From Enkyklios Paideia to Wikipedia: Genealogies of Knowledge in French Encyclopedism Open Access

Rottman, Eric Michael (2016)

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This dissertation presents a genealogical approach to the understanding and conceptualization of encyclopedic knowledge in the French tradition. Critical analysis of key encyclopedic moments in the works of Vincent de Beauvais, Charles Sorel, and Denis Diderot reveals a penchant to retool knowledge in order that it might be managed and controlled. Encyclopedias however did not initially concern themselves with regulating knowledge, but rather entailed formative dimensions used for the cultivation of self-knowledge. In the Speculum Maius, this paradigm gave way to new systems of learning that reoriented encyclopedism away from the contemplative, towards imposed systems of understanding. The Science Universelle and Encyclopédie continued this effort through the development of systematic presentations of knowledge characterized by dialogue with contemporary research and theory. The propensity to refashion encyclopedic knowledge continues to inform epistemological and structural evolution in encyclopedias -- most distinctly, through platforms based online such as Wikipedia, whose operating paradigm privileges efficiency and being up-to-date over and above the framing of its contents. Not only does Wikipedia put into question humanity's relationship with digitally mediated encyclopedic knowledge, it redefines it. Such concerns are of fundamental significance for contemporary society captivated by questions of information systemization and use. This interdisciplinary study, which is at the crossroads of French Literature, philosophy, history, critical theory, and the digital humanities, enabling it to offer a more nuanced, longitudinal approach to the study of encyclopedism.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Two Handbooks of Life

Introduction 12

Pliny's Stoic Commonplace 17

Understanding Nature in the Naturalis 22

The Fall and Divine Illumination in the Speculum Maius 33

Wisdom, Virtue, and Necessity 43

Conclusion 52

Chapter 2: "Universal" Learning

Introduction 55

Overtaking Aristotle 63

Method 68

Experimental Demonstration 74

Theory and Practice 84

Conclusion 87

Chapter 3: Enlightening Knowledge

Introduction 89

Knowledge and Order 106

Renvois 108

The Planches 121

Conclusion 127

Chapter 4: Wikipedia and the Digital Age

Introduction 132

The Rules of Collaboration 134

Bots, Speed, and Hyperlinks 141

Secondary Appropriation 148

Conclusion 150

Conclusion 152

Bibliography 156

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