Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities Research Seminar Series

“A General Secretariat of Precision and Soul”: Thinking with the Humanities after the Fourth Revolution

Image of Robert MusilI aim to defend a particular type of thought that emerges from intelligent literature. I argue that this type of thought serves community: it promotes what used straightforwardly to be called philosophical reflection and it sets out both to critique and strengthen our ethical responses to change in the world. While I refer to several examples in defending this view of intelligent literature, I lean particularly heavily on Robert Musil. Musil was a qualified engineer, a doctor of philosophy and psychology, and one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Among many reasons to hold Musil in high esteem is his unfinished masterpiece The Man Without Qualities (1930; 1933), a work that anticipated the arrival of the digital or “fourth” revolution by several decades. I provide an extended reading of a chapter from this novel in order demonstrate the significance of the special class of literature I defend. I also indicate how such literature does the type of ethical work we cannot be without in a new age of “posthumanism.”

Tim Mehigan is Professor of German and Deputy Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. He has published widely on German literature and thought since 1780. Of particular note is his work on Heinrich von Kleist and Robert Musil. In 2011 he published with de Gruyter (Berlin) the first translation of K.L. Reinhold’s treatise on representation (Essay on a New Theory of the Human Capacity for Representation), a difficult work of Kantian exegesis from 1789 that had long defied attempts to render it into English. Tim has also produced important work on the Nobel Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee. The edited volume The Intellectual Landscape in the Works of J.M. Coetzee is soon to appear with Camden House in the United States. His Companion to the Works of J.M. Coetzee was published, also with Camden House, in 2011. In 2013 Tim received the Research Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; in 2017 he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Humanities in 2003.

4.00pm Thursday 26 October 2017
E302, Forgan Smith East, 

St Lucia Campus, The University of Queensland

For further information, please contact or 07 334 59492.

All welcome.


Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower (Building #1)