History and Virtual Topology: The Nineteenth-Century Press as Material Flow

Published: Aug 21, 2018
virtual topology becoming Gilles Deleuze new materialism digital humanities text reuse detection
Asko Nivala
Hannu Salmi
Jukka Sarjala

Drawing on a new materialist approach, this article discusses the concepts of the virtual and virtual topology, and their fruitfulness for historians' empirical work. It starts by following Gilles Deleuze's argument that the virtual, the transformative potential of the real, has to be distinguished from the possible, which is merely an imagined double of the given world. Embracing this premise, the article shows the potential of virtual topology to shed light on the transformation of a network in the past. It suggests that history is not only about actual and stable things, it is also a site of becomings. This idea is elaborated through an analysis that focuses on the changes in the nineteenth-century Finnish press. The virtual as a theoretical concept is combined with the methodological opportunities offered by recent developments in the digital humanities, in this case, text reuse detection.

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Author Biographies
Asko Nivala, Department of Cultural History & Turku Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Turku
Asko Nivala is a postdoctoral researcher at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies. His research focuses on the age of German Romanticism. In 2017, he published a monograph The Romantic Idea of the Golden Age in Friedrich Schlegel's Philosophy of History (Routledge Studies in Cultural History). The book discusses the themes of the Golden Age and the Kingdom of God in Friedrich Schlegel’s (1772–1829) early thought. In addition to that, Nivala has studied the spatiality of thought and concepts, about which he co-edited the book Travelling Notions of Culture in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe (Routledge 2016) together with Hannu Salmi and Jukka Sarjala.
Hannu Salmi, Department of Cultural History, University of Turku

Hannu Salmi is professor of cultural history and academy professor at the University of Turku in Finland. He has published widely, especially on nineteenth-century cultural history but also on the history of music, film and television and on the history of emotions and the senses. He is the founding member of the International Society for Cultural History and served as the first Chair of its Committee in 2008-2013. He has led several research projects, including Travelling Notions of Culture: Itineraries of Bildung and Civilisation in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe, funded by the Academy of Finland, 2012-2015, and Memory Boxes: Cultural Transfer in Europe 1500-2000, co-funded by the Academy of Finland and the DAAD in 2012-2013. Salmi is the author of, for example, Nineteenth-Century Europe: A Cultural History (Polity Press, 2008, translated into Polish in 2010) and Wagner and Wagnerism in Nineteenth-Century Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic Provinces: Reception, Enthusiasm, Cult (University of Rochester Press, 2005). He has contributed into such journals as History and Theory, Storia della Storiografia, Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, Film & History, Archiv für Kulturgeschichte and Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft. He was also awarded the Non-fiction Writer Prize 2013 in Finland.

Jukka Sarjala, Department of Cultural History, University of Turku

Jukka Sarjala is a senior researcher at the Department of Cultural History, University of Turku. His current interests are early Romanticism and Gothic, the intellectual and cultural history of the early nineteenth century.

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