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55 Special Forum: Victorian Studies and Interdisciplinarity representation and economics, however, has been predetermined by a reading of economics using the methods of narrative and rhetorical analysis. Once economics has been endowed with a story and a protagonist,there is not much distance to go before it resembles a play or a novel.The aims of interdisciplinary scholarship at the moment,however,should not be to extend the techniques of discourse analysis into the interpretation of yet more genres of text.Its value to our field is rather that, since the ebb of theory, it provides the principal setting in which the question of method in historical study can be posed. Notes 1 This contrasts with area studies, which as nascent disciplines constitute themselves around objects that have not previously been recognized as objects of scholarship. 2 An indispensable work for literary studies in theVictorian period as well the Romantic. Works Cited Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of theThird World. London: Verso, 2001. Gagnier, Regenia. The Insatiability of Human Wants: Economics and Aesthetics in Market Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. St. Clair,William. The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. • What Do We Mean By Interdisciplinarity? Joa n n e Sh atto ck • “What is it that we do when we say we are being interdisciplinary?”That exact question was posed at a conference in Cambridge in 2003, held in honour of Professor Gillian Beer and appropriately titled “Making Waves: Literary Studies in an Interdisciplinary Frame.” One of the panels comprised three eminentVictorian scholars presenting papers entitled“Political Economy, Culture, and George Eliot,”“Darwin and Disenchantment,” and, a third,“Singing the Body ofWater,” an account of the responses to the creation of a reservoir (Thirlmere) in the Lake District in the 1870s.The question came from a well-known cultural theorist, who noted the variety of discourses employed in the three papers—political economy, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, environmental science, and evolutionary theory—and then asked: “What is it that we [meaning literary scholars] do when we employ these different discourses, what kinds of mediations do we engage in when we‘do’ it?” One response, from one of the panelists, was that as practitioners of interdisciplinarity , we must provide a close historical reading of the conditions under which victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 56 the nineteenth-century writer was reading, assimilating, and using texts for his or her own purpose—in the case of George Eliot, for example, her reading of Darwin or her use, indirectly, of the economic theories of W.S. Jevons. It is only by understanding how these various ideas are transformed by the particular ideologies, or the historical location of those who are using them, that this so-called interdisciplinarity is useful. In the speaker’s words, interdisciplinarity is a kind of“imaginative sympathy” with the nineteenth-century reader and that reader as writer. In the UK at present“interdisciplinarity” is a buzz word, particularly in the sciences, but increasingly in the humanities and social sciences as well.Among the many obituaries for the cultural critic Edward Said, theTimes Higher Education Supplement for 10 October 2003 said that he broke one of the main taboos of institutionalized academic study by his “refusal of disciplinarity and specialisation , which he believed tended to weaken and depoliticize the intellectual strengths of academic writing” (22). Interdisciplinarity, then, is recognized as “a good thing,” desirable, and implicitly achievable—but is it? In 1987 the early contributors and editors of Victorian Studies reflected on what exactly they had meant by interdisciplinarity when they founded the journal. Were articles deliberately to cross conventional boundaries, to employ the skills and methodology of more than one discipline, literature and art history, perhaps, or literature and social history? If so, was it possible for a contributor to be sufficiently interior to the processes of two or more disciplines? Or were the articles to appeal to a wider audience—consciously to interest readers from outside one’s own subject—in which case, was there a risk of being too general, non-specialist, and broad-brush? Or was the task in hand that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 55-58
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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