The history of academic writing and intellectual history

In this panel, we want to bring together perspectives on the way in which the academic field – the array of institutions, programs, and media of scholarship that emerged around academies and universities – has supplied shifting textual forms to intellectual life. The guiding notion is that these forms have shaped “thought,” if often in an infra-structural and therefore perhaps non-obvious fashion. The view of textual forms, it should be added, cannot be static; it involves the layout of the printed page as much as the underpinning practices of writing. In intellectual history as a whole, it remains an open question how the impact of the academic field on the intellectual practice is best accommodated. The inexorable, if gradual increase of this impact, however, appears to be one of the markers that came to distinguish the late modern period from the early modern; for this reason we purposely want to attempt bridging the usual epochal divide. We also submit that the impact of the academic field is not merely one of specific institutions and their mechanisms of social inclusion and exclusion. Rather, academia is also a condition of textuality in general, entailing particular genres of text and practices of writing. These genres and practices impinge on the meanings of intellectual history sources.

Sari Kivistö, University of Tampere, Comparative Literature: The signs of evil books. I will interpret a range of situations in which books were thought to have epistemically or morally harmful effects on their readers in late seventeenth-century Germany. My analysis is inspired by numerous seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century treatises that were published on the criteria of good and evil books (de criteriis boni et mali libri). These works, written in Latin, made distinctions between licit and illicit reading matter and discussed how blameworthy books propagated dissident thought or produced disturbing passions. I will examine how such works advised their readers on how to compose and use books in an ethically sound manner. I will investigate the signs of evil books and explore how allegedly evil books were thought to affect their readers’ lives, change their intellectual practices, distribute evil thoughts or lead to broader controversies in early modern scientific and religious cultures. I am particularly interested in the idea that all major university disciplines had their own criteria of good and bad publications, e.g., theological books should be written in pure and easy style and not to give any reason for religious disputes, and thus the stylistic demands for clarity and for universally conceivable language were prominent in religious publications. The goodness or badness of historiography depended on the expertise and personal experience of the writer, the ordered structure of the presentation as well as on impartial, accurate and trustworthy narration. Philosophical and medical books had their own moral qualifications, too. These evaluations were related to the processes of preservation, catalogisation and canonization that singled out acceptable knowledge and ‘good’ books and forced other kinds of publications to become marginalized, banned or forgotten. Several of the critical arguments presented in the debates were also initiated by the threat that was posed to religious authority and traditional morality by the new conceptions of the world and there was a powerful resistance to the sudden stream of allegedly ‘godless’ books in Germany in this period.

Elise Garritzen, University of Helsinki, History: Re-Framing Meanings in History Books: The Posthumous Paratexts in J. R. Green’s ‘Short History of the English People’. Paratexts – the visual, material, and textual elements that accompany a text – have received a growing interest among book historians and literary critics, and their impact on textual production and reception is widely recognized. Nevertheless, their role in modern scholarly discourse remains largely unaddressed. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach of book history, historiography, and literary criticism, this paper addresses the lacuna by exploring the use of paratexts in the posthumous editions of John Richard Green’s Short History of the English People (1874), a late-Victorian publishing sensation. The paper illuminates the potential paratexts hold for expanding our notions of how historical knowledge and texts are presented for readers. This is done by comparing the paratexts in the posthumous editions that Green’s widow Alice Stopford Green prepared and by showing how they were applied for framing the text, author, and the editor. The meaning and value she constructed for the text altered from one edition to another providing readers with shifting entry points for decoding the narrative. During this process, the Short History evolved from a proto-social history to a vehicle for boosting English patriotism, and lastly, to an advocate of the Gaelic interpretation of Irish history. In short, the paper argues, first, that paratexts are effective tools for transmitting messages and creating meanings for a historical narrative. Second, focusing on the shifting posthumous paratexts the paper stresses the fact that nineteenth-century history writing was an unending process and could continue even after the author’s death. Hence, the paper serves as a reminder that paratextual elements are far less innocent or insignificant as they may first appear to be and that because of this, they should be taken seriously also by intellectual historians.

Henning Trüper, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, History: The Writtenness of History. In this presentation, I aim to outline some of the features in which the inescapable condition of being-written has impinged on modern historical thought, and thereby, as I will argue, also on political thought. The key problem is perhaps not so much the bind between history and the category of textuality as such; but rather the historical malleability of the condition of writtenness itself. Practices of writing change over time. I will firstly lay out an argument about the manner in which writing practices of a specific late nineteenth and early twentieth century type helped establish an understanding of historical time from which the temporality in which the actual conduct of historical research was framed remained excluded. This argument entails a variety of notions about the normative shaping of writing and authorship that tethers the argument to the problems of the academic field, of book history and of textual genre. Secondly, I will argue that the established structure, along with changes in writing technology over the twentieth century, became porous. Thirdly, I will argue that historical time, as a shifting regime of textual production, has contributed crucially to modern norms of witnessing, attention, and the hierarchization of issues within the sphere of the political. For the purpose of this argument, I will draw on a number of cases from the history of historical writing, in which the archival situation permits some access to writing practice.