Instructor

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Lawrence Rothfield

Lawrence Rothfield
Associate Professor, Departments of English Language and Literature and Comparative Literature, and the College

My research focuses on the way in which literature, criticism, and other cultural activities are caught up within epistemic and political struggles. I am interested in understanding, in particular, how the nineteenth-century novel in England and France mutates in response to changes in what counts as knowledge (the emergence of physiology, statistics, economics, biology, linguistics, Darwinism); how cultural criticism carves out a niche for itself within the field of disciplines; and how fiction and criticism function as instruments of power. These concerns are reflected in my first book, Vital Signs, an analysis of the ways in which the realist imagination was shaped by the diagnostic techniques and professional tactics borrowed from clinical medicine. Since completing that relatively tightly focused project, I have broadened my scope to include a larger set of research questions about the utilities of culture. What is the history of efforts to mobilize culture for various ends? How has the "public good" aspect of the arts, humanities, and heritage been conceived? If the cultural field can be understood as an economy, a market, or an ecological system, what norms govern its functioning, and what norms ought to do so? What good (or harm) does culture do? How has this impact been measured? How does the state regulate, exploit, promote, protect, or manage the arts and humanities? How can we best understand the role played by intellectuals of various sorts in relationship to the state and public interests? These questions led me to co-found the Cultural Policy Center, which brings together faculty whose research—whether in economics, law, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, political science, public policy, history, art history, or cultural studies—touches on or could help inform policies (regarding copyright regimes, government funding, censorship, heritage preservation, etc.) affecting the arts and humanities.

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