Imagining Invention and Inventors and the Role of Nature
Prof. dr. Ineke Sluiter (Leiden) and Dr. Casper de Jonge (Leiden); additional supervisory expertise dependent on the needs of the project
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.
The Faculty of Humanities of Leiden University is a unique international centre for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see here. The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. LUCAS is dedicated to ground-breaking research that explores the multifaceted relationships between the arts and society. For more information see here.
PhD project, 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2021. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation. It is possible to extend the position over 5 years at 0,8 fte. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2.395 to € 3.061 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PhDs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities). Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information see here.
The Anchoring Innovation program is strongly committed to diversity within its team and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.
Enquiries about the position can be addressed to Prof. dr. Ineke Sluiter, firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not hesitate to contact your prospective supervisor about the design of your research proposal. Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr. Suzanne van de Liefvoort, email@example.com.
In order to be admissible, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):
Please submit your complete application to Dr. Suzanne van de Liefvoort, the coordinator of the Anchoring-program via firstname.lastname@example.org before April 24, 2021. Interviews will take place in the week of May 24-28, 2021 and will probably be held online.