Project (2014)

Types of Professionalization and Scientification in the Humanities, 1770–1870

There is a substantial and growing literature on the formation of the "modern scholar" and the corresponding ethos and scholarly persona in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. What has been lacking, however, is an analysis of the different forms and stages of this process. This project aimed to do just that.

The transition from early modern to modern models of scholarship was a multifaceted process that involved at least the following: institutionalization, state funding, professionalization, systematic data collection, programmatic texts, critique of predecessors, a rhetoric of "scientification," and the internalization of a "professional" work ethic. These did not always come as a package deal—some aspects, for instance the more cavalier critique and programmatic statements and the more commodious impersonal work ethos of the state-supported scholar, were even at odds. Nor were the transitions always smooth and gradual. There is an essential duplicity in all the rhetoric that promises to render a certain field of study more "scientific": scientification requires both accumulation (that is, continuity) and breaking with the past (that is, rupture). Sorting out these vicissitudes also has implications for how we currently conceive of "the humanities."