Thu

02

Jan

2014

World Humanities / World Canonical Texts - Future Directions

These are just directions to guide my personal thinking on this general topic of World Humanities / World Canonical Texts:

 

1. Enhance understanding of global historiography - currently I have read most I can find in English for Arabic and Persian historiography; have a good general sense of Chinese historiography; the part I am mostly missing is paradoxically western historiography - ancient, medieval and modern. To make up for this, needs to re-visit Breisach's work, and also probably study "Oxford History of Historical Writings Vol. 2" (I have read Vol. 3 cover to cover for the period 1400-1800, Vol 2 covers 400-1400AD.)

 

2. Start reading about World-level Intellectual History - just found a book called "Global Intellectual History" published in mid-2013 - unsurprisingly, published by Columbia University Press. Peter Burke's 2012 book on sociology on knowledge since Enlightenment (western-focused) also look promising. Also noticed Peter Watson's two books (written for the general public) on Intellectual History for the 20th century (mostly western, starts with Freud), and one that is more global in coverage talking about everything before Freud. For the "Islamicate" portion - Marshall Hodgson is still supreme I think Also remembered I have a book in Chinese written by GE Zhaoguang 葛兆光 on the way to write intellectual history (that is the introduction to an actual history he wrote). On India for the older style I am very familiar with Basham's "The Wonder that was India" but the sequel on the post 1200/1300 period is much less strong - a gap that needs to be filled. 

 

3. Should also start thinking about creating new versions of canonical text lists - one 4-5 text version (one-semester methodological, deeper reading or introductory course), one ~20 text version (full-year reading course), and a 2-year course with ~50 texts. But before I get to these, I feel that I need to update the total list by extending the period to later in 20th century. Two reasons for this, as time passes by, if we keep the theory that it takes about 100 years for texts to have somewhat stable position in the canon, then very soon it is time to decide whether Tagore or Iqbal needs to be included (and then how about Gandhi?), Freud probably needs to be in somehow (but how about founders of other branches of social sciences beyond Psychology?), and in about a decade's time "modernism" needs to be included, and in Columbia's program, Virginia Woolf is also a constant in the last 3 decades or so. I am thinking for things to be really stable, once we break through the nominal stopping point at 1900, then the next stable point of cut-off is probably 1945 - but if we include authors before then, just for philosophers there will be Wittgenstein and Heideggar, and also the questions of other regions (e.g. du Bois on Africans, Lenin and Mao, maybe some Latin Americans / Southeast Asians) will arise. If I go about extending the list to include 1945, it will be a big undertaking which may take 1-2 years to complete. The readings involved will be huge, but probably quite rewarding (and complementary to my wish to read up on British Empire + post-1945 history) as well. 

 

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