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March 27, 2018, from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

In Defense of Error and Spectacle: New Genealogies for Experimental Humanities, a Lecture by Mitsos Bilalis & Penelope Papailias

Event Information

When the humanities emerge as a field in early modernity, experimentation is a core practice. Could we possibly not describe Galileo as a ‘humanist’? Spinoza as a ‘scientist’? Disciplinary specialization and the ascendance of the historicist paradigm as a regime of truth, however, cut the humanities off from the tradition of experimentation and, by extension, from the predominance — and productivity — of error in research and teaching. In our late/digital modernity, as we are faced not only with the collapse of the “market’ for humanities research within neoliberal universities, but also with a public culture of ‘fake’ news, ‘conjectural’ histories and ‘derivative’ fanfic across a media ecology in which ‘truth’ has been gamified, the retreat to empiricism (“Truth. It has no alternative,” the New York Times reminds us) would be a predictable move for scholars like us. By contrast, in our presentation, we propose to (re)discover both the error and the public and performative staging at the heart of the experimental through a combination of historical vignettes and snapshots of our contemporary forays into experimental humanities that succeeded, if on a modest scale, in creating charged, unstable and generative networks incorporating, invigorating and rupturing the ‘university’ (from summer labs and death cafes to the reopening of the ‘book’ through social annotation and collective reading).