18.664 interdisciplinary isn't poaching

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 11:20:07 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 664.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 11:16:10 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: interdisciplinary isn't poaching

For those here who are interested in the problem of interdisciplinarity --
what the word means when not taken simply as an unexamined, transcendental
virtue -- I can recommend an article by Reed Way Dasenbrock, "Toward a
Common Market: Arenas of Cooperation in Literary Studies", in Profession
2004: 63-73, and earlier in ADE Bulletin 136 (Winter 2004): 18-24 and
thankfully also http://www.ade.org/ade/bulletin/N136/136018.htm. (My thanks
to John Lavagnino for putting a copy of this article into my hands.)

Dasenbrock argues persuasively that what people in literary studies,
principally English, take to be interdisciplinarity is not; rather, it's
poaching of materials from other disciplines for purposes defined by the
discipline of the poacher, with no attempt whatever -- nor (which is much
worse) awareness of the need -- to understand how people in other
disciplines understand and work with these materials.

Here is the nub of the matter. Speaking to the increasingly marginalized
cohort of literary studies people, he suggests that, "One key to
understanding the peculiar place literary studies occupies in the
contemporary university is to be found in the way we consider ourselves to
be highly interdisciplinary, while by the standards of the other
disciplines to which we think we are connected we don't seem
interdisciplinary at all. What divides us here is not just content, though
I do think and have argued elsewhere that the reflexive commitment of
literary theory to postmodern theories does inhibit useful connections to
other disciplines.... We conceive of the form of interdisciplinary activity
quite differently. For literary studies, interdisciplinarity is above all a
matter of what one studies and what one writes about; for others it is a
matter of how one works and whom one works with. What the rest of the
university defines as successful interdisciplinarity is the ability to work
constructively on a joint project with members of a different
administrative unit and disciplinary tradition."

As people concerned with how research is done, and as people whose fons et
origo is in working with others, we are well prepared to help here.



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Received on Fri Mar 25 2005 - 06:49:10 EST

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