Exemplum and wundertier: Three concepts of the scholarly persona

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Abstract

The current proliferation of the term 'persona', especially in the history of science and scholarship, might conceal the fact that it is often used in three distinct senses. One, more akin to its use in literature and media studies, denotes an individual person's crafted image; a second notion of persona concerns 'what it takes to be' a worthy philosopher, a 'true' historian and so forth. Here, persona stands for a set of regulative ideals made flesh, of a commitment to shared moral and cognitive values. In a third sense, broader and messier than the second, persona is understood as a cultural template for a codified social role - the man of letters, the scientist and so on - emerging at the intersection of contradictory social forces: not a neat embodiment of a group of practitioners' shared values, but more a shaky historical compromise, sometimes an exemplum, sometimes a Wundertier and often both. After surveying briefly the three concepts, their uses and some of the problems they pose, the paper exemplifies the third notion by discussing Johannes Kepler's conscious attempts to grapple with the scholarly personae available to him.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-32
Number of pages25
JournalBijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden
Volume131
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

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