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Two PhD candidates for the project: Imagining invention and inventors and the role of nature

Καταληκτική Ημερομηνία: 
Σάββατο, Απρίλιος 24, 2021

Two PhD candidates for the project: Imagining invention and inventors and the role of nature.

New ideas and inventions that affect social life cannot thrive unless they are somehow embedded in the society for which they are intended. Innovation will always be connected somehow—both in the ways it is communicated and perceived, and in terms of content—to what people know, believe, want, value, and can understand. This is true even of radical, path-breaking, ‘revolutionary’ ideas and insights. This phenomenon of ‘anchoring’ is central to the new research agenda of the Dutch classicists.

In Classical Antiquity, one way in which this ‘anchoring’ is realized is through narratives of inventors and inventions, a rich genre providing a social biography for the accoutrements of human life. Writing, seafaring, building houses, making sacrifice to the gods: there is a great concern with establishing the pedigree of these phenomena, which are often associated with specific ‘culture heroes’, gods, and other inventors, who act as ‘Agents of Change’. Sometimes we find ideas about collective invention, for instance of language and speech. There are also a few instances of women inventors. Stories of the prôtoi heuretai help to structure and anchor the past of a group. Today we can still identify modern ‘myths of invention’, featuring for instance (stereotypical) inventors, lone wolves and geniuses, and epics of endurance, sudden insights and serendipity. Modern narratives of invention thus also have a recognizable discourse of their own.

A particularly fruitful anchoring topos is to use the inspiration of nature: artis natura magistra. This is particularly obvious in stories of technological inventions, as when the bones of a fish inspire the invention of the comb. On the other hand, human technology and cultural advances can also be perceived as a threat to the natural order: humankind trespasses on the domain of the gods, and hubristically exceeds its natural limits.

This nexus of ideas deserves in-depth exploration in the context of our Anchoring Innovation program. We invite structured PhD proposals with ideas on the discourse, themes, scenarios, and cognitive and social functioning of these stories of inventors and inventions of all kinds, the ‘rhetoric and poetics of invention and inventors’. And we also are looking for a study of the role of nature in the cultural imagination of invention, inventors, and human culture.

Candidates are invited to design a structured PhD proposal (title, research question, scholarly background, aims, method, corpus) around these questions. They are free to adopt a literary or linguistic approach, one related to theories about Agents of Change, or based on ancient philosophy (ethics). In their proposals, they should outline their suggested approach, main research question, and expected original contribution to the field.

Key responsibilities

Completion of a PhD thesis within four years (1.0 FTE) or five years (0.8 FTE);
Participation in meetings of the project research group(s);
Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
Participation in the training programme of the local Leiden Graduate School and the National Research School in Classics (OIKOS);
Participation in staff meetings of the Leiden Classics team and the intellectual life of the department and the institute;
Some teaching in the second and third years of the appointment.

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