Jani Marjanen: "The History of Concepts after the Digital Turn: On Agency, Reception, and Interpretation"

  • Datum: –17.00
  • Plats: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausingrummet)
  • Arrangör: Institutionen för idé- och lärdomshistoria
  • Kontaktperson: Hanna Hodacs
  • Seminarium

Högre seminariet i idé- och lärdomshistoria

Forskningspresentation av Jani Marjanen, Helsingfors universitet.


With the emergence of large, digitized collections, scholarship in the humanities has increasingly turned to studying texts as data. In fields like literary history or intellectual history, which have traditionally been focused on the analysis of individual texts in context, the study of text as data has both been seen as a threat to classical humanistic inquiry as well as an opportunity to broaden the scope of study. This paper argues that seeing text as data is particularly apt for the study of conceptual history. While most of the ideas presented in Koselleck’s program relate to the study of individual texts and their word use in context, the essay shows how many of Koselleck’s early hypotheses about modernity and temporal shifts in political and social language also had a quantitative element to them. Keeping to the Koselleckian paradigm, the quantitative perspective allows for rethinking the analytical terminology used to analyze historical processes relating to the transformation of political and social terminology. Further, quantitiative conceptual history requires rethinking on three levels. First, it forces scholars of conceptual history to reconsider the role of reception in the spread and lexicalization of linguistic innovations. Second, quantification inevitably is less prone to grasp the agency of innovative ideologists and hence forces the scholar of conceptual history to assess how to combine quantitative proof of overall linguistic change with the analysis of novel rhetorical moves in individual speech acts. Third, the use of quantitative methods for analyzing historical language calls for clarity in describing what is being measured and what is being interpreted based on quantitative analyses.

The seminar will be followed by a social drink at Williams.

Foto: Jani Marjanen. Fotograf: Janne Rentola, Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland.