U.S. Intellectual History Blog

The Importance of Learning: Liberal Education and Scholarship in Historical Perspective (Call for Papers)

Howard Hotson, Professor of Early Modern Intellectual History at Oxford and President of the International Society for Intellectual History, just called my attention to the isih’s 2012 conference, which will be held at Princeton University on September 4-6 and is entitled The Importance of Learning: Liberal Education and Scholarship in Historical Perspective.

It looks like a fascinating event and should be of interest to members of S-USIH and readers of this blog.

Paper and panel proposals are due on April 16, 2012.  The complete Call for Papers can be found at the above link and below the fold.

The Importance of Learning: Liberal Education and Scholarship in Historical Perspective
Princeton University
4-6 September 2012

Call for Papers

It is an inescapable fact of contemporary life that the idea of a liberal education, an education that aims primarily at the cultivation of the intellect and sensibility rather than at preparation for a particular vocation, is widely under attack all over the world. In country after country, the idea of learning for its own sake is being swept aside, as institutions of higher education are pressured to devote themselves primarily to preparing students for careers in practical areas. The global membership of the International Society for Intellectual History is in a unique position to illuminate these questions from a genuinely historical and cosmopolitan perspective.
The range of potential questions is vast:

  • What role did the ideal of liberal education play in classical Western intellectual culture?
  • How did the idea arise in ancient Greece? How was it modified in transmission to ancient Rome?
  • Was it fundamental to higher education in the medieval and early modern periods?
  • How did it mix and mingle with other, more practical conceptions of higher learning throughout history?
  • How did the high theorists of university teaching and research in the nineteenth and early twentieth century develop the idea?
  • Have their writings been superseded? If so, how and why?
  • What lessons can be learned from the intellectual history of non-western cultures?
  • What cultural values and intellectual assumptions have sustained the quest for new knowledge and its transmission to the next generation outside the Western world?
  • What forces and agendas are propelling the current redefinition of university learning around the world?
  • What prospect is there for reviving elements of this traditional concept in an idiom appropriate to the twenty-first century?

During the conference, a series of distinguished keynote speakers, to be announced shortly, will help determine some of the broad lineaments of the topic, which will be further explored in contributions of two main kinds submitted in response to this call for papers. The first and principal form of contributions will be brief papers relating to the theme of liberal education, scholarship, and their place in society. Papers can concentrate on any period, region, tradition or discipline, including the arts, humanities, sciences, and various forms of professional learning. As well as individual papers, we welcome proposals for panels of up to three papers and a commentator. Individual papers will be twenty minutes long, followed by ten minutes of discussion.

The second set of contributions will be posters designed to draw on the international scope of the Society. The purpose of the posters is to document the various attempts to reform higher education being pursued simultaneously in various countries. As well as brief narratives of major legislative and reform programs and opposition to them, posters should include references to resources for studying the national situation further: news broadcasts, documentaries, serious journalism, academic studies, and legislation itself. As well as displaying the posters and discussing them in a poster session, it is hoped that this material can be collected and archived on the Society’s website as a readily accessible resource.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words for each paper or poster. Proposals for panels featuring a maximum of four papers should not exceed 2500 words. All proposals – for papers, panels, and posters – should be accompanied by a brief CV or biographical statement. Individual contributors are welcome to present both a paper (or panel) and a poster at the conference. All proposals are due 16 April 2012. Decisions will be announced by 1 May. Please send proposals to James Lancaster (james.lancaster(at)postgrad.sas.ac.uk), to whom you should also address any queries.

2 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Let me add in comments that the isih is a truly international society, which seems to have its annual conference in the U.S. only once or twice a decade. So for those of us in the U.S., this is a rare opportunity to take part fairly close to home.

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