Attempting to bridge the gap between specialised scholarship in the humanistic disciplines and an interdisciplinary project of cultural analysis, Mieke Bal has written an intellectual travel guide that charts the course ‘beyond’ cultural studies. As with any guide, it can be used in a number of ways and the reader can follow or willfully ignore any of the paths it maps or signposts.
Bal’s focus for this book is the idea that interdisciplinarity in the humanities – necessary, exciting, serious – must seek its heuristic and methodological basis in concepts rather than its methods. Concepts are not grids to put over an object. The counterpart of any given concept is the cultural text or work or ‘thing’ that constitutes the object of analysis. No concept is meaningful for cultural analysis unless it helps us to understand the object better on its own terms.
Bal offers the reader a sustained theoretical reflection on how to ‘do’ cultural analysis through a tentative practice of doing just that. This offers a concrete practice to theoretical constructs, and allows the proposed method more accessibility