15.165 perspectives on disciplinarity

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 04:17:28 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 165.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2001 09:13:20 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: from above, from below

    Recently I had the pleasure of talking over dinner with a senior
    administrator, dean of a large, quite diverse school, about the nature of
    scholarly research -- which, alas, he is no longer himself able to do for
    the obvious reasons. He remarked that it was quite liberating when he first
    got involved in university-wide reviews of research to realise by reading
    proposals and other summaries of work across the departments how narrow his
    own ideas had been of what scholarship is. For me, as I told him, the
    memorable moment occurred when in a graduate-level seminar I was teaching a
    guest lecturer, a philosopher who was describing his research in humanities
    computing, was challenged by an aggressive (post)-grad student, a budding
    literary critic. "That's not scholarship!" the student said. "Yes it is!"
    the philosopher replied. The discussion that followed was an eye-opener.

    Some time ago I wished out loud, on Humanist, that I had a baseball cap
    with a propeller on top -- in case you don't remember or were not there at
    the time, someone had mentioned "the propeller-heads among us". Following
    that a good friend found the item and sent it to me. (It fits.) In the
    context of the previous paragraph, I am more than a little tempted to wish
    out loud for a button that reads, "Disciplinarity can be cured!" (thus
    along the lines of "Monolingualism can be cured!").

    It is not insignificant to note that in universities there would seem to be
    two kinds of jobs that allow the incumbent to cultivate a truly
    interdisciplinary perspective, understand it and act on what he or she sees
    -- deanships (& sim.) and appointments in humanities computing. Of course
    it is not impossible for someone in an ordinary academic department to gain
    such a perspective, only very difficult because of the demands on his or
    her attention. Deans have, as it were, the view from above, computing
    humanists from below. I think it would be very beneficial for us to hear
    what sorts of arguments deans, heads of school and the like would find most
    appealing and useful in helping us to advance what we do.



    Dr Willard McCarty / Senior Lecturer /
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities / King's College London /
    Strand / London WC2R 2LS / U.K. /
    +44 (0)20 7848-2784 / ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/

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