Lecture: “Infelicity and Unfalsifiablity: Literary Studies, Data Science, and the Future of Argumentation”

This event has been canceled and will be rescheduled during the academic year 2020–2021 if possible.

Thursday, April 2, 2020
3:30 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

Lecture sponsored by the Digital Culture and Media Initiative

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, Nan Z. Da (University of Notre Dame) will deliver a lecture titled “Infelicity and Unfalsifiablity: Literary Studies, Data Science, and the Future of Argumentation.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

This talk borrows from the rules of argumentation in the quantitative sciences to address the adjudication of quantitative methods in literary studies. The problems of a cross-disciplinarity heavily invested in application and rhetoric have finally come to a head in the last two years, with scholars alerted to a structural blindspot in which the language from respective donor disciplines is used to excuse the absence of import and rigor in the work. These disciplines might be reconvened, I suggest, to tackle what are traditionally called infelicitous arguments — arguments that are not wrong or inopportune, per se, but for which judgment has been made infelicitous, there being no forum, no possible way given current disciplinary and social formations, to articulate skepticism. These are arguments — in theory abjured by both disciplines — that have been made unfalsifiable. We know how infelicity works, phenomenologically, even if we do not always recognize it in practice. I address the felicity and falsifiability conditions in computational/quantitative literary studies with recourse to logics from social scientific domains, and discuss similar logics from within exemplary literary studies.

Speaker bio

Nan Da is assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches comparative literature and literary theory. She is the author of the book Intransitive Encounter (Columbia University Press, 2018) and two essays on the state of computational literary studies published in the journals Critical Inquiry and The Chronicle Review. Her other work can be found in American Literary History, Avidly, The Georgia Review, The Henry James Review, J19, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Public Books, Signs, Times Literary Supplement, The Threepenny Review, and The Yale Review. She also edits, with Professor Anahid Nersessian, Thinking Literature — a series dedicated to literary criticism sponsored by the University of Chicago Press.