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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Professor Gerhard Lauer [Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities]: 'Sorry, I have digitized my scholarship. Humanities in the digital age'

18th February 2015, 12:00, ER146, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

I would like to draw your attention to a talk by Professor Gerhard Lauer, currently a COFUND senior fellow at St Mary’s College, Durham University. 

Since the days of Francis Bacon scholarship has developed a wide variety of methods and infrastructure. Libraries, editions of the great authors, and historic-hermeneutical approaches like parallel texts guide research in the humanities. With the massive digitization of books and objects during the last two decades and with the rapid development of computers scholarship changes. The objects are now more or less digital and the methods expanding into quantitative approaches. Big data and computer based methods step into the field of scholarship. Old research questions could pose anew and new questions could raise. From archaeology to philology, from research on cuneiform to analysis of modern romance the digital age transform scholarship into a digital one. To handle the transformation is a big challenge but with huge potential for the humanities. 

Prof Lauer is the Founding Director of the Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities, University of Göttingen. Prof Lauer’s is one of the most prominent contemporary names in literary studies in Germany and has received major recognition for his work, both within Germany (for example with the award of a graduate research group from Germany’s leading Humanities research funder, the DFG), and further afield (he was a Distinguished Max Kade Visiting Professor at Washington University at St Louis, a high-ranking award).

The Narrative Self As Emergence : Prof Lauer’s study proposes that emergence is both a necessary bridging term between the endangered self of modernity and society, and between the theory of literature and scientific culture. The psychology behind literary studies is too often founded on an ultimately egocentric view of the self. In contrast to this, recent research on social cognition has disclosed a different perspective where the ‘I’ is understood as co-emergent with the ‘We’. In this framework he wishes to propose in his project that literature is a specific human behaviour which is crucial for children’s development and is of central importance even for adult humans to understand others. Literature can change our beliefs and alter our personality; literature is of an altero-centric gestalt. To explore this hypothesis he seeks to make use of experimental and computer based methods. In coming to Durham Prof Lauer will collaborate with colleagues in the Humanities (and beyond) who share an interest in the cognitive futures of literary studies and who might collaborate in examining the altero-centric gestalt of literature for a period of three months.

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