Fall issue of “History of Humanities” has been published!

The 2016 Fall Issue of “History of Humanities” has just been published:

Click here for the Table of Contents.

The theme is “Going Global”:

While the academic conception of the humanities, or Geisteswissenschaften, may be a Western invention, attempts to analyze literature, art, music, language, theater, and history are not exclusively European phenomena but have originated in different parts of the world. For this reason, one of the stated goals of this journal is to advocate the study of the history of the humanities from a global perspective.1 In the first issue we included one aspect of the humanities in China. The current issue includes essays on the humanities in precolonial Mali, pre-Hispanic America, the Ottoman Empire, and the Soviet Union. What do we gain from a global perspective? A transgeographical history of the humanities not only helps avoid a parochial view but also shows to what extent practices and ideals in the humanities in different parts of the world are connected and comparable. In the current issue, Shamil Jeppie argues that the humanities in precolonial Timbuktu can be properly understood only if they are viewed as part of a larger network of learning that included North Africa and the Middle East. Sara Gonzalez asserts that Peruvian history writing focused on images as the basis for historical narratives in which the pre-Columbian rulers were connected to the Habsburg dynasty. Michiel Leezenberg draws attention to the fact that processes of vernacularization took place simultaneously in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere in the world. Floris Solleveld focuses on Europe but discusses the notion of “revolution” in the humanities across different countries. Boris Gasparov makes us aware that, even in relation to the secluded situation of the Soviet Union, a comparative perspective is rewarding. We wish to further encourage the study of the history of humanities from a pluralistic, comparative point of view. Our argument in favor of a global perspective does not, however, exclude the journal’s other goals. In fact, this issue’s Forum contributions by Herman Paul and colleagues deal with the question of how to write a history of the humanities that transcends disciplines. They hypothesize that scholarly personae offer a promising focus for such a project. By contrasting different disciplines and scholars, they show that a comparative perspective is fruitful not only for a global but also for a primarily local history of the humanities.

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Our recent volume “The Making of the Modern Humanities” reviewed in premier History of Science journal (Isis)

“A must-read for anyone interested in the history of a broad range of the humanities. It combines case studies of great historical precision with methodological considerations of historical epistemologies, with the explicit aim of matching the work done in the history of science with equivalent historical epistemologies of the various humanistic disciplines—including philology, musicology, art history, linguistics, archaeology, theater studies, history of philosophy, media studies, Oriental studies, and literary studies—often in light of their intersections with science or the social sciences (the particular innovation of this volume).”

For more information on: Rens Bod, Jaap Maat, and Thijs Weststeijn (Editors): The Making of the Humanities, Vol. 3: The Modern Humanities, see the review by Katherine Arens.

How to Write the History of the Humanities

Some time ago, I had a two-hour debate with James Turner (author of “Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities”) on how to write the history of the humanities. Not long after this debate, Anne van Dam (PhD student at Leiden University) wrote this interesting paper on our debate.

“On the first of February the early modern historical colloquium on the history of the humanities took place in the fully packed Sweelinck room of Utrecht University. For this extended colloquium the university invited Prof. dr. Rens Bod and Prof. dr. James Turner, two authors of seminal publications on the history of the humanities. Rens Bod is a professor of Digital Humanities and co-director of the Center for the History of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Amsterdam and author of A New History of the Humanities, published in Dutch in 2010. James Turner is the Cavanaugh Professor of Humanities at the University of Notre Dame and author of Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities, which appeared in 2014. The afternoon at Utrecht University was the first time the two scholars met for a lively debate on the subject of the history of the humanities.”

Click here to read the full paper.

Inaugural Issue of the new journal “History of Humanities” has been published!

“These are exciting times for the humanities. The impressive corpus of knowledge that the humanities have discovered, created, and cultivated over many centuries is available for the benefit of more people than ever and evolving rapidly. Fresh perspectives open up as digital tools enable researchers to explore questions that not long ago were beyond their reach and even their imagination. Novel fields of research deal with phenomena emerging in a globalizing culture, enabling us to make sense of the way in which new media affect our lives. Cross-fertilization between disciplines leads to newly developed methods and results, such as the complex chemical analysis of the materials of ancient artworks, yielding data that were unavailable to both artists and their publics at the time of production, or neuroscientific experiments shedding new light on our capacity for producing and appreciating music.”

Click here for the full issue.

“A New History of the Humanities” will be translated into Italian and Korean

I am very happy to announce that A New History of the Humanities will also be translated into Italian and Korean. The contracts with the publishers have been signed and the translations are expected to appear in 2017. So far, the originally Dutch book “De Vergeten Wetenschappen” has been or is being translated into English, Chinese, Polish, Armenian, Ukrainian, Korean and Italian.

A New History of the Humanities Reviewed in Isis

My book A New History of the Humanities was reviewed in Isis, the premier journal devoted to the history of science. The review turns out to be a typical history-of-science-review: it is very positive about the content of my book but the reviewer doesn’t see why we need a history of the humanities after all. Clearly there is still some mission work to do. The history of the humanities is the missing link in the history of knowledge!

“In many respects this book is a remarkable achievement, and it is hard to imagine a reader who will not learn from it—such is the book’s coverage that very few will know as much as the unimaginably erudite author. Via four long chapters covering antiquity, the Middle Ages, the early modern era, and the modern period, Rens Bod provides a history of the respective developments in linguistics, historiography, philology, musicology, art theory, logic, rhetoric, and poetics. For good measure, the final chapter also includes sections on archaeology, literary and theater studies, and “All Media and Culture: From Film Studies to New Media” (p. 339). In case anyone reading this review is not yet impressed, the author takes care, under each heading, to discuss developments not just in Europe but also (when appropriate) in India, China, and the civilization of Islam. The result is undeniably impressive—and hugely informative.”

Click here for the full review.