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Uses and Abuses of 'The Network' for Humanities Research

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Uses and Abuses of 'The Network' for Humanities Research

  • Date 01 Nov 2018
  • Time 7.00pm - 9.00pm
  • Category Lecture

Keynes Library, Birkbeck, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London

Bloomsbury Research Seminar for postgraduate students, with Professor Finn Fordham. All welcome. 
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The ‘network' is a powerful concept and metaphor, a tool for and focus of much recent research and scholarship. Interest in networks arose in the humanities arguably out of cultural history and sociology, as a means to displace an outmoded focus on the single author, the autonomous individual, the heroic genius by a ’social text’. 'The network’ also has aesthetic or formal possibilities: in the interconnected, reticular, knotted or participatory work. Readers and texts are imagined forming together ‘networks’ of meaning, feeling, and judgement.

But do we take the concept for granted? Powerful as a tool, is it also somewhat blunt? Do we ever succeed in ‘mapping’ a cultural network, or describing one accurately? Is the metaphor too knotty or nodal for the fluid forms it hopes to catch in its nets? What is the function not of ‘the network’ itself, but of alluding to ‘networks’? Might it be a means of entering a field of discourse, and of hoping to join a perceived network of readers? In unpicking the metaphor, we might not only question its precision, but broaden out to inspect metaphors in our analysis in general – another crucial research tool. 

Professor Fordham will address these and other questions in his talk, referring in part to his own recent research that considers formations and disruptions of cultural networks and value at the outbreak of World War 2. Professor Fordham will be very happy to respond to questions that arise from this topic on the day, but also encourages people to send thoughts and questions in advance to him at: finn.fordham@rhul.ac.uk.

Professor Finn Fordham

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