The Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University provides high level academic programming to energize the campus and promotes innovative research and scholarship through our faculty and visiting fellows program. Explore our website to learn more about our Monday night lecture series (6 p.m. in Daniel Family Commons), fellowships, Director’s blog, and the many other exciting endeavors emanating from the Center.

Spring 2018

Grand Narratives/Modest Proposals

In 1979 Jean-Francois Lyotard famously announced the end of the Grand Narrative ushering in a new epistemological frame based on fragmentation and difference.  The initial impetus of this movement was characterized by a turn to high theory but this eventually shifted toward an interest in returning to the "real", to the evidentiary, and to matters of fact.  More recently, and despite pretensions to divine a more immediate access to the subjects under investigation, this impulse has been characterized in the human sciences by a rhetoric of modesty quite removed from either the grand narratives or high theory of the prior movements.  And yet such modest proposals are now igniting a return to grand narrative be it in evolutionary theory, Big or Deep History, or the vast expanse of the digital humanities.  The counter or companion to this unlikely twinning is a resurgence of apologetic or unapologetic rhetorics of big theory or narrative/interpretation as either counterpoint or support.  In this semester, we will explore the relation of grand narratives, modest proposals, and meta-narratives over diverse periods and places bringing these to bear on our current moment.