Dr Benjamin Dawson
Lecturer in Romanticism and Critical Theory
I was born in London and took undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature at Durham and Birkbeck, where I wrote a dissertation on James Joyce. My PhD (London Consortium, 2012) returned to the Romantic period and concerned relations between British Romanticism, German Idealism and the historical epistemology of the European sciences. Before joining QMUL in September 2014, I was a research fellow at the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry (2010-12) and postdoctoral researcher at the graduate school ‘Mediale Historiographien’, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (2012-14). I have published articles on, among others, Hegel, Mary Shelley, J. W. Ritter, William James, and contemporary historical epistemology.
In the 2015-16 academic year, I am teaching on:
- Romanticism and Classical German Philosophy
- History of the Novel (esp. women's fiction)
- Relations of Literary History and Communication Technologies
- Historical Epistemology (esp. Foucault)
My research situates itself in the wake of Foucault’s arguments concerning the cultural significance of the emergence, from around 1750, of the modern ‘life sciences’. I am interested in the underlying epistemological conditions of this emergence, its connections to new economic theories and political techniques, and relations both to Romantic literature and post-Kantian philosophy. In my book, Hegel’s Critique of Scientific Reason: The Experience of Science in the Age of Idealism (forthcoming), I read two sections of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (‘Force and Understanding’ and ‘Observational Reason') in connection with, respectively, the classical mechanics and observation-based sciences treated in them. The book argues that Hegel’s approach to the sciences in these sections needs to be distinguished from that of Idealist philosophies of nature, and situated instead in relation to an alternative Romantic tradition of historical and epistemological reflection upon the cultures and practices of scientific research.
In addition to this work, I have two related projects: (1) a cross-disciplinary analysis of the procedural rationality of observation as it arose in multiple forms around 1750 (from experimental physiology, to the sentimental novel, to political economy); and (2) a study, centering on the work of Edgar Wind, of methodological continuities between art history and history of science in the early 20th century.
‘othing’, in Edinburgh Critical History of Nineteenth-Century Christian Theology, ed. by Daniel Whistler (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming)
‘Science and the Scientific Disciplines’, in Oxford Handbook of European Romanticism, ed. by Paul Hamilton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
‘Bacon / Böhme . . Hegel – James’, Slovenian trans. by Maja Lovrenov, ed. Mladen Dolar, Problemi 9-10 (2014), pp. 47-73.
‘Para acabar de vez com as polaridades: algumas glosas em torno do trabalho de Giorgio Agamben’ [‘To Have Done With Polarities: some glosses on the work of Giorgio Agamben’], Portuguese trans. by Elisa de Silva in Pensamento Crítico Contemporâneo, ed. by Unipop (Lisboa: Edições 70, 2014), pp. 32-46
‘Volition/Distinction: Two Figures of the Human in the Age of Experimental Systems’, in Multistable Figures: On the Critical Potentials of Ir/Reversible Aspect-Seeing, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey (Wien: Turia & Kant Verlag, ‘Cultural Inquiry’, 2013), pp. 113-140: http://www.turia.at/titel/ci_multistable_figures.html
‘Anthropolarity: The Human Economy of Frankenstein’, in Anthropocentrism: Humans, Animals, Environments, ed. by Rob Boddice (Leiden: Brill Academic Press, ‘Human-Animal Studies’, 2011), pp. 133-156: http://www.brill.nl/anthropocentrism
‘Worldmaking as Fate’, in Cultural Ways of Worldmaking: Media and Narratives, ed. by V. Nünning, A. Nünning, and B. Neumann (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, ‘Concepts for the Study of Culture’, 2010), pp. 61-86: http://www.degruyter.com/viewbooktoc/product/177150
‘Profanations’, Critical Quarterly, 51.2 (2009): 102-109. [Review of Giorgio Agamben, Profanations, trans. by Jeff Fort (Zone Books, 2007): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8705.2009.01867.x/abstract