1. What are Perloff’s criticisms of an ‘interdisciplinary’ approach? How does Hayes Edwards counter these? How would we evaluate the notion of the interdisciplinary through their chosen case...

1. What are Perloff’s criticisms of an ‘interdisciplinary’ approach? How does Hayes Edwards counter these? How would we evaluate the notion of the interdisciplinary through their chosen case studies and postcolonial theory, criticism and texts?

2. How can we overcome the perceived weakness of Interdisciplinarity that Perloff outlines in literary criticism?

Many thanks.

Asked on by hinsani

1 Answer | Add Yours

amarang9's profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Perloff's concern is that the discipline of literature has become secondary to other disciplines (in popular interdisciplinary studies). She would argue that interdisciplinarity is useful in literary studies, but the problem is that literature has become only a tool to discuss other disciplines. Describing this tendency, she states: 

At the Stanford Humanities Center, as at most other such academic centers, it is a code word for subsuming poetry or painting under the cultural studies umbrella. "The Poems of John Ashbery" would be considered a little iffy by the fellowship selection committee, whereas "Cold War ideology and the New York School" would be more acceptable. Interdisciplinarity, in other words, currently means the subordination of the aesthetic to the political. 

Perloff argues that this is not even true interdisciplinarity because the trend has become a way of focusing on politics while merely mentioning poetics - more as a side note. Perloff writes that using literature in this way (merely as "instrumental") ignores the formal or poetic aspects of the literary. 

Edwards challenges this notion that literature used in this way is "merely instrumental." He cites Adorno and notes that poetry can be used in an interdisciplinary way; i. e. to deconstruct and/or remove the mask of an ideology in some social context.

Using postcolonial theory/literature as an example, an interdisciplinary approach can uncover ideological oppression. The problem here, according to Perloff, is that such an approach tends to ignore poetics (the study/discipline of literature itself). However, Edwards suggests that (again, citing Adorno) that the effective use of literature in interdisciplinary ways should not relegate literature to a mere instrument of some other discipline; rather, the proper use of literature in interdisciplinary ways (say a political context) will analyze the politics but also will use and focus on poetic language as "a privileged site of political contestation and identity formation."

In this sense, literature is not just a useful instrument for discussing other disciplines; it offers a "privileged site" - a different way of speaking/writing, thus once again focusing on the language itself: the poetics. This offers a way of considering how interdisiplinarity can use literature as an instrument for treating other disciplines while also drawing attention to its own poetics, its own literariness. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,926 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question