Seminary LII, Interdisciplinary conversation V: a new post at Cliopatria

A small portion of a Slovenian manuscript written in Glagolitic script

A small portion of a Slovenian manuscript written in Glagolitic script


The Bidayuh Longhouse in the Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching

The Bidayuh Longhouse in the Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching

As I guess you know, I try and hear about research in other disciplines when it’s put in front of me and seems to cross my interests. In fact we all have to pay some attention to this sort of potential, but how much varies a lot. One might express it thus:

Medievalists operate in a climate where the word `interdisciplinary’ is like rain in the UK. It falls on one quite a lot, one soaks a certain amount of it up whether one likes it or not (no medieval historian completely ignores objects, for example, even if one only uses them for slides in Powerpoint), and it is generally agreed that we need more of it to do our work well, by which is often meant, to make plausible or successful bids for funding. But, all the same, most people prefer it when the sun comes out for them and they can luxuriate in the field they’ve made their own rather than continually having one’s view messed up by alternative perspectives. Very few people seem to actually like the rain.

This is the preamble of what became a long post that I put on Cliopatria, about how we are told we ought to do interdisciplinary work, about where some successful work of this sort is actually being done that I’ve heard about, and about a case where the cross-over actually doesn’t have much potential. I conclude with the feeling that small-scale technical collaborations are more likely to be helpful than big-brush social comparisons, but since the post covers computerised palæography in unusual Slavic scripts, pragmatic Christian converts who aren’t head-hunters even though the tourist industry would like you to think they are, and Bishop Daniel of Winchester’s advice to Saint Boniface, you may feel like reading it.

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2 responses to “Seminary LII, Interdisciplinary conversation V: a new post at Cliopatria

  1. Dear Jonathan

    Just dropped by to say how much I admire your blog (and your blogging energy!!).

    On interdisciplinarity. I find that I learn most from thinking about the methodologies of different disciplines (the difference between the ways in which literary and historical scholars approach texts for example) and their different conceptual frameworks, rather than the actual content or conclusions of different disciplines. The latter can be stimulating and thought provoking, but do indeed come fraught with some of the problems that you highlight here.

    • Thankyou for the kind words. I find confronting theories from different disciplines a good source of caution, and sometimes of interpretations, but one always has to customise them to fit one’s material and then, of course, people complain that you haven’t fully understood or are misusing the concept. Which may indeed be true! but if it helps…

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