Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reading on the Boundaries

(More revised thesis introduction)

Reading on the boundaries

The analysis of the Bird and Salzman interpretations of Grunge fiction offered above [see post three below] would appear to indicate that the novels have been subjected to plural approaches. Literary generationalism, marketing hype, possible innovations in form, and the theme of abjection are used as frameworks through which the interpretation and explanation of Grunge fiction is conducted. Such apparent pluralism, however, is no guarantee that this fourfold hermeneutics crosses any significant boundaries in seeking to affiliate Grunge fiction with contemporary texts, political culture or other cultural forms. Of course, choosing two survey-styled entries that can only give little consideration to Grunge fiction because of space restrictions might be seen as too little and too selective a sample from which to make any firm evaluations. So, while the Bird and Salzman passages do reveal the working of a set of frameworks, it is to a more detailed analysis of key writings of Grunge fiction that this thesis will turn, in order to re-engage with and interpret the gaps, silences and contradictions that these writings inscribed. The crucial writings of Mark Davis, Kirsty Leishman, Ian Syson and Joan Kirkby on Grunge fiction codify significant aspects of the frameworks that Bird and Salzman use, and also attempt to push through the cultural and political boundaries within which their own readings of Grunge fiction and its historical context are structured. Each of these four texts on Grunge fiction is a kind of boundary work, and this concept now needs to be explained before moving into analysis of these influential forms of boundary work on Grunge fiction.

The concept of boundary work derives from social epistemologist Julie Thompson Klein’s studies of trans- and interdisciplinary knowledge production and was introduced into Australian literary studies by Robert Dixon (2004). For Dixon, Klein argues that “at present new knowledge is most often produced by boundary crossing in the form of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research, and that this tends to be located in the shadow structures – the dynamic, informal networks and collaborations that form beneath and across the surface structures’ (32). These boundaries “are open, their cognitive border zones ragged and ill-defined” (32). Dixon points out that,

[Klein’s] preference is for a field in which boundaries are not dissolved, but maintained and at the same time constantly transgressed. [. . .]. The term “boundary work” as Klein uses it [. . .] does not simply mean either the policing of disciplinary boundaries or their collapse, but is meant positively to embrace the sum-total of all boundary work, including boundary crossings, especially between disciplinary neighbours. (33)

Dixon’s explication of boundary work as a shuttling between, rather than dissolution or fervid defence of, disciplinary boundaries provides a productive model for approaching the interdisciplinarity of the four influential texts analysed below. My purpose here is to delineate the terrain of the framework invoked and then to unpack a key passage from both sides of the boundary on which concerns from within the literary discipline meet those from within the political, sociological, economic, epistemological and the psychological disciplines.

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