GRAND NARRATIVES/MODEST PROPOSALS

In 1979 Jean-Francois Lyotard famously announced the end of the Grand Narrative ushering in a new epistemological frame based on fragmentation and difference.  The initial impetus of this movement was characterized by a turn to high theory but this eventually shifted toward an interest in returning to the "real", to the evidentiary, and to matters of fact.  More recently, and despite pretensions to divine a more immediate access to the subjects under investigation, this impulse has been characterized in the human sciences by a rhetoric of modesty quite removed from either the grand narratives or high theory of the prior movements.  And yet such modest proposals are now igniting a return to grand narrative be it in evolutionary theory, Big or Deep History, or the vast expanse of the digital humanities.  The counter or companion to this unlikely twinning is a resurgence of apologetic or unapologetic rhetorics of big theory or narrative/interpretation as either counterpoint or support.  In this semester, we will explore the relation of grand narratives, modest proposals, and meta-narratives over diverse periods and places bringing these to bear on our current moment.  

All lectures begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted, and are held in the Daniel Family Commons, which is located in the Usdan University Center.

02/05/2018

Neither Grand nor Modest: Critique as a form of historical analysis

JOAN W. SCOTT • Institute for Advanced Studies

02/12/2018

On Capitalization

TIMOTHY MITCHELL • Columbia University

02/19/2018

Chariotless: The Poet in the Anthropocene 

GABRIELLE PONCE-HEGENAUER • Wesleyan

02/26/2018

The Historian's Task in the Anthropocene: Theory and Practice 

JULIA ADENEY THOMAS • University of Notre Dame

03/05/2018

Robert Hooke's Prosthetic Gods - GO

LYNN FESTA • Rutgers University 

04/02/2018

"Blown from Cannon": A History of Violence, 1857 - 1764     

WILLIAM PINCH • Wesleyan 

04/09/2018

Catastrophes and the Centralization of Urban Planning in Modern China

YING JIA TAN• Wesleyan 

04/16/2018

“Diderot’s Hairshirt: The Story of the Great Encyclopédie

ANDREW CURRAN • Wesleyan 

04/23/2018

Twitter Stevens, Tumblr Stevens

STEPHANIE BURT • Harvard University

04/30/2018

Haunting History: Grand Digital Schemes in a Modest Analog Box

ETHAN KLEINBERG • Wesleyan