‘Scientific’ Literary Studies

Matthew_Arnold_Waddy_1872

On December 20th, literary scholar Angus Nicholls (Queen Mary University London) will deliver a lecture on the ‘science’ of literary studies for the national research school literary studies (OSL). After his lecture – entitled ”Scientific’ Literary Studies During the Late Nineteenth Century and Today: a Critical Overview’ – there will be time for discussion on the question of literary studies’ scientific state and status, then and now, in and outside the Netherlands.

Everybody is warmly invited to attend the lecture and discussion!

The event takes place in Amsterdam from 15:00 to 17:00 (PCHoofthuis, room 5.59). See also the website of OSL for the details.

 

Short summary of the lecture:

The late nineteenth century was a period in which academic disciplines began to form and professionalize themselves in modern research universities. Like many disciplines during this period, literary studies (Literaturwissenschaft) attempted to establish itself by arguing that its methods were ‘scientific’ or wissenschaftlich. But here the key term in the debate – that of ‘science’ (Wissenschaft) – was a contested one, and was defined in different ways, in different cultural contexts, by different protagonists in the field. In this paper, I will attempt to show that these nineteenth-century debates on the ‘scientific’ nature of literary studies bear a striking similarity to present day discussions. This is so because – especially in the UK system – the humanities continue to be assessed and funded according to models predominantly derived from research in the natural sciences; models which favour a linear conception of objective scientific progress and which valorise quantifiable impact upon society. This paper will offer an overview of this subject in relation to British and German intellectual history, as part of an introduction to a larger monograph project. Some of the better-known thinkers treated will include Matthew Arnold, Thomas Henry Huxley, Wilhelm Dilthey and Wilhelm Scherer.

 

Afbeelding: Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) balancing between poetry and philosophy by Frederick Waddy, 1872

 

 

 

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