14 Mar 2024 17:00-19:00 SG1 Alison Richard Building



Dr Siddharth Soni is a Lecturer in Literature and Digital Culture in the Department of English at the University of Southampton. Previously, he was the Isaac Newton Trust Fellow at Cambridge Digital Humanities. He has taught in many areas of modern and contemporary literature for the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. A proposal for his current book-project ‘Monstrous Archives’ was the winner of the £25k Ideas Prize 2023. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Critical Quarterly, Review of English Studies, and New Formations.


How exhausted we are by this question, which has now accrued years of frankly repetitive debate. Are digital methods antithetical to critique? Or do they expand upon it? Are they ideologically incommensurate? Or can there exist a kind of hybrid practice? Those irritated by the impasse say it serves only to stultify actual digital scholarship, making us talk about it in the abstract. Others who find it irrelevant shrug and defer to the decline of the humanities broadly: ‘at least it’s not economics’.

Even to engage with the question in earnest risks confirming the field’s self-referential tendencies; detractors say all it does is chew over its own institutional history and methods, by now rather heterogenous. Yet, I argue, that we must persist in asking this question, less because it will produce a resolution, but because it may point us to some underlying reasons why the question won’t go away.

In this talk, I am interested, as such, in the resilience of this question, for I believe it speaks equally to an anxiety at the heart of critique, as one at the heart of digital humanities. I place ‘DH’ hence, not in relation to critique, but upon the anxious terrain left by recent polemical responses to critical practice, be that anti-critique, post-critique, or otherwise its plain neoliberalist devaluation. I propose two concepts ‘disciplined curiosity’ and ‘critical commonsense’, both in debt, somewhat, of Frederic Jameson, as a way to make sense of what I believe is a wholly ideological standoff between the digital, on one hand, and the humanities, on the other.


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