Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: March 22, 2021, 6:42 a.m. Humanist 34.292 - 'theory'

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 292.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2021-03-21 22:16:32+00:00
        From: ­머피테리 (전임교원/문과대학 영어영문학) <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.291: 'theory'?

Dear Willard,

One place to start might be with a History of Science, especially one that
goes through the theoretical breakthroughs, discipline by discipline.

Here is an example:

If I think about English Studies, however, the trouble with what you are
suggesting is that each generation seems to adopt some concepts from what
is fashionable elsewhere in the university: for example, structural or
cultural anthropology in the 60s, evolutionary psychology in the 2000s, and
various stylometric systems in the 2010s. It shifts.

All best wishes,

On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 9:58 PM Humanist <> wrote:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 291.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                                 Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: 2021-03-20 12:10:15+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         Subject: 'theory'?
> One of the most treacherous intellectual tar-pits for the unwary must
> be 'theory'. By this I don't mean what Jonathan Culler, in Literary
> Theory: A Very Short Introduction (1997), called "just plain ‘theory’"
> (p. 1), or what Terry Eagleton, in After Theory (2003), meant either.
> I mean 'theory' as a promissory note, used as if it the word simply
> denoted a universal constant, invariant across disciplines, most
> likely carrying baggage filled with unexamined debts to the
> physical sciences or to someone in the Nomenklatura, suffused with
> the longing to be like them, accepted, authoritative.
> Gadamer, in "Praise of Theory" ("Lob der Theorie", 1980), starts
> at the beginning (ours, that is), with the origins of the word in
> Ancient Greek, often translated 'contemplation'. Between then
> and now 'theory' has accumulated so many uses (as the OED
> entry shows) as to bewilder attempts to define it. Not that I
> think any single definition would help.
> What I do think would be truly helpful would be a study of uses
> discipline by discipline. Stephan Trüby's "Tausendundeine
> Theorie" (2015), trans. Natasha Fewtrell (2017), helps but isn't
> quite what I am looking for, as it does not relate common
> usage in each discipline to the agenda of that discipline.
> Any suggestions?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

Dr. Terence Murphy
Dept of English
College of Liberal Arts
50 Yonsei-ro
Seoul, KOREA

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