Assistant editors: Christian Grösslinger / Christopher Herzog
‘There is no method …’? Contact and Conflict in Interdisciplinary Studies
← 132 | 133 → DAVID FULLER
«J’ai la passion de comprendre les hommes», wrote Jean-Paul Sartre.1 It is a fundamental drive of the intellect and a passion that cannot be compartmentalised. What in an academic context is dignified as ‘interdisciplinarity’ is the natural bent of the mind not corralled by frameworks of education.
This natural bent is illustrated in parvo by literary criticism. Despite immense, contested methodological variety, literary criticism is usually and rightly conceived as having a disciplinary ‘core’: attention to language in all its historical and formal aspects. Wallace Stevens: “In poetry you must love the words […] with all your capacity to love anything at all”.2 In poetry, and in all literary art. While the kind of attention and love may vary with genre (poetry, prose, drama, ‘literary’ non-fiction), ears attuned by wide reading to the multiple resonances of language are central. But literary criticism is also inherently a subject without boundaries, freewheeling – ‘interdisciplinary’. Creative fluidity – methodological chaos – is among the things that make it so interesting. To the interpretation of texts anything can be relevant. As well as issues that are obviously literary – language, form, genre – there are always issues that potentially engage with other disciplines – knowledge of society and politics, of the other arts, and of all areas of intellectual and spiritual life. “There is”, as T. S. Eliot puts it, “no method except to be very intelligent”.3 And as with any discipline, refreshing the methods of literary criticism by testing them...
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