Disciplinarity is a fact of life for every American university; its influence is everywhere and is inescapable. Debates about disciplinarity are correspondingly pervasive. In this essay I shall outline the stakes involved in three common but distinct kinds of controversies about the meaning of disciplinarity: the stakes in the first controversy are about how universities can best accomplish their research missions; the stakes in the second concern the scope of autonomy that universities may properly assert against external forces of political and social control; and the stakes in the third turn on the articulation and enactment of professional solidarity and identity. The question of disciplinarity arises in all three kinds of controversies, but the implications of the question differ in each.
Robert Post is the David Boies Professor of Law at the Yale Law School. He is the author of Constitutional Domains: Democracy, Community, Management (1995); coauthor, with Matthew W. Finkin, of For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom (2009); and coauthor, with K. Anthony Appiah, Judith Butler, Thomas C. Grey, and Reva Siegel, of Prejudicial Appearances: The Logic of American Antidiscrimination Law (2001). He is the editor of Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation (1998) and Law and the Order of Culture (1991), and coeditor, with Michael Rogin, of Race and Representation: Affirmative Action (1998) and, with Carla Hesse, of Human Rights in Political Transitions: Gettysburg to Bosnia (1999). He is presently finishing a book tentatively entitled Knowing What We Talk About: Expertise, Democracy, and the First Amendment.
Indeed, in our eagerness to ground academic freedom in certain professional and disciplinary norms that only certain faculty members are trained to know and apply, we produce a different problem for academic freedom. If disciplinary innovation becomes the price we pay in order to establish a basis on which to legitimate an argument against unwanted political intrusions, then it would seem we establish a conservative academic culture and even suppress disciplinary innovation, as well as interdisciplinary work, in order to preserve academic freedom. Then, of course, we have to ask, for whom is academic freedom preserved and for whom is it destroyed, and with what sense of the academic are we left? One can see a serious disagreement brewing: either professional norms are necessary restraints that we ought not to question if we are to preserve academic freedom, or professional norms have to bear internal scrutiny if we are to preserve academic freedom.
Judith Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a recent recipient of a Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award. Her most recent book is Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009). She is currently working on a manuscript on critical traditions within Jewish philosophy and the question of violence.
After Kuhn, both science studies and the history of science deliberately adopted a position of estrangement toward contemporary science, but they did so for different reasons that ultimately led to divergent understandings of science and how to study it. Science studies refused to accept on faith the claim that current scientific doctrine had come to be widely accepted because it was true or at least truer than any of the extant alternatives. First of all, science studies analysts argued, the truth or falsehood of a proposition was neither a sufficient nor necessary explanation (as opposed to a reason, in the philosophical sense) for its acceptance. Second, a full‐dress explanation often involved social and political as well as cognitive factors, regardless of what scientists may report (and sincerely believe) about their exclusive adherence to the latter. In its most extreme form, science studies' estrangement aspired to the tabula rasa perspective of visiting Martians, to whom everything was alien and who could take nothing for granted. The aim of science studies' estrangement was transparency; by steadfastly and warily refusing to privilege the scientists' own accounts of how they did what they did, analysts sought to crack open the “black boxes” of science and technology that had been opaque to public scrutiny—and hence to public surveillance.
Lorraine Daston is the director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. At the Max Planck Institute she has organized research projects on the history of demonstration and proof, the varieties of scientific experience, the moral authority of nature, the common languages of art and science, and the history of scientific observation. Edited volumes resulting from these projects include Biographies of Scientific Objects (2000), The Moral Authority of Nature (2004) (coedited with Fernando Vidal), and Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (2004). Her books include Classical Probability in the Enlightenment (1988) and, with Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (1998), both of which were awarded the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society. Objectivity, coauthored with Peter Galison, was published in 2007. She is currently working on a book about the link between moral and natural orders.
As a starting point, it would be useful to encourage humanities students to look at science in ways that are not framed by the dichotomy between criticism and praise—the dichotomy that informed the science wars.31 Criticism of the sciences (in the sense of exposing science's cultural, political, gender, and economic dimensions) has become so predictable as to provide only vanishing intellectual returns (though still remaining quite relevant in political terms, as shown by critiques of biased policies about global warming). The defensive praise of science or the ritualized acknowledgment of the epistemological inferiority of the humanities is not going to help either. Because the sciences don't have much use for praise from the humanities, such gestures only manage to infantilize the humanities themselves.
31. See Latour, “A Few Steps toward an Anthropology of the Iconoclastic Gesture,” Science in Context 10 (Spring 1997): 63–83 and “Do You Believe in Reality? News from the Trenches of the Science Wars,” Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), pp. 1–23.
Mario Biagioli is a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. He is the author of Galileo's Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy (2006) and the coeditor, with Peter Galison, of Scientific Authorship: Credit and Intellectual Property in Science (2002).
Any academic discussion of religion in the present moment must countenance the shrill polemics that have followed from the events of the past decade—including 9/11, the subsequent war on terror, and the rise of religious politics globally. What was once a latent schism between religious and secular worldviews has now become an incommensurable divide, and protagonists from both sides posit an ominous standoff between strong religious beliefs and secular values. Indeed, a series of international events, particularly around Islam, are often seen as further evidence of this incommensurability.
Saba Mahmood is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, which received the 2005 Victoria Schuck award from the American Association of Political Science. Mahmood is the recipient of a Carnegie Corporation Scholar's Award (2007) and the Frederick Burkhardt fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (2009–10). Her current project focuses on politics of religious freedom in the Middle East.
Yet attention to the interplay between Isaiah and Galatians enables us to see that the difference between Paul and the “Judaizers” is not that one is universalistic and the others not but rather that they disagree about the particular through which universal salvation will be attained. Just as the people of Israel hold that all can attain salvation through Torah, so Paul insists that universal salvation comes through Christ. How, finally, are we to adjudicate between these claims? Two thousand years later, we're still no closer to an answer than were the parties of Peter and Paul. Badiou's and Žižek's appeals to Paul as the site of a universal that passes through the particular (or, to use Žižek's Hegelian language, of the concrete universal) must be read against this biblical background and its still‐unresolved dilemmas.
Amy Hollywood is the Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Study at the Harvard Divinity School.
Decades ago, when the galaxy of film was gradually swirling into existence and becoming visible within the university, it wasn't at all clear that academic oversight was pertinent or wholesome. From the perspective of the academy, movies could have the effect of devaluing the humanities, while from that of cinephiles the university might very well tamper with the organic rapport of audiences with movies, stunting or unnaturally twisting the development of both. Such a debate over the very propriety of its study seems primordial enough to distinguish film from English or any other longstanding field. You may believe the decision to have long since been rendered in favor of the academy; after all, the article you are reading was commissioned by Critical Inquiry for this issue devoted to the state of the disciplines.
Dudley Andrew is R. Selden Rose Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale University. Most recently, he is the coauthor, with Carole Cavanaugh, of Sanshô dayû (2000) and, with Steven Ungar, of Popular Front Paris and the Poetics of Culture (2005). He is also the editor of The Image in Dispute: Art and Cinema in the Age of Photography (1997).
Disciplines come to a natural end when their objects vanish. But the objects of a discipline are interdependent on the discourse running the discipline because the discourse also constitutes the objects—as one can learn from the debates about film and the new media. As long as there is still a discourse around the cinematic dispositif there can be cinema studies in a literal sense even if there are no more classical films (which, by the way, is not entirely the case). Cinema studies has the competence to theorize and analyze moving images, moving images of many kinds, regardless of their technological origins. Therefore I suppose cinema studies can differ from media studies just as well as it can merge with it.
Gertrud Koch is professor of cinema studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her books include Herbert Marcuse zur Einführung (1987), Bilder: Zum Diskurs der Geschlechter im Film (1989), Was ich erbeute, sind (1989), Auge und Affekt: Wahrnehmung und Interaktion (1995), Bruchlinien: Tendenzen der Holocaustforschung (1999), and Siegfried Kracauer: An Introduction (2000). She is coeditor, with Christiane Voss, of Zwischen Ding und Zeichen: Zur ästhetischen Erfahrung in der Kunst (2005) and … kraft der Illusion (2005). She is currently working on a book about the aesthetics of illusion in film and the other arts.
See also: Gertrud Koch, Eulogy for Miriam Hansen
What I offer instead as a rough‐and‐ready working definition at the same time embodies a kind of program, even a challenge: philology is, or should be, the discipline of making sense of texts. It is not the theory of language—that's linguistics—or the theory of meaning or truth—that's philosophy—but the theory of textuality as well as the history of textualized meaning. If philosophy is thought critically reflecting upon itself, as Kant put it, then philology may be seen as the critical self‐reflection of language.
Sheldon Pollock is the William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Columbia University. He is general editor of the Clay Sanskrit Library, to which he has also contributed a number of volumes. His most recent monograph, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India, is due out in paperback this summer. He is currently working on Liberation Philology and Reader on Rasa: A Historical Sourcebook in Indian Aesthetics, the first in a new series of sourcebooks in classical Indian thought that he is editing.
See also: Jerome McGann, Philology in a New Key
What is the status of classics as a discipline? To offer a reply requires an immediate shift in the framework of the question, for the classics are precisely more and less than a discipline. Their fate ultimately depends upon understanding this more and this less. The more immediately refers to the place held by the ancients in the public realm. Humanists have chosen them as interlocutors and have generally invested them with an operative role in the making of European culture throughout the centuries and, in particular, in the very formation of the notion of the classical. In short, we cannot ignore the fact that on several occasions the classics have been solicited as meaningful protagonists in both an intellectual and a political history. Hence to launch my interrogation the accent is placed, evident in my essay's title, on the paradoxical and doubled nature of the condition of the classics. Classical studies, in the widest sense of the term, is not in the same position as, for example, anthropology, Sanskrit, or even history, even if the destiny of the classics today and even more so tomorrow largely depends on what will happen to these disciplines. But the destiny of classics also depends on its past influence—the glory of Athens and the grandeur of Rome—in the public realm, as it is partly on account of, or in memory of, this glory and grandeur that the discipline has defended and still currently defends its legitimacy, its territory, its positions, and even endeavors to revive the evidence of its venerable authority.
François Hartog is a professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where he holds a chair in ancient and modern historiography. His recent books include Le Miroir d'Hérodote: Essai sur la représentation de l'autre (2001); Régimes d'historicité: Présentisme et expériences du temps (2003); Evidence de l'histoire: Ce que voient les historiens (2005); and Anciens, modernes, sauvages (2005).
Let me conclude by stressing that my purpose in these remarks was not to castigate Foucault. His use of cybernetic concepts is faulty, to be sure, and severely underestimates the significance of variety and contingent encounter, confusing perhaps the levels of constraint that obtain in and make possible discursive or, in the case at hand, disciplinary operations. But to make these points is to take his contribution seriously, which is to say as amendable, and corrigible, but for that very reason worth pursuing. The greatest weakness of Foucault's theory, however, is that his veiled use of cybernetic concepts invites their distortion in the sense of pseudopolitical romanticism. Unhinged from their utterly trivial cybernetic significance, terms like control or constraint take on an aura of malevolence. They invite a romantic, self‐aggrandizing myth of critical inquiry as a revolutionary gesture.
David E. Wellbery is the LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson University Professor and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on German Literature and Culture at the University of Chicago. His books include The Specular Moment: Goethe's Lyric and the Beginnings of Romanticism (1996), Schopenhauers Bedeutung für die modern Literatur (1998), and Seiltänzer des Paradoxalen: Aufsätze zur ästhetischen Wissenschaft (2006). He is editor in chief of A New History of German Literature (2004).
Besides globalization and Foucault, think of all the intellectual forebears, concepts, topics, methods, and theories du jour that are now widely circulating through the humanities, the social sciences, and beyond: postmodernism, antipositivism, identity, subjectivity, symbolic capital, culture, ethnography, Walter Benjamin, critical theory, subaltern studies, Marx, Marxism, neo‐Darwinism, feminism, structuralism, poststructuralism, constructionism, deconstructionism, and so on. More good news is how—in ways similar to the phenomenon of globalization itself—these diffused traits are interestingly indigenized and hybridized by their encompassment in different disciplinary traditions. Admittedly, they are sometimes travestied in the process.
Marshall Sahlins is the Charles F. Gray Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the British Academy. His latest works include Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice Versa (2004) and The Western Illusion of Human Nature (2008).
See also: Marshall Sahlins, Infrastructuralism
For a few years I have been writing indexes, attempting to turn the form into a kind of poetry. For this project, I wrote indexes for two books by authors closely connected to the histories of the University of Chicago and the city of Chicago, John Dewey's Experience and Nature (1925) and Jane Addams's Newer Ideals of Peace (1907). Dewey and Addams were of course close colleagues and friends. Addams founded the social settlement Hull House on Chicago's Near West Side in 1889, and Dewey, who taught at the University of Chicago from 1894 until 1904, founded the Laboratory Schools in 1896. Both were motivated by a progressive, politically committed community engagement, and they each realized far‐reaching experiments coordinating various forms of knowledge. In their approaches to the world, neither Dewey nor Addams saw problems as separable or isolated; instead, they were guided by a principle of integration, whether of ideas, of disciplines, or of social groups.
Helen Mirra's work occurs in varied scrap media. Solo exhibitions include the Berkeley Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Renaissance Society, Chicago. Her recent book Cloud, the, 3 (2007) indexes John Dewey's Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920). Mirra is associate professor of visual and environmental studies at Harvard University.
This history is thus concerned with changes in style, innovations in materials and techniques (oil painting, metal casting), and assessments of individual virtuosity in both form and content. One could summarize this story as a protracted struggle between two models of the artist: the first as a virtuosic or at least competent professional practitioner of a material practice; the second as a godlike genius who produces ideas that are then expressed in visible and material form. We might think of these two alternatives as the disciplinary and de‐disciplinary, or anarchistic, images of the artist. The first tradition stems from antiquity and explains why none of the nine Muses begotten by Zeus on Mnemosyne is associated with visual, spatial, or material arts. The Muses are all patronesses of temporal and verbal arts—music, poetry, dance, history, and astronomy. There are no Muses for painting, sculpture, or architecture.
W. J. T. Mitchell is editor of Critical Inquiry. His most recent book is What Do Pictures Want? (2005). His forthcoming book is entitled Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.
Which is to say: what counts as art. It is no system of education but, rather, the art system that is, in anachronistic parlance, the decider. The art system, with its various market mediations and fluctuations, its collectors and critics, its gallery proprietors and its curators, its magazines and its biennial circuit, confers status on artworks and artists. The university should feel pretty confident about the professional trajectory of a Dostoevsky scholar or a philosopher of mind or a historian of science because that trajectory depends on, and occurs within, the university system. But a decade from now, a certain video artist's art may have stopped counting at all, as art, and the university will have played no role in the conclusion. Half a decade from now, should that installation artist's work really count, as art, well, then, he or she is likely to live his or her life beyond the university. (Indeed, an artist's dependence on the university would seem to mark a devolutionary tale: the return to a kind of patronage.) This is why the dean would rather appoint an artist for a three‐year term—as a lecturer or an instructor or an adjunct assistant professor, as something (someone) somewhere off the tenure track. Still, to stabilize the program and, say, to make the arts count (everyone knows they should count), the dean recognizes that the artist should be more ideally integrated.
Bill Brown, Edward Carson Waller Professor of English at the University of Chicago, also serves as a member of the Department of Visual Arts, as a fellow at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory, and as a coeditor of Critical Inquiry. He is the author of The Material Unconscious (1997) and A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature (2003) and the editor of Things (2004), a Critical Inquiry book. He is currently at work on Objects, Others, and Us.
See also: Bill Brown, Thing Theory
The long eighteenth century is your own field, and you note that you have taught from the NAEL for thirty‐eight years, so you can probably remember that the emergence of Oroonoko in classrooms and anthologies did not await the publication of the Longman anthology in 1998. Since I was already working on Behn's text, I edited it for the NAEL 6th edition in 1993, a version that was reprinted in the two later editions, in the next Major Authors edition, and in the second edition of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women in 1996. In 1997 I edited an old‐spelling Oroonoko in a Norton critical edition, later issued in a trade paperback. That is a lot of Oroonokos to overlook.
Joanna Lipking recently retired from the English department at Northwestern University. She edited the critical edition of Oroonoko for Norton as well as the modernized version in the NAEL.
We are startled by the central argument of Sean Shesgreen's “Canonizing the Canonizer: A Short History of The Norton Anthology of English Literature” (Critical Inquiry 35 [Winter 2009]: 293–318), which truncates the history of a landmark text so radically as to leave the record unrecognizable. That money may be a motive for publishers of books for the academy—a motive that even animates professors!—seems an obvious enough point to us, and it is surely just as obvious that anthologies of all kinds create canons for classrooms. But when Shesgreen claims to account not only for “the rise of the NAEL” but also for the constitution of its evolving table(s) of contents, the naiveté of his narrative falsifies history (p. 296).
Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar are the coauthors and coeditors of a range of books, including The Madwoman in the Attic (1976), No Man's Land (1988–94), and three editions of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Traditions in English (1985, 1996, 2007).
Sean Shesgreen's research in M. H. Abrams's highly revealing Norton archive (“Canonizing the Canonizer: A Short History of The Norton Anthology of English Literature,” Critical Inquiry 35 [Winter 2009]: 293–318) casts a vivid light on the complex blend of imitation and rivalry that takes place when publishers seek to gain or maintain a share of a textbook market. The in‐house and academic editors alike may well have a sincere desire to offer useful materials and new approaches to students and colleagues, yet the actual construction of an anthology involves something other than a disinterested, Arnoldian selection from the best that has been thought and known. In an established field with large—and profitable—survey courses, market forces play a major role at every level. Any new entry into the market must position itself in relation to existing options, often building on its predecessors even while striving to differ from them, and established texts in turn must adapt to meet the challenges posed by their competitors.
David Damrosch is professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. A past president of the American Comparative Literature Association, he is the founding general editor of the six‐volume The Longman Anthology of British Literature (1998) and of The Longman Anthology of World Literature (2004). His books include We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the University (1995), What Is World Literature? (2003), The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh (2007), and How to Read World Literature (2009).
Truth is, the modern anthology and even the modern canon are now, as in the past, the products of print capitalism as much as (and only later) of an academy figured as capitalism's antidote and handmaiden. As such, anthologies remain, as they have always been, enterprises in which commercial and scholarly entities, values, and interests (among others) intersect in ways that we cannot begin to truly understand as long as we either (1) take the essence of those values and interests, their differences, and their ethical valence for granted in advance or (2) remain overly focused (as anthologies themselves historically have been) on authors and editors as the primary agents of literary production and history.
Kelly J. Mays is associate professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and coauthor, with Alison Booth, of The Norton Introduction to Literature (9th ed., 2005).
Anyone interested in the history of The Norton Anthology of English Literature should be warned that “Canonizing the Canonizer,” as the product of its author's predisposition to sensationalism, conjoined with shoddy research, is riddled with assertions of fact that are false. Their falsity would have been readily demonstrated if the author, or the editors of Critical Inquiry, had met the elementary obligation of scholarship by checking the accuracy of these assertions with the publisher of the anthology or with me.
M. H. Abrams, the Class of 1916 Professor of English Literature Emeritus, has been a member of the English department at Cornell University since 1945.
I was surprised, to put it mildly, that Sean Shesgreen's “Canonizing the Canonizer: A Short History of The Norton Anthology of English Literature” met your scholarly and editorial standards (Critical Inquiry 35 [Winter 2009]: 293–318). Cutting through the lengthy and mean‐spirited narrative, the main insight of Shesgreen's “research” seems to be that authors get royalties and publishers compete with one another. I doubt that was news to your readers. As for the editing, it seems to have been nonexistent. Shesgreen wrongly attributes quotations, distorts—by taking out of context—statements that he lacked the courtesy to review with his sources, and pockmarks the piece with easily checked mistakes about the chronology of innovations in the various literature anthologies.
W. Drake McFeely is chairman and president of W. W. Norton and Company. Norton is the largest independent publishing company wholly owned by its employees.
Rarely do editors of literary journals confront ethical issues. You did, in deciding to publish “Canonizing the Canonizer: A Short History of The Norton Anthology of English Literature” (Critical Inquiry 35 [Winter 2009]: 293–318). Sean Shesgreen asked M. H. Abrams, a giant of twentieth‐century literary criticism, to let him see his personal papers from the time he shaped the first edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Abrams brought him a mass of private correspondence. But the papers Shesgreen first examined—the ones relevant to his inquiry—contained, for him, “nothing useful” (p. 317). Then he realized that Abrams (born in 1912) did not use email. Instead, his secretary printed out all emails sent to him. These included exchanges between other Norton editors and between these editors and the Norton staff, exchanges on which, as a courtesy, Abrams had been cc'd. These emails—“candid, forthcoming, and spontaneous” (p. 317)—Shesgreen set out to exploit.
Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and the general editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
The heart of the matter is that while generalizations on this topic are tolerated, naming names or specifying sums of money is discourteous, embarrassing, abusive, an egregious disservice—my critics' language. Perhaps the problem with my essay is that it offers a specific case history with particulars? In this respect, an analogy between anthologies and sausages runs true and deep; we all love sausages, but none of us wants to know precisely how they are made. Those who inform us about their manufacture, name particular sausage makers, and divulge information about their profits are “low‐order” tabloid journalists (p. 1079); they distort, take sausage making out of context, ruin the good name of all sausage makers, and bring their guild into disrepute.
Sean Shesgreen is a professor of English at Northern Illinois University. He has written on popular graphic art in England, the illustrated children's book, William Hogarth, and Jonathan Swift. His most recent book is Images of the Outcast: The Urban Poor in the Cries of London (2002).
Once upon a time, a very round, very red‐headed woman wearing a purple caftan concluded a talk on the erotics of poetic form by inviting my colleagues to rethink sexuality through considering, among other things, their own anal eroticism. On this occasion Eve Sedgwick was delivering something that Critical Inquiry was not, ultimately, fortunate enough to publish, the brilliant “A Poem Is Being Written” [Representations, no. 17 (1987): 110–43]. The gasp in the room at her invitation or “permission”—of aversion, surprise, and sheer pleasure—was delightful and unprecedented in my experience of academic performance. It was not a surprise intellectually, however, because Sedgwick's first two books, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) and The Coherence of Gothic Conventions (1986) had already made me gasp, resist, have reveries, think twice, think bigger, and become different in my analytic practices. She helped me to slow down as a reader: she changed how I paid attention to aesthetic and affective dynamics.
Lauren Berlant is the George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago and a coeditor of Critical Inquiry.