On Method and Methodology
Academic Support Reading Group for Research Students
Dr. Dean Kenning
** Limited spaces – Anyone interested in attending will need to confirm a place with Dean Kenning firstname.lastname@example.org **
It is a requirement that all research students address the question of methodology: that they are able to articulate and reflect on the justification and necessity of the methods they employ in their research. But what do we mean when we speak of a research method? Is it a recipe? A set of procedures, generic guidelines or axioms? Ad hoc tools to help with a particular task? A paradigm or conceptual framework? Founding principles? An epistemology?
The aim of this reading group is to address and clarify the thorny question of method, through engagement with a number of texts by philosophers, theorists and artists. These texts, covering key methodologies in the arts, humanities and social sciences, will compliment, converge with and act as a counterpoint to the works being looked at in the main MRes seminars. The premise of this course is that methodology should not be seen as an add-on – a list of research skills to be ticked off or an obligatory paragraph in a dissertation – but that it is central to and indivisible from the content, meaning, form, expression and function of the work itself.
Through engagement with the texts and group discussion we will examine key philosophical methods such as deduction, induction, analysis, synthesis, radical doubt, dialectics, hermeneutics, structuralism and genealogy; we will compare methodologies in science, humanities and the social sciences and see how particular methods may be antagonistic or complimentary with regards to other methods; we will notice how imagery, storytelling and metaphor are used as means of theoretical explication and exploration; and we will consider artistic methodologies such as rule-oriented conceptual or performance art, cut-up as a literary method, and the estrangement technique in theatre. Throughout students will be encouraged to reflect upon their own research methods, to bring to light the assumptions that underlie their arguments, and to invent new methodological tools which will be of specific use to them, in both informing, and forming their current and future research.
1. Introduction: What is Methodology?
Wed 5 November, 3-5pm Rm. A116
R. Krauss, ‘Introduction’ from The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths
2. First Principles
Wed 21 January, 2-4pm Rm. D105
R. Descartes, ‘Discourse on the Method of Properly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking the Truth in the Sciences’, in Discourse on Method and the Meditations, (Penguin Edition)
Esp. Discourse 2 & 4
Immanuel Kant, ‘Preamble on the Peculiarities of all Metaphysical Cognition’ from Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
Wed 11 February, 2-4pm, Rm. D103
Fredric Jameson, ‘The Three Names of the Dialectic’ in Valences of the Dialectic
David Harvey, ‘Introduction: On Contradiction’ in Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism
4. Sociology: For and Against
Tuesday 24 March, 2-4pm Rm. A117
Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Principles for a Sociology of Cultural Works’ in The Field of Cultural Production. Essays on Art & Literature
Kristin Ross, ‘Translator’s Introduction’ in Jacques Ranciere, The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation
5. Language: Knowledge vs. Truth
Room and date tbc
Walter Benjamin, ‘Epistemo-Critical Prologue’ inThe Origin of German Tragic Drama
6. Foucault: From Archaeology to Genealogy
Room and Date tbc
M. Foucault, ‘Introduction’ from The Archaeology of Knowledge
M. Foucault, ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’, in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul
Quotes on method
Can it be argued that the interest of critical writing lies almost entirely in its method? Can it be held that the content of any given evaluative statement – “this is good, important,” “this is bad, trivial” – is not what serious criticism is, seriously, read for? But rather, that such criticism is understood through the forms of its arguments, through the way that its method, in the process of constituting the object of criticism, exposes to view those choices that precede and predetermine any act of judgment?
R. Krauss, ‘Introduction’ from The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, p.1
For research is by definition a search for form quite as much and at the same time as it has any content to report; methods should be seen as being constructed (for particular purposes) rather than being selected (for any general usefulness).
Peter Clough and Cathy Nutbrown, A Student’s Guide to Methodology, p.17
Anyone familiar with research in the human sciences knows that, contrary to common opinion, a reflection on method usually follows practical application, rather than preceding it. It is a matter, then, of ultimate or penultimate thoughts, to be discussed among friends and colleagues, which can legitimately be articulated only after extensive research.
[…] Contrary to common opinion, method shares with logic its inability to separate itself completely from its context. There is no method that would be valid for every domain, just as there is no logic that can set aside its objects.
According to another methodological principle […] the genuine philosophical element in every work, whether it be a work of art, of science, or of thought, is its capacity to be developed […]
Giorgio Agamben, ‘Preface’ from The Signature of All Things. On Method, p.7
When you cut into the present, the future leaks out
William Burroughs on the cut-up technique
Fischli & Weiss, How to Work Better, 1991