As in all human and “hard” sciences, research in the Arts arises from the encounter between an object (a document, a work, a fact, an observation, data, etc) and a point of view (a clarification, a perspective, a theory, a model, etc). It seeks ultimately to comprehend languages, cultures and civilisations through objects such as texts, images and other material traces.
The nature of objects researched in the Arts encourages the meeting and interaction of points of view, rather than their mutual exclusion: a point of view may in turn become an object, and be analysed from an entirely different angle. We may for example investigate the history of economic theories, or work on the rhetoric of histories of economic theories - questions that the econometrist in search of a “true” economic theory will not ask.
The multiplication of perspectives leads therefore to the combinative expansion of research subjects and associated disciplines, pursued by many small-sized teams. This variety encourages interdisciplinary and specialist approaches, and a number of Centres are dedicated to this goal; it exerts a decisive influence on the content of study plans and their constant updating; it explains the high level of differentiation between Bachelor and Master programmes from one Arts faculty to another, and the difficulty of classifying, in a unified and systematic way, research in the Arts as a whole.
Very open from a methodological point of view, revisiting traditional methods and taking advantage of new technologies, research in the Arts gives pride of place to reflexivity. Recognising the compositional nature of its subjects, it pays scant heed to the transparency of signs. It aims to convince by accumulating facts, rather than prove by observation alone; it seeks to understand rather than explain.
Often useful (e.g. the practice of forms and uses of communication), often aesthetically striking (e.g. literature, history of art, cinema), research in the Arts seeks above all to adopt a rigorous approach, academically independent and critical, rooted in a humanist perspective. Its success lies in its ability to reach out and influence other research or the public, beyond the here and now.