Dr Helen Thaventhiran is a Cambridge Early Career Fellow and will be at CRASSH in Lent Term 2020.

During my term at CRASSH, I will continue work towards a book, Micrologies: Writing in the Margins of Philosophy. This book considers discourses about meaning in the years, 1870-1970, which represent the pre-history and flourishing of the analytical philosophy of language. Across these years, analytical philosophy and literary-critical modes of reading insulate themselves strongly from each other. My book seeks to reconsider this disciplinary divergence and the epistemic grounds and writings practices on which it depends. Drawing extensively on archival materials and close critical readings, it seeks to ask new questions about philosophy’s forms. Each chapter investigates a mode of philosophical practice that remains marginal within the discipline’s history: lectures, letters, conversation societies, story-telling, dictionary entries, marginalia. The book’s central characters include the following: the Bolton Whitman Fellowship and the Cambridge Apostles; Vernon Lee and William James; Victoria Welby and C.S. Peirce; Susanne Langer and Ludwig Wittgenstein; J.L. Austin and Stanley Cavell; George Oppen and Simone Weil.


Dr Helen Thaventhiran is a University Lecturer in the Faculty of English (from 2016) and a fellow of Robinson College, following a BA, PhD and research fellowship in Cambridge and an MSt in Oxford. Her published research concerns the history of criticism, reading, and the discussion of meaning from the late nineteenth-century to present. Her book Radical Empiricists: five modernist close readers (OUP, 2015) challenged received histories of close reading. Her critical edition, with Professor Stefan Collini, of William Empson’s The Structure of Complex Words and Related Writings (1951), is forthcoming (OUP, 2020). Alongside this interdisciplinary approach to the history of criticism, philosophy, and literature, Helen also works on choreography, notation, and the history of dance and is a member of the CRASSH research network, ‘Writing Dance’.


Tel: +44 1223 766886