Over the last couple days, I’ve been involved in a couple conversations both online and off that got me thinking about a few things. The thing that really stands out in my mind is the interconnectedness of all areas of knowledge and study.
We’ve artificially divided knowledge and learning into discrete areas during the last century or so. The reasons are understandable; it makes specialty and expertise easier to define, it makes them easier to teach, and all that.
However, it also causes problems.
Recently one person I know asked how I remembered “so much” history. Another pulled out the “I’m an X major, not a Y major” thing when confronted about a questionable analogy (s)he made. The latter really annoyed me for a few reasons (it reinforces stereotypes and is intellectually lazy, IMO).
But, they got me thinking about how every area of knowledge is interrelated.
I thought about my own undergrad days. I started as a bio major, so had biology and chemistry. At the same time, I did some psychology, Spanish, classical mythology, and comparative theology. Then I became an English major, covering a range of literature and history of English language materials with an History minor focusing on medieval and Renaissance history with some military and Chinese history. At the same time, I was continuing formal study of comparative theology and dabbled in cultural studies. In grad school, English language and literature was the focus, but the history study continued and developmental psychology (for literacy study) and Jungian psychoanalysis were added alongside comparative mythology. (And remained interested sciences and moderately good at math.)
And I didn’t think any of this was odd, or unusual. It was natural.
A comment from a student a few years back comes to mind. (S)He was smiling after class and we started talking. (S)He said something to the effect of being amused by “how little we talked about writing” in the class. That had me thinking, as I replied.
When we study writing, literature, what is it that we’re studying? What is it that people are writing about (in fiction and nonfiction)?
They’re writing about, and we’re studying: history, sociology, culture, law, life. Literature is about history, society, culture, politics, philosophy, people (psychology), life (biology). Many of those are in turn connected to chemistry, physics, fashion, architecture, art, music, math, etc. which eventually come full circle back to literature, history, philosophy, and so on.