Interdisciplinary Education – Response to Brianne’s Post

Taking a holistic approach to the study of a contact zone, as Brianne contemplates after reading of Bizzell’s essay about ‘Contact Zones’, seems like such a sensible approach. If we consider, for example, nineteenth century American literature, it would, of course, merit examination of trends in politics, British literature, Caribbean literature, commercial enterprises, philosophy, history, etc. To some extent, this kind of study began to shape as historiographic analysis, which we could view as a reaction against the New Criticism. I would argue that English departments in many universities are moving towards this approach.

An understanding, at the bare minimum, of history is, I think, necessary to comprehending the literature of any given period — especially when it is further removed from our contemporary space. (I’m thinking here particularly of medieval literature, but the same could be said of Greek mythology, Renaissance literature, Gilgamesh, etc., etc.) It makes good sense to conceive of all aspects of a contact zone — though I think it ostensibly must be tied to either space or time to create an ultimately teachable semester curriculum. Otherwise the scope is simply too massive to be contained and the course would become a kind of survey of literatures.

Perhaps a better approach is to reconceive of the literature course as being shaped around a theme, which could include contact zones — but also such notions as post-colonial theory, chivalry, Marxism, Industrial age aristocracy, formations of the ‘school story’, and other such topics. This would allow for all manner of literatures to be included, regardless of period, genre, gender, or location. Ultimately, I think there are a lot of ways we could conceive of the literature (or the composition) class.

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