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date: 28 May 2020

Summary and Keywords

For literary theory, discipline is caught tantalizingly between its meaning as a verb and as a noun. Since the work of Foucault, in particular, one is accustomed to thinking of discipline as a structure and process of power. Individual disciplines, of course, tell their own story, but their specific constellations in education offer a snapshot of priorities (social, economic, and cultural) that are symptomatic well beyond their putative subject matter. The idea of training in knowledge goes back to the ancient world, whose models still maintain an influence in the present, although this may well depend on cultural precedents within particular languages and histories. In general, disciplines emerged in modernity and are overdetermined in a number of ways, including but not limited to: transformations in thought (the Renaissance, for instance); formations of state (that can provide an institutional infrastructure); and economic imperatives (knowledge more literally as an accumulation axiom in capitalism, for instance). Disciplines remain indices in the production and maintenance of human subjects, but there are many kinds of challenges (within disciplines, interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, etc.) that presage a rethinking of what disciplines are and can be in the present.

Keywords: power, institution, literature, subjects, knowledge

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