Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Journal: History of the Humanities

Edited by Rens Bod, Julia Kursell, Jaap Maat, and Thijs Weststeijn, sponsored by the Society for the History of the Humanities, and published by the University of Chicago Press. From the journal blurb:
History of Humanities, along with the newly formed Society for the History of the Humanities, takes as its subject the evolution of a wide variety of disciplines including archaeology, art history, historiography, linguistics, literary studies, musicology, philology, and media studies, tracing these fields from their earliest developments, through their formalization into university disciplines, and to the modern day. By exploring these subjects across time and civilizations and along with their socio-political and epistemic implications, the journal takes a critical look at the concept of humanities itself.

The idea for a journal covering the history of humanities disciplines from a genuinely global perspective grew out of a series of conferences organized in Amsterdam and Rome by the Editors over the past four years.The journal fills a conspicuous gap in the market: journals on the history of science have existed for many decades, as have journals on the history of specific humanities disciplines. History of Humanities is the first journal devoted to assembling scholarly studies on the comparative history of the humanities disciplines.

History of Humanities publishes work that transcends the history of specific humanities disciplines by comparing scholarly practices across disciplines, comparing humanistic traditions in different cultures and civilizations, relating the humanities to the natural and social sciences, and studying developments, problems, and transformations within a discipline that have wider significance for the history of knowledge in general.
The inaugural issue is now online and is available free for downloading through May 31, 2016.
From the opening editorial, by the four editors:
It is an open question whether or not the humanities as a whole can be distinguished from other groups of disciplines, such as the natural or the social sciences, on the basis of a specific method or object of study. A strong conceptual division between a science of the human and a science of nature dates back at least to Giambattista Vico’s (1668–1744) Scienza Nuova of 1725. In the late nineteenth century, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) authoritatively distinguished the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften) from the sciences (Naturwissenschaften) with regard both to the methods and to the objects studied. Rather than explaining (erklären) the world in terms of countable and measurable regularities, the humanities attempt to understand (verstehen) the intentions of historical actors; the specific objects investigated by the humanities are “the expressions of the human mind.” Over the twentieth century, other categories were introduced in addition to the humanities and the sciences, in particular the social sciences (or human sciences), which study human behavior in its social context. While these divisions are not stable, Dilthey’s definition covers by and large the disciplines that are today referred to by the term humanities at continental European universities, including in languages other than German or English—for example, scienze umanistiche in Italian, humanités in French, humaniora in the Dutch and Scandinavian languages, and gumanitarnyje nauki in Russian.

If we move outside Europe, the picture obviously becomes more complicated. It has been argued that Islamic scholarship formed the basis for the studia humanitatis: the studia adabiya included grammar and lexicography, poetry, rhetoric, history, and moral philosophy. But China, for one, presents a different picture: the “six arts” that Confucius identified with genteel education were rites and rituals, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy and writing, and mathematics (or prediction). Another ancient Chinese practice, to treat literature, philosophy, and history (the triad wen-shi-zhe) as one body of knowledge, was revived in the nineteenth century under the header of guoxue (national studies). Guoxue was intended as a counterweight to the term renwen, a calque of the Japanese denomination for the Western category “humanities” (as different from the social and natural sciences). In fact, however, renwen—the term still used today—was a retranslation, since the Japanese compound was originally derived from the Chinese Book of Changes.
The journal's inaugural issue:
In the present volume, the first such Forum section explores the contemporary relevance of the dichotomy “monument and document” as formulated by Erwin Panofsky (by John Guillory, with commentaries by John Joseph and Geoffrey Harpham). This is followed by five articles that range from historical overviews to specific case studies. The first analyzes the status of the Chinese tradition of historical writing in the light of recent Western influences, concluding with a programmatic plea for the survival of Chinese scholarly virtues (by Liu Dong, with an introduction by Haun Saussy). The role of mythology in the Northern European humanities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is analyzed from historical and methodological perspectives (by Joep Leerssen). Ferdinand Gregorovius provides a case in point of the importance of legends in historical scholarship (by Maya Maskarinec). The next contribution is a “bio-bibliographical” sketch of the Russian scholar Semen Vengerov, who spent his life compiling such sketches (by Mark Gamsa). Finally, one of the main challenges described above—the relationship between the humanities, human sciences, and natural sciences—is addressed (by Hans-Jörg Rheinberger).

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