Amid undeniable institutional pressures, one more strictly intellectual aspect of the chronic crisis in English studies is its perennial state of emergence toward a disciplinarity that, in Thomas S. Kuhn’s sense, it never achieves. Since its early nineteenth-century inception the field has instead borrowed tools, procedures, and standards, immethodically yet retentively, from other fields it has found engaging and adaptable. Notable waves of change that have irrigated the field include, in rough historical sequence, philology, seminary education, psychology, social science, history, anthropology, linguistics, philosophy, and sociology—none of them long dominant yet none ever quite superseded, each leaving its mark on literary scholarship and criticism. Analytic and interpretive practices incubated in English having at times flowed back with a difference into their sponsoring disciplines, it is incumbent on English studies now to see that these practices flourish in the field of media studies that seems likely to succeed it during the century ahead.
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1 June 2014
Herbert F. Tucker; A Field of Magpies: Disciplinary Emergence as Modus Vivendi in English Studies. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2014; 75 (2): 297–316. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2416644
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