Philosophy + Literature Workshop with Elaine Auyoung: Epistemic Injustice and the Humanities

Tue November 14th 2023, 6:15 - 7:45pm PST
Event Sponsor
Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
Philosophy and Literature at Stanford
Building 260, Pigott Hall
450 Jane Stanford Way, Building 260, Stanford, CA 94305
Rm 252

The Philosophy + Literature Focal Group welcomes Elaine Auyoung (English, University of Minnesota) for a workshop titled  "Epistemic Injustice and the Humanities".

Elaine Auyoung (pronounced O-Young) is an associate professor of English and an affiliated faculty member of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and the Center for Cognitive Sciences. Her multidisciplinary interests include nineteenth-century British literature and culture, the experience of reading, psychological approaches to the arts, feminist epistemology, and learning in the humanities. Her scholarship seeks to recover forms of knowledge and experience that disciplinary norms and institutional structures systematically exclude or discount.  

Her current project intervenes in recent efforts to specify the epistemic status of literary criticism. It begins by recognizing disciplinary developments within epistemology itself. On multiple fronts, philosophers are pursuing areas of inquiry that have been foreclosed by classical epistemology’s preoccupation with truth and with a disembodied, self-sufficient Cartesian knower. Drawing on Miranda Fricker’s account of epistemic injustice, Auyoung argues that the absence of adequate conceptual resources for articulating the nature and value of literary study has been overdetermined by higher education’s ascetic hierarchy of values. To remedy this, she engages cognitive research on expertise and the inductive processes of perceptual and conceptual learning. This work demystifies how literature and literary study structure our perception and guide our attention, preparing us to approach novel problems and experiences in increasingly discriminating and flexible ways. Besides recovering the centrality of perceptual transformation to the humanities, this project seeks to help democratize the literature classroom and to show how exclusionary hierarchies of value continue to prevent us from doing justice to the arts. The presentation will expand on a short essay that appeared in the March 2023 issue of PMLA.