fied, qual­i­ties she often found among the peas­ants when she fought against Franco’s fas­cists. There exists such poet­ry, she says, in the ancient vil­lages, a spir­i­tu­al­i­ty that occurs after many gen­er­a­tions have earned there liv­ing by hard labor on rocky soil. Intel­lec­tu­als can nev­er be so root­ed in the ground inhab­it­ed by their ancestors.

Her let­ters resolve into an image of a dis­tant shar­er tak­ing his place in her per­son­al mythol­o­gy. Moved by her cer­tain­ty, Anto­nio is drawn into her orbit, plays the role she assigns to him. The more the let­ters pass between them, the more they con­firm her vision of a sur­viv­ing gold­en age: close­ness to the soil and har­mo­ny with the sea­sons. His devo­tion to the land, his abil­i­ty to read the clouds as they pass over fields and across the sky tunes her musi­cal por­trait. The anar­chist Anto­nio has renounced the tra­di­tion­al faith but pre­serves the moral clar­i­ty of the vil­lage elders. Inter­pret­ing Anto­nio to him­self (none of his let­ters sur­vive), she says nat­ur­al reli­gion is his birthright. When he is trans­ferred to a bar­racks in Alge­ria she has no doubt he finds joy there, in spite of all the hard­ships. His suf­fer­ing is relieved by the puri­ty of the cloud­less sky and the illu­mi­na­tion of star-filled nights in the desert.


Simone Weil approach­es Father Joseph Per­rin for help find­ing work as a farm hand. The blind priest is known for shel­ter­ing Jews and oth­er refugees. He lat­er writes that he was struck at once by Simone’s seri­ous­ness and ret­i­cence. In the cloudy light of his inner eye he sees the expres­sion on her face, the depth of her humil­i­ty and qui­et self­less­ness. She has always been drawn, she says, to Christ and the Catholic reli­gion and asks about the dog­mas of the Church: What does it mean to be bap­tized as a Catholic? Father Per­rin is unable to see that though they use the same names, Simone’s God” and Christ” are entire­ly dif­fer­ent from his own or that of any Catholic. She her­self doesn’t exam­ine the con­tra­dic­tions inher­ent in the lan­guage she uses.

She says an inner light leads to God through the things of this world, the poet­ry of dai­ly life and the dai­ly round of duties. One must embrace ordi­nary things, the sacred­ness of all mate­r­i­al and imma­te­r­i­al things that are small­er than the uni­verse. Pay atten­tion — the place where we are is Itha­ca. But a night will fall dark­er than any human being can bear. The light fails; noth­ing pre­pares us for the evil hours of afflic­tion; every­where voic­es cry: Why hast thou for­sak­en me? Those who feel aban­doned in this way can’t help rebelling against exis­tence, against the cre­ation itself, a force blind, bru­tal and cold. Simone says the cross of afflic­tion is a mar­vel of divine tech­nique. We must wait not think­ing of God, emp­ty­ing the mind — think­ing of God sep­a­rates us from him.

She is drawn to the Catholic Church, she tells Per­rin, but her God” wish­es her to stay out­side any insti­tu­tion­al faith. He has cho­sen her to serve the cause of intel­lec­tu­al free­dom and to speak for all out­casts and out­siders. It’s impos­si­ble for her to be bap­tized. Her Chris­tian­i­ty” is out­side time; it exists in all of God’s” cre­ation at all times. The anar­chist Anto­nio, who calls him­self an athe­ist, is more saint­ly and clos­er to God,” than she will ever be.

In her self-con­scious­ness Simone Weil is cos­mopoli­tan and inca­pable of the reflex­ive patri­o­tism of the ordi­nary French­man. Her instinct when it comes to the nation­al inter­ests is not to rush to the defense of my coun­try.” In this sense she con­firms the peren­ni­al charge that Jews have divid­ed loy­al­ties. The nation was trau­ma­tized in the years before World War I by the Drey­fus Affair that divid­ed it into two irrec­on­cil­able camps and shaped Simone in ways she her­self nev­er acknowl­edged. Hatred of Cap­tain Drey­fus, the first Jew admit­ted to the elite army offi­cer corps, occurred at every lev­el of soci­ety; at his tri­al Drey­fus pub­li­cal­ly accused his high­est-rank­ing fel­low offi­cers of bear­ing false wit­ness against him. Though he was ulti­mate­ly cleared and rein­stat­ed, half the coun­try still believed he was guilty. In any case, he had not done his duty to sac­ri­fice him­self and defend the hon­or” of the Army at any cost, a sub­tle and even more insid­i­ous treason.

Being root­ed is an essen­tial need of the soul, Simone says. Her roots are in the cul­ture and soil of France. She can choose to be bap­tized and accept Father Perrin’s offer, an ardent offer — adopt the nation­al reli­gion. She has the free­dom to choose; but they’re talk­ing about two incom­pat­i­ble forms of faith: the Christ who was cru­ci­fied at Cal­vary offers sal­va­tion only to mem­bers of the Catholic Church; her uni­ver­sal Christ” appeals to the faith­ful of all reli­gions. She switch­es back and forth between the two dif­fer­ent mean­ings, some­times in the same sen­tence, as if hid­ing from her role as a dis­senter, a par­ty of one.

Simone can’t escape the con­tra­dic­tions, her dou­ble­ness in the con­ver­sa­tions with Father Per­rin: who she is in spite of her­self — a Jew and not a Jew, tru­ly French and not French enough — a glove turned inside-out as the hand revolves…. She feels the divi­sions with­in, her grand­par­ents who observed the Jew­ish reli­gion, buried mem­o­ries that keep sur­fac­ing: liv­ing with the fric­tion, liv­ing with migraine headaches that nev­er stop even in her sleep, trapped by more imper­fec­tions than she can bear. She con­fess­es to a friend that she’s bro­ken, out of tune, a bro­ken instru­ment that will nev­er sing again.


In June 1942, on the verge of leav­ing France for good, Simone asks Per­rin to keep her mys­ti­cal writ­ings and do as he wish­es with them. As for the lov­ing kind­ness with which you have favored me, I wish it could be turned from me and redi­rect­ed toward the mes­sage I car­ry with­in me, and which, I like to believe is far more valu­able than I am.” After the end of World War II Father Per­rin pub­lish­es six let­ters from Simone explain­ing why she won’t be bap­tized and sev­er­al essays on the appeal of uni­ver­sal Chris­tian­i­ty” to the faith­ful in all ages. Per­rin calls the col­lec­tion Wait­ing for God. The let­ters, he says, reflect only one moment in their con­ver­sa­tions, part of an inter­rupt­ed process that might have led any­where. Wait­ing for God records Simone’s inner life, a snap­shot with­out a gloss to hint at the labyrinthine depths it enfolds. Her faith allows no excep­tions; obe­di­ence to God is an absolute, even if obey­ing God would result in her own damna­tion. The mys­tery is insep­a­ra­ble from her prophet­ic mission.

Ever since child­hood, Simone writes, she has known she must stand at the inter­sec­tion between Chris­tian­i­ty and every­thing that is not Chris­tian­i­ty.” She is des­tined to live alone, a stranger, an exile in rela­tion to any social milieu with­out excep­tion.” At such moments she becomes a roman­tic rebel, casts her­self as the cen­tral fig­ure in a sacred melo­dra­ma. When she writes, if it were con­ceiv­able that in obey­ing God one should bring about one’s own damna­tion and in dis­obey­ing him one could save one­self — even then, I would choose to obey,” she spells out a faith that shields and allows her to con­tin­ue in a world crazed by war.

But some­one who has known pure joy, even for a minute,” Simone says, and tast­ed the beau­ty of the world, for it’s the same thing — only that per­son knows what it is to be flayed by afflic­tion.” The afflic­tion of oth­ers opens the way. The suf­fer­er is only a lit­tle piece of flesh, naked, inert and bleed­ing beside a ditch; he is name­less; no one knows any­thing about him.”

One loves God through the things of this world,” she adds, the most painful of all, a veiled love, love by indi­rec­tion.” This is a kind of mys­ti­cal poem in which life is a strug­gle to reach the high­est rung of being in order to expe­ri­ence real­i­ty as it is, if only at the instant of death. She quotes an ancient Hin­du fable: when a soul has arrived at a love that fills the uni­verse in all direc­tions this love becomes the unfledged bird with gold­en wings whose beak pierces the egg of the world.”

Simone nev­er los­es her aware­ness of the sin­gu­lar­i­ty of that vision. She con­fides it to Father Per­rin, whose sym­pa­thy and dis­cre­tion she depends on. She says noth­ing about it to her athe­ist fam­i­ly and clos­est friends. Start­ing from the line between nat­ur­al and super­nat­ur­al realms she draws, which must be tak­en on faith, Wait­ing for God belongs to the realm of great mys­tics who were also poets: St. John of the Cross and St. Fran­cis. She is mad; as a ratio­nal­ist, who inter­prets divine com­mand­ments and applies rig­or­ous log­ic to them appears to be mad. She is sane; she applies these inflex­i­ble stan­dards only to her­self, con­demn­ing her fail­ure to live up to them. For­gives oth­ers their tres­pass­es, while insist­ing that her own can­not be forgiven.


God has made a prob­lem with­out a solu­tion, com­mand­ing her to for­give the tres­pass­es of oth­ers, which is impos­si­ble with­out for­giv­ing her­self. Her desire to impress Father Per­rin uncov­ers lay­ers of self-decep­tion out­side and with­in. Simone dis­miss­es the Rab­bini­cal wis­dom of her fore­fa­thers. That ances­try car­ries a sting that alien­ates her in her native France. She could nev­er be just an ordi­nary cit­i­zen. Her Jew­ish­ness is one of the blocked pas­sages in the mazes of her mind: the mixed motives of her denials in the age of Hitler — van­i­ty of van­i­ties. Her own tres­pass­es will nev­er be for­giv­en. There are no mir­a­cles on this earth. She does penance by leav­ing Mar­seille and French soil forever.

Simone’s ship sails for Casablan­ca on May 20th 1942. She embarks again on June 7th, arriv­ing in New York on July 6th. She gets her par­ents set­tled on River­side Dri­ve; her broth­er is already there. Simone leaves New York for Eng­land on Novem­ber 10th and arrives in Liv­er­pool on Novem­ber 25th. Sta­tioned in Lon­don with the Free French, she pleads with them to send her as a spy behind ene­my lines, fails to per­suade them, and dreams she is invis­i­ble, like dead leaves or cer­tain insects. She hides her ill­ness from her par­ents lest they try to reach her.

Simone Weil dies of self-star­va­tion at the Ash­ford San­i­tar­i­um, Kent, on August 24th 1943.

The edi­tors request that, if pos­si­ble, this paper be print­ed (see link to PDF, above) and read in ana­log for­mat rather than on a dig­i­tal screen.


By Christo­pher Hamilton

How could any biog­ra­phy of Simone Weil be any­thing but unwrit­ten? For Weil, words are unim­por­tant com­pared with deeds. What you do shows who you are, not what you say. Be not too hasty to trust or admire the teach­ers of moral­i­ty,” says Imlac in Johnson’s Ras­se­las: they dis­course like angels, but they live like men.” Weil did dis­course like an angel. How could she not doubt her­self? Yet she lived through words as much as deeds: one of the many points of self-lac­er­a­tion that marked her life.

These points are every­where: in her asceti­cism, in her hatred for her own Jew­ish­ness which she denied was hers, in her con­tempt for the bour­geois com­fort which made her what she was, in her hos­til­i­ty to intel­lec­tu­als of whom she was so strik­ing an example.

It is her long­ing for puri­ty that undoes her even as it makes her. Here we have a mind wrecked by Christianity’s vision of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a life that could escape the fact that, as William James has it, our civil­i­sa­tion is found­ed on the sham­bles.” There is no such escape, but escape is what Weil craved more than any­thing. She hat­ed the world in its com­pro­mised, ram­shackle mess, but kept telling her­self that she loved it. Her­bert Marder is right: she saw her­self as a roman­tic rebel…the cen­tral fig­ure in a sacred melodrama.”

Melo­dra­mas can be lurid, and there is some­thing lurid about Weil’s life. Many rewrite it in the form of a hagiog­ra­phy: Marder knows bet­ter. Weil lives every­where and every­thing in some kind of extreme. Niet­zsche said of Chris­tian­i­ty that it had a hatred for mea­sured emo­tions. Per­haps. But the com­ment cer­tain­ly applies to Weil. This makes of her life some­thing that many admire and find fas­ci­nat­ing, but would have no inten­tion of seek­ing to emu­late. Yet this reser­va­tion is usu­al­ly hid­den. Marder expos­es it. He does not let us for­get that this is a mon­strous life, even as it holds its own appeal. That is the way with melo­dra­mas. Weil’s mise-en-scène of her life was so know­ing that it con­sumed itself in ges­tures whose spir­it is giv­en by her com­ment that every time she thought of the cru­ci­fix­ion of Christ she com­mit­ted the sin of envy.

Her life was lived out, as Marder says, in a per­son­al mythol­o­gy, a mythol­o­gy in which oth­ers might eas­i­ly fig­ure as mere means for her to achieve her goal of Christ-like afflic­tion that she chose to see as a form of joy. Did she ever see any­one as he or she real­ly was? Obsessed with inter­pret­ing – she called it read­ing” – with­out prej­u­dice, one won­ders whether this remained any­thing more than an idea in her head. Her hatred for her own body cer­tain­ly stopped it from being an idea that per­vad­ed her whole being. One feels, read­ing Weil, that every­thing is wrong and yet some­where, some­how, there is some­thing right: that she knew more deeply than most of us do the truth in Kath­leen Raine’s words that we live encum­bered with irrel­e­van­cies which we mis­take for liv­ing expe­ri­ence, and which in the end come more and more to usurp it.” Weil sup­posed that some­where, beyond the rim of those irrel­e­van­cies, there might be truth. But per­haps she shows us that, what­ev­er it is that we sup­pose the truth to be, is just one more irrelevancy.


Her­bert Marder is a poet, painter, and emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign, where he taught lit­er­a­ture and rhetoric. He is the author of Fem­i­nism and Art: A Study of Vir­ginia Woolf (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1968) and The Mea­sure of Life: Vir­ginia Woolf’s Last Years (Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000). In 1970, Marder and his wife, singer Nor­ma Marder, co-found­ed the New Ver­bal Work­shop, an exper­i­men­tal ensem­ble con­ceived as a plat­form for explor­ing speech­mu­sic.” For more than a decade, the New Ver­bal Work­shop brought togeth­er an evolv­ing per­son­nel of trained per­form­ers and ama­teurs, who devel­oped a reper­toire of orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions through col­lec­tive impro­vi­sa­tion. The ensem­ble also per­formed exper­i­men­tal music by dis­tin­guished con­tem­po­rary com­posers Ken­neth Gaburo and Ben John­ston. Email: marder@​illinois.​edu

Christo­pher Hamil­ton is Senior Lec­tur­er in the Phi­los­o­phy of Reli­gion at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, where he has taught since 2003. He com­plet­ed a BA in phi­los­o­phy at King’s Col­lege Lon­don and an M.Phil. in phi­los­o­phy at Birk­beck Col­lege, Lon­don. He began his Ph.D. at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege, Cam­bridge, and com­plet­ed it at Birk­beck Col­lege and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bonn, Ger­many, where he stud­ied Ger­man lit­er­a­ture as well as phi­los­o­phy. Before begin­ning his appoint­ment at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, Hamil­ton taught at Birk­beck Col­lege, the Open Uni­ver­si­ty, Sheffield Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Catholic Uni­ver­si­ty of Lublin, Poland. In 2007, he was Schol­ar in Res­i­dence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Salzburg, Aus­tria; in 2013, he was a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Trent, Italy. Hamilton’s research inter­ests include the rela­tion between phi­los­o­phy and lit­er­a­ture, and between moral, reli­gious and aes­thet­ic val­ue; the nature of good and evil; Kierkegaard, Niet­zsche and Simone Weil; the phi­los­o­phy of mid­dle age; and tragedy. He is the author of the books Liv­ing Phi­los­o­phy: Reflec­tions on Life, Mean­ing and Moral­i­ty (Edin­burgh Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2001), Mid­dle Age (Acu­men, 2009), How to Deal with Adver­si­ty (Pic­a­dor, 2014), and A Phi­los­o­phy of Tragedy (Reak­tion, 2016), as well as of numer­ous impor­tant essays and inter­views in schol­ar­ly pub­li­ca­tions and pop­u­lar media. Email: christopher.​hamilton@​kcl.​ac.​uk