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Cynthia Nielsen, Ph.D.

Cynthia R. Nielsen has taught philosophy at the university level since 2005. Prior to her appointment at UD, she was a Catherine of Sienna Teaching Fellow at Villanova University, where she taught courses in the Ethics Program, Honors College, and the Peace and Justice Program. Nielsen’s research focuses on hermeneutical philosophy, especially the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Her interest in hermeneutics applies to a broad range of topics, including aesthetics, ethnomusicology, social and political (mis)uses of language, and postcolonial studies. Her most recent monograph is Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics: On Art as a Performative, Dynamic, Communal, Event (Routledge, Oct. 2022), which brings Gadamer’s hermeneutical aesthetics into conversation with the montages and collages African American artist Romare Bearden, Banksy’s street art, and avant-garde expressions of jazz.

Areas of Expertise

Philosophical Hermeneutics (esp. Gadamer), Philosophy of Music, Aesthetics, Social Philosophy, Philosophy of Race


Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Dallas, 2011
M.A., Philosophy, University of Dallas, 2006
Graduate Studies in Humanities and Philosophy, University of Texas at Arlington, 2003–2004
Advanced Russian Studies, Moscow State University, 1997–1998
B. Music, Jazz Studies and Performance, University of North Florida, 1994

Academic Appointments

Catherine of Sienna Teaching Fellow, Villanova University, 2012–14

Recent Courses

PHI 1301 Philosophy and the Ethical Life
PHI 2323 Philosophy of the Human Person
PHI 3311 Philosophy of Being
PHI 3345 From Modern to Postmodern
PHI 3346 Contemporary Philosophical Approaches
PHI 4341 Senior Seminar: Philosophy of Music
PHI 4342 Senior Thesis
PHI 6341 TS/Hermeneutical Traditions: Heidegger and Gadamer
PHI 5332 Philosophy of Technology
PHI 7377 Hermeneutics and Language
PHI 7381 20th Century German Philosophers of Art (Directed Reading)
PHI 7381 Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics (Directed Reading)
PHI 3332/5301 Aesthetics (spring 2020)
PHI 7381 Kierkegaard (Directed Reading)
IPS 8352 Hegel, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky
PHI 4339 Information Ethics
PHI 7381 Critical Theory and Hermeneutics (Directed Reading)

Research Interests

Philosophical Hermeneutics (esp. Gadamer)
Philosophy of Music
Social Philosophy
Critical Theory (esp. Adorno)
Philosophy of Race and Gender
Post-Soviet Studies

Selected Publications


Gadamer’s Truth and Method: A Polyphonic Commentary, co-edited with Greg Lynch. New York/London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2022.

Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics: On Art as a Performative, Dynamic, Communal Event. New York: Routledge Press (Routledge Research in Aesthetics Series, Oct. 2022).

Book Chapters

“Gadamer and the Plastic Arts” in Gadamer’s Truth and Method: A Polyphonic Commentary, co-edited with Greg Lynch. New York/London: Rowman & Littlefield International 2022.

“Gadamer on Play and the Play of Art,” in The Gadamerian Mind, edited by Theodore George and Gert-Jan van der Heiden. New York: Routledge, 2021.

“Fricker, Gadamer, and Honneth: Testimonial Injustice, Prejudice, and (Mis)recognition” (co-authored with David Utsler) in Recognition Theory and Epistemic Injustice, edited by Paul Giladi and Nicola McMillan. New York: Routledge, 2022.

“Rehumanizing the Inmate: Wacquant on Race-making, Sequestered Spaces, and the Quest for a We Narrative,” in Philosophy Imprisoned. The Love of Wisdom in the Age of Mass Incarceration, edited by Sarah Tyson and Joshua M. Hall, pp. 255-272 (New York: Lexington/Rowman & Littlefield, Aug. 2014).

"Strategic Afro-Modernism, Dynamic Hybridity, and Bebop's Socio-Political Significance," in Music and Law. Sociology of Crime, Law, and Deviance, vol. 18, edited by Mathieu Deflem, pp. 129-148. (Bingley UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2013).  

Articles & Translations

“Gadamer on Death’s Unintelligibility and the Overflow of Life.”

Analecta Hermeneutica, special edition on art and ethics, edited by Katie Homan forthcoming 2022.

“Gadamer’s Complex Engagement with Kantian Aesthetics.” International Yearbook for Hermeneutics, forthcoming 2022.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Music and Time,” co-translated with David Liakos.

Epoché 26:1(Fall 2021):471–478. DOI: 10.5840/epoche2021813196.4.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Tasks of Philosophy in the Present Age: RIAS-Lecture, June9, 1952,” co-translated with Ian Alexander Moore. Philosophy Today 64(2) (Spring 2020). DOI: 10.5840/philtoday202055339.

Nielsen, Cynthia and David Utsler, “(Environmental) Hermeneutics at the Heart of the Anthropocene: Ricoeurian and Gadamerian Perspectives.” Analecta Hermeneutic 13 (2021): 52–72.

“Hermeneutics of (Im)politeness: A Gadamerian Perspective,” Forthcoming, Ruch Filozoficzny, Polish Journal of Philosophy, 2020.

“On Poietic Remembering and Forgetting: Hermeneutic Recollection, ‘Immortality,’ and Diotima’s Historico-Hermeneutic Leanings.” Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy 22 (2018): 107–134.

“Gadamer and Scholz on Solidarity: Disclosing, Avowing, and Performing Solidaristic Ties with Human and Natural Others.” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 48 (2017): 1–16.

“Harsh Poetry and Art’s Address: Romare Bearden and Hans-Georg Gadamer in Conversation.” The Polish Journal of Aesthetics 43 (April 2016): 103–123.

Gadamer on the Event of Art, the Other, and a GestureToward a Gadamerian Approach to Free Jazz,” Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, March 2016, ISSN 1927-4416.   

"Inmates, Education, and the Public Good: Deploying Catholic Social Thought to Deconstruct the Us-Versus-Them Dichotomy." Co-authored with Dr. Peter S. Dillard. Heythrop Journal 56 (2015): 769-777. [Research for this project supported in part by a Veritas Grant from Villanova University.]  

“Foucault’s Polyphonic Genealogies and Rethinking Episteme Change via Musical Metaphors,” Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Philosophy, Politics 2.1 (Jan. 2014): 1–50.

“Unearthing Consonances in Foucault’s Account of Greco-Roman Self-Writing and Christian Technologies of the Self,” Heythrop Journal 55:2 (Jan. 2014): 188–202.

“Hearing the Other’s Voice: How Gadamer’s Fusion of Horizons and Open-ended Understanding Respects the Other and Puts Oneself in Question,” Otherness: Essays and Studies 4.1 Philosophy and the Other, Sept. 2013,

“Frantz Fanon and the Negritude Movement: How Strategic Essentialism Subverts Manichean Binaries,” Callaloo: Journal of African Diaspora 36 (2013): 342–51.

“Resistance Through Re-Narration: Fanon on De-constructing Racialized Subjectivities,”African Identities: Journal of Economics, Culture, and Society 9:4 (Dec. 2011): 363–85. 

“Resistance is Not Futile: Frederick Douglass on Panoptic Plantations and the Un-Making of Docile Bodies and Enslaved Souls,” Philosophy and Literature 35.2 (2011): 251–68. 

“What Has Coltrane to Do With Mozart:  The Dynamism and Built-in Flexibility of Music,” Expositions 3 (2009): 57–71.

“St. Augustine on Text and Reality (and a Little Gadamarian Spice),”Heythrop Journal 50 (2009): 98–108.

Contributions to Reference Works

"Racism,” New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012-13: Ethics and Philosophy. Eds. Robert Fastiggi and Joseph Koterski, S. J. 4 vols. Detroit: Gale, 2013, 4: 1297-99.

“Philosophy of Music,” New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012-13: Ethics and Philosophy. Eds. Robert Fastiggi and Joseph Koterski, S. J. 4 vols. Detroit: Gale, 2013, 3: 1031-36.