Many an interdisciplinary researcher will question themselves, and rightly so. Altogether, disciplines are merely puzzle pieces, that when combined, lead to a bigger picture. As suggested by Allen Repko and Rick Szostack in Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory, to ignore one or more of the other pieces would make for a fairly haphazard puzzle by denying “the focus [on the particular] problem or issue or intellectual question that each discipline is addressing” (7). In order to construct the larger picture, there are calls for unbiased research. Not surprisingly, interdisciplinary can, at times, be confused with neutrality.
Even if neutrality were attainable, it might not result in good research. As Katrina Griffen believes, “preferences and inclinations can fuel a person’s enthusiasm or provoke attempts to comprehend the facets of the universe” (3). When taking a biased stance toward research, it’s a sort of driver. Understandably, too much bias is bad, but a nugget of bias can be beneficial to research. A certain kind of bias guides passion for knowledge. If everyone were neutral all the time, their dispassion would lead them nowhere.
Perhaps neutral or objective is not a word that should be placed alongside interdisciplinary studies, but rather, an open-mind. The terms might seem similar, but they are different. Neutrality or objectivity is assuming a stance from a distance, and how can anything be learned from a distance? However, keeping an open-mind allows for proximity, while utilizing the nugget of bias necessary for research results. Admitting to and assessing disciplinary and personal bias can help toss out the bulk of it. Yet, Griffen contends that it’s impossible to get rid of bias, and scholars should avoid pretending it’s not there. Not taking all the facts into account is a sort of bias all by itself. It is the mission of Penumbra to encourage transformative ideas and storytelling, which means calling for greater interdisciplinarity of research.
Interestingly, there is a bias towards interdisciplinary scholarship, which as Tom McLeish notes, is often seen as a periphery concern. Scholars should strive to synthesize foundational knowledge with multiple facets, to lead them to a larger and illuminating summation. Indeed, identifying bias allows for richer interdisciplinary conversations, and a niche from which to begin research.
This issue of Penumbra includes seven critical articles, two essays, two short stories, and various poems. The work comes to us from scholars in academe and out, established and emerging writers and artist in the U.S. and abroad, individuals using traditional and experimental styles to explore the power of critical and creative expression as it relates to the interdisciplinary approach.
In his essay, “The Power of Poetry: Story, Symbol, and Incantation”, Robert Ratliff examines three elements fueling the healing power of poetry: story, symbol, and incantation by breaking down the meanings of these basics, and shedding light on how poets who possess an understanding of them can use this knowledge in making their own poems more powerful. Similarly, Dr. Dana Kroos’s “How to Find a Blackhole in Your Kitchen” is an all-encompassing series, condensed with emotion and beauty, including photographs of enthralling carvings, with accompanying poetry. “Harry’s Last Trick”, by Dusty McGowan, echoes the epic narrative as shown by Kroos, and places it in short story format. In another deviation on storytelling, Matt Grinder offers his essay, “Discourse on Anxiety: An Analysis of Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” His research suggests the rift between men and women has been a social construction that began taking profound roots in the nineteenth century Western conception of what social spheres men and women should occupy, as exemplified in Gilman’s work.
Rollin Jewett’s poem, Junk and Treasure, focuses on the unwanted material possessions, and the true meaning of treasure. Another poem collection by Jose Duarte, is untitled, based on the work of C.S. Lewis to examine imagination and form. Sherri Moyer reviews Magdelana Kubow’s article, “Women in the Church: A Historical Survey”, to assess the arguments made about why women are not ordained in the Roman Catholic Church today.
In keeping with perception and change, Jose Duarte shares his untitled poetry collection based on the work of C.S. Lewis. Next comes a fictional piece from Dr. Matt Weber, who combines science fiction variations and post-apocalyptic themes to underscore the use of weapons in this timely satire of violence and the police.
In conjunction with domestic affairs, Jacinda Lewis proposes new methods for dealing with sex offenders in “Trends in Substance Abuse Treatment and Applications for Sex Offenders.” Likewise, Dr. Kendra Preston Leonard offers political commentary about her year in Syria in her poetry collection, including the piece Highway Drone. More on domestic policy comes from Ola Leigh in “America’s Drug Policies: What Works, What Doesn’t.”
Once again, Robert Ratliff shares his writing, this time in the form of a poignant creative non-fiction, “The Dead Television.” Picking up on the emotional elements of Ratliff’s work, Dr. Sandy Feinstein’s poetry collection boasts strong selections, such as Learning to Write in Two Languages and 40 Martyrs Church.
Danielle Johnson writes of the need to study magical ruralism in “No Place Like Home: Magical Ruralism as Cultural Discourse.”
“Mr. Big Stuff” is the last short story featured in this issue, written by the illustrious Alex Pilas. Likewise, the last poetry collection comes from Michael S. Begnal: Five Homage Poems.
The last critical article underscores philosophy and a need for a post-structural analysis in “Kant We Hegel Our Way Out of This? The Problem of People in Postcolonial Studies” by Charlie Gleek.
Adding greater perspectives is the mission of this journal. Indeed, the above submissions encompasses a myriad of disciplines, such as art, history, literature, education, law, and more.
Overall, by distilling issues among different perspectives, the spectrum of possible solutions and/or theoretical approaches becomes clearer. Additionally, the formalities of methodologies and epistemologies will help to sharpen learning skills, and narrow focus by acknowledging and moving past bias. Part of that focus is what Repko and Szostak term “telescoping down”, which is a “strategy that forces us to think deductively, to move from the general to the particular,” and then later we will understand “how the parts interact, and […] identify gaps between the disciplines.”
As emerging scholars, the ultimate goal should be to see what has not yet been seen, to explore what has been missed.