R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Literários

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos sobre o Imaginário Literário [LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4051] visitada em 16/02/2008

Classificação: Fair

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade

The current Centre as presented to the panel is a new formation (2007) that incorporates ongoing research with new, still to be implemented, research. The Centre’s report does not specify its objectives or organizational structure beyond presenting three interrelated lines of research that share a common interest in the ‘literary imaginary’ although their specific aims are quite different. From the Centre’s own report these three lines would comprise a total of seven main researchers, assisted by twenty-one other researchers, seven of whom without the PhD, including researchers who are associated with the Centre but do not effectively work at the Centre.


The report prepared by the Centre does not specify any objectives. Each of the three individual lines of research, however, do specify their unique goals: one research line specifies the intent to “give a contribution for the study of the Imaginary from a diachronic, multidisciplinary and European perspective”; another states that it “will focus on the study of Vergílio Ferreira’s literary work, by analyzing it from the Imaginary theoretical standpoint, as well as on the critical-genetic edition of his works”; and the third line mentions two closely connected and concomitant goals: to “establish a thorough inventory of the medieval narrative texts extant in several archives in order to select a collection of texts whose publication will be regarded as particularly imperative or relevant” and to “ provide critical editions of some medieval texts and Portuguese chivalry novels”. All three lines, furthermore, declare the preparation and dissemination of the results of their research as well as the training of PhD students among their goals.


Although the Centre’s report nowhere makes it clear, it was pointed out during the site visit that in addition to the Centre’s main coordinator, who is one of the principal investigators in one of the research lines, the Centre would have a board composed by the principal investigators of each research line. The administrative structure is not as clear as it should be and the relation between senior researchers and junior ones is also not transparent. The site visit created the impression that although the Centre would rely on the considerable expertise of some of its senior members the different lines had not yet reached a strong enough common point to effectively work as a coordinated team.


As is the case with some other centres it is difficult to assess productivity based on the presented report. As a newly formed Centre there are still barely any results that might be considered and the results that are shown are mostly previous publications from the principal investigators – with some from associated members – that in some way relate to the proposed research to be still implemented. Among these there are clearly works of significant scholarship, some in international publications, but they can at best serve as an indication of the potential for achieving results by the Centre’s senior researchers.


As mentioned above, the fact that the Centre was only established in 2007 does not allow for an evaluation of publications. From those listed as constituting previous work by some of the researchers in related areas, one can point out the fact that some are clearly works of significant scholarship with the potential for both national and international relevance, while others are more limited in scope. Since the report only presents a selection of previous publications it is also not possible to determine with any precision even the potential for future productivity.


All senior research members have been involved in the training of MA and PhD candidates and a good number of postgraduates are listed among the Centre’s associated researchers, so that it is to be expected that the Centre will fulfil its mission in terms of training future PhD’s.


The Centre’s report does not present any management strategy and from the site visit it was also not possible to form a clear view of how the Centre intends to run. The current strategy seems to depend on obtaining FCT funding in order to implement the various goals already listed to which should be added some explicitly named such as visits to national and foreign archives, the acquisition of essential library materials, some computer equipment and, in the case of one of the research lines, a grant for one new PhD candidate.


In a sense, since the Centre was only formed in 2007, all is future planning. Two of the Centre’s three lines list a number of PhD students and their development will necessarily be an important part of the Centre’s possibility for success. However, there is no evident cohesion between the three lines at the moment and this might hamper future development.


All senior researchers are experienced academics whose track record assures the delivery and dissemination of research results. However, beyond the publication of specific books for instance, such as the announced volume on Vergílio Ferreira’s unpublished diary entries, the Centre has yet to formulate clear and feasible lines of action to achieve its goals. One of the projects mentioned, for instance, the creation of a database on manuscripts, would need to have a detailed plan so as to be properly evaluated.


There is little if any intellectual cogency at present, given the fact that three lines of research, even though sharing some common attributes, seem to have been conceived individually and as more or less direct extensions of the research of the principal investigators. The common thread that would unite the separate lines, the ‘literary imaginary’ is simply too broad a category. Although during the site visit it was possible to clarify somewhat what exactly might be met under such a heading, this was done mostly by a process of negative elimination and with considerable resistance so that the panel in the end still could not assert with any certainty what would constitute the specific perspective to be shared by all three lines. Two of the lines, one focusing on the study of the works of Vergílio Ferreira, and on he preparation of critical editions of hose texts might be said to be the furthest removed from the notion of ‘literary imaginary’ as it was presented during the site visit, yet it is perhaps the one line with the most focused project. It shares, with the line intending to prepare critical editions of some medieval texts, a focus on very laborious scholarship. However, the line on medieval texts still has to define a corpus. The other line, that would range from studies of the symbolic to studies of utopia and the city, although having past international associations, and dealing in established areas of research, at the moment appears to be too vaguely formulated without a clear nexus or even a direct connection with the other two.


As previously mentioned the Centre’s organization is not clear. And at the moment there seems to be little coherence among the different lines it proposes to work on. Clearly this can be attributed to the fact that the Centre itself is a recent creation. On the other hand, before advancing with the creation of a research centre it would have been expected that principal investigators would have thought through exactly what projects they were going to pursue and how these might benefit from coming together in a Centre. At the moment the panel had the impression that the three lines of research are still primarily individual projects without any real coherence.


This is perhaps one of the weakest points of this Centre since the three lines of research are still too separate from each other and because there is no clear organizational structure, perhaps as a result of the lack of coherence among the different lines. As a result of the site visit the panel was left with the perception that senior scholars play a decisive role in setting up the agenda for each of the lines and that continuity is fragilized as a result.


This is not really an issue since Lisbon is the capital with several outstanding institutions and the Centre’s proposed research does not focus on regional aspects.


If the Centre had been able to define the ‘literary imaginary’ this would have helped to ground its claim about the necessity of establishing such a dedicated unit as can be read in the report of one of the research lines: “The city’s utopia bridges across the world of artists in general, and is dealt with by sociologists, architects, politicians. The broad interest of these topics fully justifies the creation, in academic context, of a research line which aims to tackle them”. However, as the research proposed is vaguely defined, or follows established models for literary scholarship such as the preparation of critical editions, and the claims for interdisciplinarity (linking primarily with areas in the social sciences such as psychology, sociology and anthropology, or philosophy) are nowhere evident either in the description of the Centre’s aims or in the previous publications, the panel must conclude that there is nothing to set the work of this Centre apart from that carried out in other institutions with an established and well-delineated research profile.


Some of the senior researchers have clear international connections and one of the lines mentions previous collaboration with European networks, just as during the site visit this was also stressed in terms of collaboration with French academics. However, there is no clear line for establishing systematic partnerships with foreign centres or networks.


At the moment it is very unclear what might be realistic goals for the different lines of research proposed or does there seem to be an added value from a possible synergy between them that still has not been established. Although one can rely on the senior researchers to continue producing quality scholarship, and although a plan for the systematic publication of critical editions of Vergílio Ferreira, for instance, would certainly be of clear value, the Centre as a whole does not yet seem capable of structuring what its specific contribution to the Humanities in Portugal might be.


Taking into account the current lack of clear coordination and collaboration among the three separate research lines and the fact that the newly created Centre has yet to formulate a distinctive and concrete plan for structuring research in a specific Centre rather than incorporating the different lines in other established research units, the panel cannot but consider the Centre, at this stage, as fair. Funding for specific projects seems clearly warranted but structural funding for the Centre as an integral unit depends very much on the realization of objectives that are currently still undefined.


A key aspect for the Centre to become viable is its proper definition as a unit with clear research goals. As such this would entail as a first step a better focus of each line, with the preparation of realistic research plans, with a clearly delineated corpus, with specific timetables for the preparation and delivery of concrete results. A second step would involve a rethinking of the Centre: either the specificity of each research line would become more noticeable at which point it would make more sense to try to incorporate each line in other established units; or the clarity achieved would facilitate ascertaining how the three lines might profit from operating under a common denominator so that the Centre may assume proper definition in national and international context.
As part of the process it would be useful to consider very specific, strategic partnerships with other research centres either along the lines of a specific project such as the establishment of a database of manuscripts, or along theoretical lines that were by and large absent from the current report.
Such a process of redefinition should go hand in hand with a serious consideration of organizational structure so as to allow for a clear and efficient management of resources and goals.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Fundações do Imaginário Nacional (Foundations of the Nacional Imaginary) [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4051-30]
Imaginários Europeus (European Imaginaries) [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4051-31]
Universos Imaginários Literários (Literary Imaginary Universes) [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4051-29]