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nal . . . founded on the notion that highly sophi ticated academic material could be rendered acce sible to reader from all disciplines."4o Another side warns that "the thematic of interdisciplinarity open up a dangerou fis ure in the continuity of bourgeois knowledge."41 "Interdisciplinary" can be somewhat indiscriminate in its collocations: "The program ... i unstructured and interdisciplinary, yet directed and rigorous. "42 Thanks to this opennes , reviewers are no longer in the hateful position of having to specify whether a book is cultured, erudite, thorough, original, or conversely, superficial, facile, general, derivative: the one all-purpose adjective keep reader alert and authors friendly. Unlike its nearest ri al -borderlands, interdepartmental, cooperative, coordinated-"interdisciplinary" has something to plea e everyone. Its base, discipline, is hoary and anti eptic; its prefix, inter, is hairy and friendly. Unlike fields, with their mud, cow , and corn, the Latinate discipline comes encased in stainless steel: it sugge ts omething rigorous, aggres ive, hazardous to master. Inter hints that knowledge is a warm, mutually developing, consultative thing. The prefix not only has the right feel but, like an unhinged magnet, draws to itself all other inter . And from the twenties on, between-ness was where the action was: from interper onal, interHarvard Graduate Soddy NnÂťSutJer (Summer 1986), 9. Arthur Krober. "Migration from the Di ipline ," ]oumal of Canadian tudiLs 15/3 (Fall 19 0),7. 4~ Meditval StttdiLs in North America, p. 73. 40



group, interreligious, interethnic, interracial, interregional and international relations to intertextuality, things coming together in the state known as inter encapsulated the greatest problems facing society in the twentieth century.4S "Interdisciplinary" combined the notion that nothing is static or fixed, that discovery comes from breaking some conventional limit or barrier, with the desire to see things whole. It is perhaps not totally coincidental that the earliest citation I could find for "interdisciplinary" comes from the same year in which Jan C. Smuts coined "holistic," referring to "the tendency in nature to produce wholes from the ordered grouping of unit tructure ."44 The 1920s had launched a number of new terms for reciprocal interaction within a total system. By 1928, Harold Laski was complaining that "in our own day it has become fashionable for the observer to apply to the social process the latest discoveries of psychology."45 And the fashion has lasted. "Interdisciplinary," now entering its seventh decade, shows little sign of fading away. Indeed, it is hard to imagine getting through the rest of the 0 century without it. 45 Peggy Ro enthal, Words and VallltS: Some Leading Words (New York and Oxford, 1984). Also David Lodge, "Where It' At: California Language," in The Stale of the Language, ed . Leonard Michael and Chri topher Rick (Berkeley and Lo Angele. 19 0), 503-513; publi hed in a lightly different form in Encottnter magazine under the title "Where It' At: The Poetry of P ychobabble." 44 A SufJPltmtnl to the Oxford English Dictionary, .v., citing Holism and Evoltttion (London, IS26), p. 99. 4 5 "Foundation, Universities, and Re arch ," p. 295.





Profile for SSRC's Items & Issues

Items Vol. 42 No. 3 (1988)  

Items Vol. 42 No. 3 (1988)