OSL Seminar – Poetics of Knowledge

Poetics of Knowledge

OSL Seminar 2014-15

Date & location: February – May 2015, University of Amsterdam (exact dates, see below)
For: RMa/PhD, 5 EC
Venue: 6 & 27 February, PCH K.04 / 27 March, BH 3.37 / 12 May, UB – Potgieterzaal / 29 May, PCH 5.59
PCH – PC Hoofthuis, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam
BH – Bungehuis, Spuistraat 210, Amsterdam
UB – University Library, Singel 425, Amsterdam
Organization: dr. Saskia Pieterse (UU) and dr. Stephan Besser (UvA)

Research into the various relations between literature and knowledge has been a productive as well as topical trend in literary studies in recent years (think of the shifting relations between sciences and humanities, persistent calls for interdisciplinarity and the trending notion of the “knowledge society”). Research conducted in this area might focus on the interaction between literature and disciplines as diverse as psychology/psychoanalysis (M. Kemperink), neuroscience (F. Vidal), economics (J. Vogl), biology, ecology and cybernetics. What ties these different approaches together is their aim to treat literature not as a “secondary” response to knowledge that is “primarily” created within other realms—for this would limit the role of literature to popularizing or critiquing science and deny its ability to produce knowledge itself. Vice versa, scientific thought is not seen as inherently a-literary or non-poetic but instead as a production of knowledge that cannot be separated from its modes of representation and aesthetic forms of expression.

This seminar departs from the premise that the emergence of new areas and objects of knowledge is always facilitated and shaped by what has been called the “poetics of knowledge” (J. Vogl, J. Rancière et al.). Poetics here is defined as the techniques of representation and “styles of thought” (L. Fleck) that have a formative influence on the knowledge they signify and communicate (Greek: poiēsis – a making). Hence, these poetics can include diagrams, graphs and various forms of visualization as well as narratives, metaphors and other linguistic devices. The poetics of knowledge are thus not limited to science itself, but at work in literature and culture at large as well. Therefore, they open intriguing and innovative possibilities for the study of literary texts in relation to their discursive, institutional and material environments. In this seminar we will explore the conceptual as well as the practical dimensions of these possibilities.


Students are expected to attend at least 4 of the sessions, and to participate actively in the discussions. There will be mandatory reading for each of the sessions. Students are required to hand in a discussion point (ca. 200 words) on the assigned material two days before every session, except the first one (Please send your discussion points to s.besser@uva.nl and S.A.Pieterse@uu.nl). Participants will have to write a 2000-words paper on a topic of their choice to complete the course. (Please note that these regulations do not apply for PhD candidates who do not want to earn EC in this course).


  1. Friday, Febr 6, 14:00-17:00: Introduction (Saskia Pieterse, UU & Stephan Besser, UvA)
  2. Friday, Febr 27, 14:00-17:00: Brain Memoirs and the Poetics of Neuroculture (Jason Tougaw, CUNY)
  3. Friday, March 27, 14:00-17:00: Economic Discourses (Saskia Pieterse)
  4. Tuesday, May 12, 14:00-17:00: The Encyclopedic Novel (Bart Vervaeck, KU Leuven & Luc Herman, Universiteit Antwerpen)
  5. Friday, May 29, 14:00-17:00: The Humanities in the Age of Knowledge Work (Frans Willem Korsten, UL & EUR)