CFP Imagining Communities. How learned collectives have formed themselves through literary means

Panel session at the 12th Annual Conference of the British Society for Literature and Science

6-8 April 2017, University of Bristol

 

In Imagined Communities (1983) Benedict Anderson famously argued that the idea of the nation, and national belonging, first developed with the rise of news periodicals and new ways of story-telling in novels. Readers and writers of these enacted a sense of national collectivity through the simultaneous and repetitive adoption of a shared outlook of the world. In Anderson’s framework, nations are communities imagined by literary means.

 

Our panel seeks to apply this approach to various learned collectives - the communities which scholars and scientists have considered themselves to be part of, such as the Republic of Letters, international science, the intelligentsia, academia, schools of thought within specific disciplines, etc. We want to consider how such groupings may have been called into being through the various forms of belles-lettres in writing, publishing, correspondence, and other means of literary communication. We will also examine how the use of literary techniques and genres within a learned discourse supported the visibility and shaped the identity of specific scholarly communities, sometimes facilitating their institutionalization.

 

Relevant issues include: how have specific literary tools, such as analogy, metaphor, and narrative sequencing of material, contributed to creating an idealized projection of learned discourse and hence community? How were non-verbal and emblematic means employed for mental and visual portrayal of guilds and corporations of knowledge? How was the imagining of learned communities involved in the global transfer of epistemic values, in synchronic and diachronic perspective? How have narrative ways of self-description helped learned groups to define their relations to national, political, religious, economic, and other environments? Using Ian Hacking’s “dialectical realism”, how have the invented categories of community induced patterns of behavior and thus contrived new ways of being?

 

We would like to address these and other related questions over a wide range of historical contexts, and invite proposals for twenty-minute papers to become part of the panel. Please send an abstract of 200 words and short biographical note to the panel conveners Maria Avxentevskaya (mavxentevskaya@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de) and Geert Somsen (gjs2141@columbia.edu) by 7 December 2016. All enquiries concerning the 12th Annual Conference of the British Society for Literature and Science can also be sent to Ros Powell (bsls-2017@bristol.ac.uk). Please see the full CFP at https://www.bsls.ac.uk/2016/10/cfp-the-british-society-for-literature-and-science-annual-conference.

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