Archive for May, 2009

All has been silent here for a couple of months for two reasons. The final push towards publishing a new issue of 19 always takes up more time than expected, so April was pretty much flat out on that, leaving little time for blogging. I think the resulting issue, the last in the current dreamweaver-built html format before a switch to an all-singing, all-dancing redesigned OpenJournal version, has been worth it. That’s here.

My own research has been focused on chasing down the influence of Francis Galton on Flatland. It’s been very fruitful and I’m trying to pull it all together into an essay that might be suitable for submission for publication, so until that’s all done I won’t know exactly which bits I’ll be free to put up here, but as soon as I do I’ll post them up.

This has been a real eye-opener, particularly reading Galton, who I was only aware of by reputation, and as the father of eugenics, that rep aint so clever. Attempting to periodise his work, to think in nineteenth century terms when dealing with phrases such as ‘the prognathous brow of the Irishman’, is tricky, especially when 21st century liberal vibes throw up great clouds of cotton-wool in front of my vision. It’s essentially a filleting job, because disproved and prejudicial statements, risible methodology and intense social conservatism rub shoulders with influential psychological experiments and radical approaches to the application of statistical methodologies.

And writing of methodology, I’m giving a paper at the Angles conference on cultural history at Birkbeck on 20th June. Given that I’m calling Fairyland a cultural history it seemed as if it would be pretty remiss not to put in a proposal, and it’s a useful stage to think again about my methodology, as I’ve allowed the material to direct me so far. In essence, the paper will describe this process and the sources that have suggested the way I’m now working. It’s much more personal than the other papers I’ve given, and I’m slightly nervous that it will seem unscholarly in comparison to other papers on the day, but I should feel at home with the material and some of it will be drawn from rough drafts of my introduction.

Anyway, here’s the abstract:

Unintended hybridity: the case of higher space

Through initial encounters with the concept of the fourth dimension in twentieth century literature and secondary writing on Modern art, my research has led me rapidly into a period – the nineteenth century – and disciplines – mathematics, history of science and psychology – in which I was inexperienced and with which I felt varying degrees of comfort. The subject under consideration nevertheless dictated an engagement with these fields.

This paper gives an overview of two approaches to the idea of interdisciplinary research that have informed my work on higher space (and provided some level of comfort). Drawing on Michel Serres’s conversations with Bruno Latour, it situates Serres on interdisciplinarity. Using Roger Luckhurst’s cultural history The Invention of Telepathy, it highlights a blueprint approach to how such interdisciplinary research might be pursued, embarking from a literary historical or cultural theoretical background.

Examining the link between the two, the work of Bruno Latour, and focusing on Latour’s involvement in the SOKAL affair, it addresses continuing doubts over the practice of interdisciplinary modes of research. In so doing it seeks to find a justification for allowing the diktats of the subject under consideration to overcome the risks inherent in the untrained transgression of disciplinary boundaries.


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