Prof. Stein Haugom Olsen
“Humanities at Bilkent – What Are They and Where Are They Going?”
Faculty of Humanities and Letters (Dean) and Department of English Language and Literature (Chair), Bilkent University
Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Abstract: Recent discussions about the value and nature of the humanities proceed as if it is unproblematic to assume that there is a group of studies that can meaningfully be called ‘humanistic’. These discussions proceed on the basis of a nominalist definition of the humanities, accepting, that is, that the humanities are what educators, administrators, and politicians have chosen to label ‘humanities.’ There is little discussion of the requirements that the concept of ‘humanistic studies’ have to fulfil to function as clear and fruitful critical instrument enabling the critic to distinguish a class of studies (literary studies among them) that has some common core that makes the notion of ‘humanistic’ appropriate to them. However, adopting a nominalist definition of the concept of ‘humanistic studies’ constitutes an abdication of theoretical responsibility and leaves the power of defining the concept of ‘humanistic studies’ to others. In this talk he shall take up the challenge of developing a concept of humanistic studies by defining a number of criteria that together will yield a clear and critically useful concept. Such a concept does not necessarily cover all such studies as one today finds in faculties of humanities at the universities, but a central requirement to such a concept is that it must give the studies which it does cover a historical pedigree, not simply linking these studies together, but also linking them to a tradition that confers on them a cultural significance and makes the notion of ‘humanistic’ appropriate to them.
The lecture will be in English.