Where is the pulse of written culture today ? Since the advent of the web, every sensibility has its spokespersons, and the smallest cultural content is, at any moment, accessible in a few clicks. If Gutenberg and his print revolutionised forever the spread of thought and literary work, the Internet keeps outbidding towards thousand horizons. In front of a muliplicity so diverse and so instantaneous, what spaces are left for the institutions of written culture ?
In the last decade, organisations of cultural education have attempted serious reforms. Popular Universities offer a new response to the public demand for rigorous cultural programmes, where the obtaining of degrees isn’t anymore the sole priority. However, those efforts are still based on the initiative and validation of authorities from the academic world. And when these universities invest in the web, they manage to reach a larger audience through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), where access to knowledge is facilitated and flexible. But, there, the learning/teaching remains vertical, classical ; the content is static, and interactions are rare. These new programmes are therefore staying at the surface of much richer possibilities. If they claim to be popular or virtual, in reality only their form is slightly modified. Yet, our epoch offers the possibility for a major reversal, allowing for ideas and the written to be animated, above all, through multipolar and fully cooperative dynamics.
Indeed : structures still hold their relevance. If the connected world demonstrates a new standard of pluralism, it is well known that the information found today is neither organised, nor optimised. This freshness comes, therefore, at the cost of unheard of challenges, calling for the emergence of new types of organisations. The Institute for the Study of Texts is one of those new faces. Established and stable in time, the Institute brings structure, tools and regularity to put to practice a new approach to the tasks of exploration, learning and creativity in literature and philosophy. To accompany this paradigm shift in teaching and culture, the IST places, at the very heart of its project, the veritable motor of this energy : the cultural actors themselves.
Times have changed : from mass media to the internet, knowledge has kept getting more democratised, transforming learners and ‘consumers’ of contents, into cultural co-actors. The Institute recognises and celebrates the dissemination of this wealth, the multiplicity of individual sensibilities, and offers a place in common for the vast intellectual, literary and artistic domains deeply invested by millions of people across civil society. At the IST, every person can propose and lead a programme of study of texts.
The programmes of the Institute are thus nourished through the civil society as a whole. But the IST is also positioning itself as a platform of expression and activity for intellectual and creative milieus already in place : researchers and university professors, journalists, critics and literary editors, as well as for cultural and intellectual associations in all their diversity. Especially, the IST wishes to put forward contemporary artists and writers, who would invite the co-learners to revisit the great authors of our cultures through their creative eye. Thus, reading and writing rejoin one another : behind the work of creation appears always a profound engagement with literary and philosophical legacies, and in turn the study encourages each learner to enter into a creative initiative. By favouring programmes in small groups, the Institute permits such an encounter of sensibilities. The exploration and learning process is thus dynamic and interactive, while remaining focused on the text studied.
TOWARDS THE INTERNATIONAL
The cooperative approach of the Institute spreads out literally without physical borders. Developed in Delhi in 2017, it is marked by an international vocation, in the wish to gather in one space a multiplicity of voices from all literary and philosophical cultures. The ICET is the central structure and the interface for the French and francophone audience, while IST is its anglophone counterpart. Some of the courses and programmes are already offered in French and in English, and, upon individual initiatives, the Institute will be open to the elaboration of programmes in other languages. The programmes take place through videoconference, in order to welcome all interested participants, regardless of their geographical location.
for the Study of Texts
The IST emphasises upon the work, subtle and long-term, at the root of any artistic and literary sensibility : the study. The IST is a space of study and for study. Studying is more than an activity. A fundamental approach, study becomes an attitude towards oneself and the world, an individual project to develop and cultivate throughout life. When patience rejoins humility and curiosity, the individual can slowly see relevant and original responses bloom, necessary to improve their personal conditions and to contribute to the surrounding society.
Defining the object of the Institute as the study of Texts, it is finding in one and the same place domains of expression and sensibility distinguished for too long. Philosophy and literature see their borders fading, to invite their texts to the dialogue, openly and on an equal footing. The courses of the IST encourage the formulation of pedagogical approaches and angles combining authors and themes across that outdated demarcation. Insisting to place on the forefront the textual material, it is also confirming the limits of content divisions according to disciplines. The playground of work can thus grow : a novel responds to a philosophical treatise, while a metaphysical study will go find new interlocutors in religious, legal or social science texts.
Every proposition for a new course is developed in collaboration between the initiator and the Institute’s commitee. This process permits to transform an initial project of study into a programme defined in time, where each work session is organised around precisely selected textual materials. Thus, the Institute guarantees rigour and substance, but also the development of a proper, original voice, through the interpretative and pedagogical exercise of each instructor.