Entrepreneurship Studies and the Humanities (16 - 18 March 2016)


Professor Robin Holt and Professor Daniel Hjorth

Course coordinator 
Professor Robin Holt

Registered on compatible PhD-program.

Participants also have to be prepared to present reflections and analysis of the relationships between their PhD projects and parts of the PhD course.

General descriptions and discussions of the relationships between the PhD students’ PhD project and the course content needs to be submitted one week before course starts (to rh.mpp@cbs.dk, and dh.mpp@cbs.dk). Minimum 3 and maximum 5 pages. This short paper should include: 1) Description of PhD project; 2) General relationship to PhD course content; 3) Reflections and discussions based on this relationship; 4) Questions they bring to the PhD course on the basis of 1-3.

In order to receive the course diploma, participants have to be present during the whole course period.


The aim of this course is to inquire into the possibilities for humanities-based approaches to entrepreneurship studies. Particular emphasis is placed on providing students with the analytical means to analyse and discuss entrepreneurship creation processes in the context of art, philosophy, and literature.

The obvious link comes with entrepreneurship being bound up with creativity in many ways: imagination, vision, convincing improvisations, mobilization of support, summoning support, directing attention. All of these skills and practices are part of the entrepreneurial creation process. Many of those are shared with the imaginative author, with the skillful narrator who convinces the reader that s/he is believable and trustworthy; entrepreneurs often tell stories like authors do. As well as being storytellers, stories can be told about aspects of entrepreneurial activity and events. It is here we take students into more novel territory, using novels (or parts) and literary and philosophical commentary on fiction, to investigate what it means to persuade others, to have desire for things, to create businesses that flourish and fail in different ways. Literature is especially useful here because it can portray life in a distilled and often intense way, accentuating what might otherwise go hidden. In doing so it plays suggestively with questions of meaning, moving from meaning as definition (of the semantic kind we often use on social science research in propositions) to meaning as significance or resonance, and back again. In this way literature not only shows the event of something being something (definition), but also how an opportunity or a risk is experienced (its resonance in lived experience).   

We can use the character Don Juan to appreciate how appealing to others to share one’s project through seduction can itself turn back onto and capture the seducer, or Chichikov in Nicoli Gogol’s Dead Souls to show how opportunities can arise in the most unlikely of settings, and always relationally, in this case because of the slowness and thoughtlessness of a bureaucracy coupled to the credulity of officials.

We use such stories to appreciate the life of entrepreneurial forms. The stories are gatherings of event and character in which these forms emerge, twist, clash with and weave into one another, grow and fall away and they can be witnessed and thought through because of an authorial demand that they be viewed and experienced as such by readers.

In learning to read literature in this way, students can also learn to read the real in their study not just of significations (reaching testable equivalences such as propositions) but also significance (why it matters in peoples’ lives).


The entrepreneurship and humanities course takes as its context the recent developments towards a creative/innovative and entrepreneurial economy. The general challenges of handling speed, flexibility and innovativeness that presently organizes most companies’ agendas is one that pushed entrepreneurship into focus during the 1990s. In doing so a central dilemma emerges as to how management and leadership practices (and the academic explanation of such) that were developed during the rise of an industrial society organized through large multi-nationals and a focus on large scale productive and asset ownership find a new roles and function in companionship with the organizational forms of entrepreneurship. Similarly, can the more fluid, nascent, quicker organizational forms associated with entrepreneurship settle into viable ventures that resonate with wider economic and social habits, without thereby destroying what makes them innovative? Academic studies of such questions have typically taken these entrepreneurial forms to be proto-businesses, and so amenable to the same array of concepts used to study larger organizations and managerial practice – resource, asset, investment, principals and agents, venture/firm and so on.

This course will offer a different perspective, taking ‘desire’ as the central or grounding concept. Desire is the force that animates all entrepreneurial activity – desire to create/express, to use and consume, to discover. To make sense of desire as an organizational form we suggest entrepreneurial experience begins as an assemblage, the term Gilles Deleuze uses for a gathering of the forces of desire. We acknowledge that inquiring after desire is different from more orthodox studies which trace the emergence of ventures through time as stories of growth in resources, markets, customers, innovation/exploitation and the like. We find different aspects to entrepreneurial desire: seduction (conceiving and attracting others into a project); play (experimenting collectively with how to realize what began only as potential); common sense (the weaving of the project into established traditions and norms); and finally settlement (where desire is converted into commercial interests). To study each of these aspects we find literary and artistic sources especially potent, and through the three days we will expand on these using selected readings and discussion. Throughout students will be asked to expand on these associations, and through group work find instances of equivalence from within entrepreneurial studies.  

Additionally, the course will include discussions of some methodological challenges of studying, analyzing, and publishing on entrepreneurship from such a humanities perspective. The stories being told about growth, failure, creative insight and the like are not as neat, and acknowledge many more phenomena than the ceteris paribus narratives that isolate entrepreneur/s, venture, market and opportunity. In doing so they present a different sense of what entrepreneurship is, something that extends beyond the economic.

Emphasis is placed on PhD-students’ development of a framework and perspective in which their research problems can be enriched and made more precise.

The course covers the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation studies, critical management studies, art and management/leadership.

In class, students will be given short extracts from literary sources to read and these will be used as illustrations, forming the basis for group discussions and presentations. One of the benefits of using a humanities approach is it teaches students about the need to sensitise oneself to multiple perspectives and the negotiated nature of truth claims. The course design reflects this conversational, relational nature of learning.

Teaching style 

The form of the seminar is a combination of interactive lectures, group work and discussions.

Learning objectives 

The course objective is to establish familiarity with contemporary business administration research in the field of entrepreneurship and humanities, and to develop a framework for analyzing the conditions for entrepreneurship, which learns from humanities in doing so.

Students will learn how to review and critique contributions to entrepreneurship and its related fields of organizational creativity/innovation and leadership. They will also learn to review and use literary and philosophical work.

Students will learn what relevance and use a humanities based perspective on entrepreneurship has for our capacity to study, analyze and teach entrepreneurship.

Students will develop new knowledge about the affinity between entrepreneurial and literary imagination, and learn how to apply this knowledge in studies of entrepreneurship.

Lecture plan 
16 March 2016  
10.00 - 10.15 Introduction
By PhD students and all faculty
10.15 - 11.30 Opening: Entrepreneurship Studies and the Humanities (Robin Holt)

Using narratives and stories to study entrepreneurship: the historical case of the Shaws
11.30 - 11.40 Coffee/tea
11.40 - 12.30

Discussion: What are stories? Group work on creating entrepreneurial plots (Robin Holt)

12.30 - 13.30 Lunch
13.30 - 14.30

An affect-based understanding of entrepreneurship: Assembling the Organisation (Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)

Desire as grounding force

The venture as an assemblage - readings of Deleuze

14.30 - 15.00 Coffee/tea
15.00 - 16.30

The themes: 1) Seduction, 2) Play, 3) Common Sense, 4) Commerce/Transaction, 5) Actualization (Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)

Enacting PhD-projects: relating to Theme 1


Evening Course dinner for participants and faculty
17 March 2016  
9.00 - 10.00 Welcome to Day 2
10.00 - 11.15

Theme 1: Seduction and Entrepreneurship Studies (Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)

11.15 - 11.30 Tea/Coffee
11.30 - 12.15
  • Examples of seduction and being seduced
  • Don Giovanni
  • Iago
  • The seductive entrepreneur
12.15 - 13.15 Lunch
13.15 - 14.30

Theme 2: Play and Entrepreneurship

  • Playfulness (Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)
  • Creativity and the self (Robin Holt)
14.30 - 14.45 Coffee/tea
14.45 - 16.00

Theme 3: Common Sense and Entrepreneurship (Robin Holt)

  • Common sense
  • Oikonomia - Economy and Entreprise

Relating PhD projects to Themes 2 and 3

(Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)

18 March 2016  
9.00 - 10.00 Welcome to Day 3
10.00 - 11.15

Theme 4: Commerce/Transaction

  • Passions and Interests
  • Desire becoming Interest
11.15 - 11.30 Coffee/tea
11.30 - 12.15

Theme 5: Actualization. Organization-Creation (Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)

  • Assemblage to organization
12.15 - 12.45

Relating PhD projects to Themes 4 and 5

(Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)

12.45 - 13.45 Lunch
13.45 - 15.15

Group-based work - stories of assemblage (Robin Holt)

  • Humanities and Entrepreneurship Studies
  • Venture - Adventure
  • Opportunity - Virtuality
  • Organisation - Assemblage
15.15 - 15.30 Coffee/Tea
15.30 - 17.00 The difference: theorizing entrepreneurship differently - relating stories and desire to PhD projects (Robin Holt and Daniel Hjorth)


Course literature 

Essential reading:

  • The concept of Assemblage, as briefly described and explained in this short article in the Deleuze Dictionary (http://ghiraldelli.pro.br/wp-content/uploads/The_Deleuze_Dictionary-1.pdf )
  • Popp, A., Holt, R. (2013) Entrepreneurship and being: the case of the Shaws. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 25(1/2): 52-68
  • Hjorth, D. and Holt, R. (2016) Entrepreneurship and Desire, forthcoming (Introduction)
  • Deleuze, G. (1997) Literature and life. Critical Inquiry, 23, 1, 225-230.

Further reading:

Theme 1: Seduction:

  • Hjorth, D. (2007) “Narrating the Entrepreneurial Event: Learning from Shakespeare’s Iago”, Journal of Business Venturing, 22(5): 712-732
  • Hjorth, D. (2014) “Sketching a Philosophy of Entrepreneurship,” in Baker, T. and Welter, F. (Eds.) The Routledge Companion to Entrepreneurship, London: Routledge, pp. 41-58.
  • Søren Kierkegaard Seducer’s Diary (selections) – on being seduced by desire
  • William Shakespeare Othello (selections) – on how to scheme and be many things

Theme 2: Play and creativity:

  • Hjorth, D. (2005) “Organizational Entrepreneurship: with de Certeau on Creating Heterotopias (or spaces for play)”, Journal of Management Inquiry, 14, No. 4, 386-398.
  • Hjorth, D. and Steyaert, C. (2006) “American Psycho – European Schizo: Stories of Managerial Elites in ‘hundred’ images”, in Gagliardi, P. and Czarniawska, B. (eds.) Management Education and Humanities. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar., pp. 67-97.
  • Steyaert, C. (2016) Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens and Entrepreneurship, forthcoming
  • Virginia Woolf Mrs Dalloway (selection) – on the imaginative border between sanity and insanity, understanding the nature of the self

Theme 3: Common Sense:

  • Schumpeter, J. A. 1947. The creative response in economic history (from Journal of Economic History, 7) in R. Clemence (ed.) Essays on Entrepreneurs, Innovations, Business Cycles, and the Evolution of Capitalism. London: Transaction Publishers. 1989, pp. 221-31
  • Nicoli Gogol Dead Souls (selections) - on the possibility of unlikely opportunity, and its limits
  • Jane Austin Pride and Prejudice (selections) - on reading situations appropriately and with patience

Theme 4: Commerce/Transaction:

  • Hirschman, A. O. (1977) The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Dierdre McCloskey (1988) The Storied Character of Economics. Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 101 (4): 643-654.
  • Maurice Stendhal The Red and the Black (selections) – on the collective nature of desire as a transactional achievement

Theme 5: Actualization/Organization-Creation:

  • Hjorth, D. (2014) “Entrepreneuring as Organisation-creation”, in Sternberg, R. and Kraus, G. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurship and Creativity, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 97-121.
  • Patricia Highsmith The Talented Mr Ripley (selections) – on organizing what was once just possibility.


  • Don Giovanni: Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary (also Don Juan in Molière’s eponymous play)
  • Iago: Shakespeare’s Othello
  • Chichikov – Dead Souls (Nicoli Gogol)
  • Elisabeth Bennet – Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austin)
  • Julien Sorel The Red and the Black (Maurice Stendhal)
  • Clarissa Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
  • Tom Ripley (Patricia Highsmith)
PhD School 
PhD School in Organisation and Management Studies
Enroll no later than 
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 23:45