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47 Special Forum: Victorian Studies and Interdisciplinarity for buying time and resources. And the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in its current manifestation (that is, RAE2008) will, as before, take research income into account in assessing how it rewards arts research. If future modes of assessing arts research in the UK move to a metrics model (that is, away from peer assessment to the assessment of measurables such as citations and grant income), the pressure to obtain external funding will further increase (though at the moment, it should be said, it is not clear what place metrics will have for the assessment of arts research in whatever replaces the present RAE3).The compound motives of governmental support for interdisciplinarity are expressed most visibly in terms of funding.And for those endeavouring to write and think in university arts and humanities departments, particularly in the UK, interdisciplinarity is now beginning to pay. Critical distance, freedom of mind, and intellectual choice is in some danger from all of this. Notes 1 See (accessed 29 July 2006). 2 A more startling example of this is the current AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC, and NSAC£2m funding for the CounteringTerrorism in Crowded Places Ideas Factory,for which arts and humanities researchers are invited to bid. See (accessed 29 July 2006). For an argument about UK funding for artists, broadly defined, and the place of public policy, see Andrew Brighton,“Consumed by the Political:The Ruination of the Arts Council,” Critical Quarterly, 48 (2006): 1-13. 3 See, for instance,“Arts Academics Slate Metrics,” Times Higher Education Supplement, 28 July 2006, 4. • The Concept of Literature and the Practice of Interdisciplinarity Lin da H. Peterson • What accounts for the seemingly boundless desire of English professors to work in an “interdisciplinary” mode? The standard account, told at NAVSA 2004 by Matthew Rowlinson, Catherine Gallagher, and James Vernon, pivots on the dominance of formalist criticism at mid-twentieth century (in New Critical, structuralist, and post-structuralist modes) and the reaction against it by Marxists, New Historicists, and other historically inclined scholars. It is a story of theory versus history, of textuality versus interdisciplinarity. As Rowlinson explains, the journal Victorian Studies emerged in the 1950s in reaction against the disciplinary societies of the previous generation, the rigid departmental structure of the modern university, and the hubristic claims for the English department—made by such scholars as F.R. Leavis, Northrop Frye, victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 48 and the New Critics—as the central, or “meta-department,” of the university (242).1 In contrast, Victorian Studies, founded and edited by four English professors , promised to study the “era,” “to discuss its events and personalities, and to interpret and appraise its achievements … through the coordination of academic disciplines [rather] than in departmental isolation” (“Prefatory Note” 3). While “coordination” is not precisely “interdisciplinarity,” the callto -arms was to avoid “isolation” and engage with the questions and research methods of other disciplines in the academy. Gallagher adds to this account some later trends: the turn in the 1960s and 1970s to “cultural” questions, the influence of Foucault in the 1980s on the history of disciplines and of gender and sexuality, and, by the 1990s, the success of what we call the “New Historicism” and “cultural studies” (255–58). This account of interdisciplinarity emphasizes the desire for “history” at a theoretical moment of anti-history or a-historicity. Accurate as it may be, this account leaves one to ask why the cry for interdisciplinarity did not subside with the triumph of the New Historicism and why interdisciplinary research remains such a strong desire today. The “history ” and “culture” missing from formalist modes have been supplied, and the academic journals founded to encourage interdisciplinary scholarship have steadily increased: Victorian Review (1972), “an interdisciplinary journal promoting the study of all aspects of nineteenth-century culture”; Victorians Institute Journal (1972); Victorian Literature and Culture (1973); Victorian Periodicals Review (1979), dedicated to publishing“informative articles on a wide range of topics from a variety of disciplines”; and Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal (1981). Other Victorian journals have further highlighted the need for interdisciplinarity—as in Stephanie Kuduk’s contribution to a special issue of Victorian Poetry (2003...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 47-51
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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