In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

28 Pied Studies D ona ld E. H a ll • Glory be to God for dappled things— For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in a stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spáre, strange; Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?) With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím; He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change: Práise hím. —  Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty” (1877) Interdisciplinarity is very much a mid- to late-twentieth-century concept. Of course it existed, like hybridity and multi-ethnic identity, long before the term itself. Indeed, interdisciplinarity was and is the phenomenological basis of all human existence and thought, even if we, academics especially , often find such messiness a source of anxiety to be assuaged through the imposition of rigid categories and defensive boundaries. Our success—in the natural sciences, the social sciences, and, most peculiarly, the humanities —at imposing, and even naturalizing, disciplinary restraints is perhaps best judged by the continuing energy of the counter-discursive response from those who appreciate the disordered nature of human being-in-the-world and enjoy calling others’ attention to such complexity.We might even perceive this as a disorderly conversation on interpretation, one that has lasted now for well over a century.“Interdisciplinarity” and other terms for common migratory crossings to which we have long turned a collectively blinkered eye (“bisexuality,” “transgenderism”) ask us for something: a perceptual shift.They work to queer us by queering our comfortable and comforting modes of categorization.The question is, how do we respond to those variously queer requests? One such request emerges from the poem above. In “Pied Beauty,” Gerard Manley Hopkins points us towards an appreciation of transgression that embraces the complexity of life in the world of phenomena—Dasein (to use Heidegger’s term). Julia Saville has called this a “delight in contrariness” that the term “queer” best captures (122); and, in fact, hers is a shift in critical perspective analogous to that which Hopkins calls for and performs. Hopkins 29 Special Forum: Victorian Studies and Interdisciplinarity dapples her and (if we allow him) us, as he, in Saville’s words,“cultivates an audience that listens and watches for the uncommon and does not drown out difference in a monologous roar, be it political, evangelical, or poetic” (124). Thus, we might even think of “pied” as Hopkins’s own queer rejoinder to the“pious.” Pied beauty is not exactly impious beauty (the Pied Friars of the thirteenth century, Hopkins’s inspiration, were hardly that), but it is certainly a corrective to the nineteenth-century tendency to find beauty only in the staid, homogenous, and neatly structured. Of course, not all“things” lend themselves easily to pied, especially aesthetic, appreciation (or even deserve the adjectives“counter, original, spáre, strange”), so this is not solely a perceptual shift without consideration of the object in question (a dappled Dick Cheney gamboling in a pond may be impossible to perceive as pied“beauty,” however blotched he may be).Yet much remains for our pied consideration. In the poet’s dappled reading of the world surrounding him, nature certainly manifests many forms of “pied-ness” (if we simply let ourselves see it). And, most strikingly, all “trades” are capable of producing work that demonstrates its qualities. Hopkins may or may not have had his own poetic production in mind when he used the term“trade,” but certainly the poet’s ability to create original and strange work demonstrates how words might serve as such queer and dappling “gear and tackle and trim” (in fact, the term “pied text” gained some currency in the twentieth century). The possibility of pied writing (as strange production) and, more fundamentally, pied studies (as queered perception) is the Hopkinsian challenge toVictorian studies as a polyphonic pursuit. Dappled complexity is always there if we allow ourselves to see it, and we must decide whether to respond to it in a pied or a narrowly pious way...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 28-31
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.