God is in the details

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University of Milan - Graduate School in HUmanities (Humanae Litterae)
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"God is in the details" A reflection on methodology in the humanities
A conference organized within the activities of the Graduate School Humanae Litterae, University of Milan, via Festa del perdono 7, Milan.
June, 10-11 2010
Conference website: users.unimi/godetails
Email: godetails@unimi.it
Call for papers
We invite papers for an interdoctoral conference, aimed at a reflection on the methodology in the humanities. The main focus of the conference will be on texts, considered as the common ground between the different disciplines. The starting point is Erich Auerbach's statement, according to which, starting from a kind of observation focused on detail, on the single distinctive mark - through a gradual widening of the perspective beyond the limits of specialized knowledge - it is possible to set the terms of a discourse which interprets the relationship between general and particular:
It is patiently impossible to establish a synthesis by assembling all the particulars. Perhaps we shall be able to do so by selecting characteristic particulars and following up their implications. this method consists in finding unusually fertile areas or key problems on which it is rewarding to concentrate, because they open up a knowledge of a broader context and cast a light on entire historical landscapes. (Erich Auerbach, Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages )
On the basis of the motto chosen for the title of the conference – used by artists and intellectuals coming from different backgrounds, such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Gustave Flaubert, Aby Warburg e Mies Van der Rohe - papers are encouraged to analyse one or more details of any object which can be read as text, in order to single out its distinctive features and, subsequently, to provide its interpretation in a wider perspective. The research horizon shall be widened in order to highlight and interpret the dialogue the text establishes with systems on a higher level (cultural, historical, cognitive, etc).
Abstracts could start from the following questions:
how does one comprehend the conceptual world (frame) of an author starting from the analysis of a single portion of a text (a passage in a literary or philosophical work, a historical essay, a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, a sequence in a film)?
what kind of information does the birth (or the disappearing) of an artistic form provide on human cognitive skills or on a given historical period?
how is it possible to link the details of spatial organization to a wider reading (aesthetical, cultural, or historical) of the landscape?
how is it possible to put forward a hypothesis on human mind starting form single data (for example a logical paradox or a mathematical formula)?
What kind of relationship is it possible to establish between a single case-study (for example one of local history) o a detail in a source (of any kind, from the official document to a film) and wider dynamics (historical, cultural, political or social)?
how is it possible to assess the different ways of approaching texts? What are the advantages of the "sample method"? What different ways of research can integrate it?
Papers shall start from a concrete analysis of the object of research and highlight aspects of the methodology, or foster a reflection on it. Abstracts proposing original applications of the suggested research perspective or engaging in a critical reflection on other already experimented methodologies are particularly encouraged. Papers from outside the humanities are also welcome, provided that they stick to the suggested reflection.
Young researchers –graduate students in particular - are invited to submit. Each session will be chaired by a faculty professor, while eminent specialists will be discussants.
Carlo Ginzburg (Scuola Normale Superiore )
Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo (Università degli Studi di Padova)
Mario Vegetti (Università degli Studi di Pavia)
Submission guidelines:
Abstracts for 20-minute presentation (with additional 10-minutes for discussion) should not exceed 500 words with an additional page for references and/or data, and should only include the title of the presentation. They should be sent as .pdf or .doc attachments to this address: godetails@unimi.it. The body of the email should also include paper title, author's name and affiliation.
Proposals will be anonymously peer-reviewed. Selected paper will be published in the proceedings of the conference. The official languages of the conference are Italian and English.
Important dates:
March 1, 2010 deadline for abstracts submission
March 15, 2010 notification of acceptance
For any information please contact the organizing comittee:Luca Daino, Maddalena Giovannelli, Sara Sullam, Stefano Versace at godetails@unimi.it