FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Literários

Unidade de I&D

CETAPS - Centre for English, Translation and Anglo-Portuguese Studies [LIT-Norte-Porto-4097] visitada em 09/02/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
1. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Centre for English, Translation and Anglo-Portuguese Studies was formed by the amalgamation of the Centres for English (CEI) and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (CEAP) in 2007, both FCT funded, and at present, comprises 7 different research strands some of which have links with other centres in the University of Oporto, and with other researchers from various Portuguese universities. In terms of critical mass, this is a large centre, with some 29 researchers and a further 21. In terms of a strategy, the newly formed Centre has opted for critical mass as opposed to a clear and consistently organic conceptual framework. Three of the research strands: British Cultural History, Literature, Media and Discourse Analysis, and Anglo-Portuguese Studies are led by directors from the University of Lisbon, and the remaining four strands: Shakespeare and The English Canon, Intertextual and Inter-arts Dynamics in the Cultures of Ireland and Britain, British and North American Utopianism, and Intersections in American Literature, Culture and Thought, are all led by directors based at the University of Oporto. The present organisation of the Centre is the result of a recent history that is a response to earlier FCT advice to expand academic remits and to increase critical mass. The revised organisation offers opportunities but the newly created CETAPS is still in the process of developing a convincing rationale for itself. The report of the Centre’s director continues to think of its recent history in terms of two Centres, the Instituto de Estudos Ingleses, and the Centro de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses, each with their own expanding portfolios that appear to have an internal dynamic in terms of their generation of new research strands: e.g. the development from Shakespeare to issues of Shakespeare in translation, to new critical approaches, or, in the case of the Centro de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses, to focus on particular moments where the two cultures intersect, and to develop themes from those intersections. The emphasis on Media analysis, and the more recent strands in Irish Literature, American Literature, and Utopian Studies are additions that draw upon collaborators’ expertise both from elsewhere within the University of Oporto, and from within the Centre for English and Comparative Literature at the University of Lisbon.


2. DECLARED OBJECTIVES

Because this is a newly created Centre, it does not yet appear to have established a clear identity for itself. Its objectives are therefore rather more general than might be expected. Its future plans are to take advantage of interdisciplinary opportunities that arise from its comparative ethos, and to privilege topics such as ‘the study of reception, translation, intertextuality, intermediality, representations of temporal and spatial dynamics, relations in intellectual history’. This is a very wide remit indeed, and it is not clear what precise connection exists between these general themes and the activities of particular research groupings. The expansion of the Centre’s activities to encompass American Literature and Culture, for example, while ostensibly offering an additional comparative strand to its activities simply expands the Centre’s activities exponentially, and figures only in a very general sense in its future plans. The claim that ‘traditional’ approaches (presumably to Literary Studies) might be recuperated (‘productively retrieved’) in the Centre’s work is not clearly borne out in any integrated way in its current activities, e.g. the convergence of ‘criticism and certain forms of textual scholarship’ is not in evidence, and the ‘recent querying of radical forms of historicism and the re-signification of ‘presentism’’ figure only in the work of particular individuals rather than provide a conceptual framework for the Centre’s activities present and projected. There are solid plans for ongoing publication, and for the generation of research students, and there are also plans to expand the Centre’s international network and collaborations. As a comparatively new centre that draws together strengths from two earlier Centres FCT funding based on projected activities may be dependent upon assurances that clearer, more integrated plans are secured, that address the overall ethos rather than the generalisations that appear as some of the justifications in the documentation. Also there are certain gaps in the projected activities of the Centre e.g. there are no plans to integrate further the Utopian strand of the Centre’s work with that of the work of the Instituto de Literatura Comparada Margarida Losa at Oporto where it is conceptually embedded in an exemplary fashion in the work of that Centre.


3. ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE

The documentation does not make clear the administrative structure of the Centre, but implies that the newly amalgamated organisation has simply taken over the structure of CEAP whose board consists of all professors who elect a chair triennially. During the site visit there was a physical divide between the directors of particular research groupings and those researchers who were part of the Centre’s activities, suggesting that the work of full integration had not yet been completed. The Centre was still engaged in searching for external collaborators for some of its activities, and little thought seems to have been given at this stage about the logistical problem of inter-university communication of a regular kind.
It was not clear how in the present administrative structure new research strands emerge and are developed. At this stage the impression given was that the unification of two centres was a ‘marriage of convenience’ and that not enough thought had been devoted to the management structures and to their relationship to the organic growth of the new Centre.
There is ample evidence in the Centre of vibrant intellectual activity, but there is a less than clear sense of how it is managed. Little managerial thought seems to have been given at this stage about how to integrate personnel (especially from other universities) into the ongoing activity of the Centre and there appears to be no ‘physical’ forum for the Centre.


4. PRODUCTIVITY

4.1 PUBLICATIONS

The Centre’s publications both in terms of range and international impact, are impressive. In addition to publishing within Portugal a number of members of the Centre have published and are publishing in some of the major Anglo-American outlets, and are subject to the refereeing protocols of those journals/essay collections. By far the heaviest concentration of publication emanates from the Instituto de Estudos Ingleses, and it is perhaps not surprising that this area has made a greater impact on the international publishing scene, although some members in this category have entered their publications for more than one research group.


4.2 TRAINING

The Centre is generating, and has plans to increase the numbers of postgraduate students. The main problems at this stage have to do with questions of affiliation – especially in relation to those postgraduates who are based in Universities outside Oporto. There are plans to set up regular forums for the discussion of research work by postgraduates and staff. At present there is very little in the way of systematic practical training, although the Centre is beginning to respond to the demands of the Bologna Process.


4.3 ACADEMIC EVENTS

In addition to the dissemination of the Centre’s activities via websites etc. there have been a number of symposia/colloquia run by the two Centres before their amalgamation, and there are plans to expand this area of the Centre’s work over the next 3 years. There have been annual conferences, and there are general plans (not specific ones) to continue this practice.


4.4 OUTREACH

The new Centre’s outreach plans are solid, and in addition to links with other European and British and Irish universities, with a view to exchanging students and staff, there are also media links, and links with schools.


5. MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

The management strategy is not as clear as it could be, but this may well be due to the fact that the Centre is a fairly recent creation. At present the strategy seems to be to allow the two wings of the new Centre to continue their activities much as before, and then to look for areas of overlap, common interest and potential, and that these will provide the means of generating further ideas/research strands that will be pursued. It is not clear from the documentation how directive the management group is, or indeed, what mechanisms it uses to discriminate between potentially fruitful and unproductive research ideas.


6. FUTURE PLANNING

The new Centre has yet to evolve a model of planning that extends beyond the present desire to continue activities that were initiated under the old two-centre regime. There is a general awareness of the interdisciplinary opportunities that the new Centre offers and there are plans to run joint conferences, and to expand the network to researchers in other institutions. Focus will also be placed upon developing particular themed research.


7. INTELLECTUAL CONTENT AND STRATEGY

It is difficult to determine the relation between intellectual content and strategy since even within particular research groupings, themed research appears to be developing according to the internal dynamics of particular projects. The opportunities outlined in the documentation are there but there does not seem to be a clear plan for pulling various potentially fruitful strands together into a coherent organisation in which content and strategy are clearly harmonised. There is evidence of self-reflection within particular research groups, but very little indication of an over-arching conceptualisation that will drive the Centre’s agenda forward.
The intellectual content of some of the Centre’s published outputs indicate that within the umbrella of this large Centre particular strands are working productively and on a number of fronts.


8. INTELLECTUAL COGENCY

To some extent what there is of intellectual cogency is determined by the Centre’s various concerns. The Centre is comparative in outlook, it has a number of translation projects (especially in Shakespeare), it has developed a research strand in Media and Discourse, it has particular themed projects such as Irish Studies and Utopias, and it is developing American Studies. The comparative work with Portuguese Studies has produced one regular publication, the Revista de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses, and two digitalised databases. The various outputs are extremely well presented in booklet form (probably one of the most impressive graphic presentations of the work of any Centre), but the focus varies from one research group to another.


8.1 ORGANISATIONAL COHERENCE

There is a nominal organisational coherence in that each of the research strands are represented on a management committee. There is, however, still a sense that individual groups operate according to their own internal dynamics, and this can be either very well focused, or very general. As yet some of the research groups have yet to explore fully their potential, and there is insufficient evidence from publication that would contradict this impression. What is not clear is precisely how internal development is facilitated within the framework of organisational coherence, and this is linked to the problem of management strategy alluded to earlier. Each group has an internal structure that facilitates development, but it is not clear – except in a purely nominal sense – how these structures contribute to organisational and intellectual coherence.


8.2 LEADERSHIP AND CONTINUITY

The difficulty with a large and amorphous Centre such as this one is that leadership needs to be strong but not dictatorial, and that decisions of a firm kind need to be taken in relation to particular research lines and the manner of their development within a larger overarching context.. The following kinds of questions need to be asked by the management committee:
(i) What should be the scope of the work of particular research groupings, for example, in American Studies?

(ii) What kind of thinking is developing with regard to ‘translation’ at the theoretical as well as at the practical level?

(iii) In what specific ways is the ‘comparative’ agenda being developed?

(iv) Even though there is a clear development in Irish Studies, how far is this intended to go in order to justify the use of the epithet ‘British’, and to what extent are there plans to extend the remit of this strand to include Anglo-Welsh and Anglo-Scottish comparisons?

(v) How do all of these developments fit within an overarching rationale?

(vi) Where can economies of scale be effected?

(vii) How can particular strands develop organically and link with elements of others?
Some of these questions require to be asked as part of the leadership process.
The Centre’s own plans for ‘continuity’ are in need of some rethinking. Part of the difficulty with this Centre is that despite its being an amalgamation of 2 centres – part of the stated rationale being to offer new opportunities for interdisciplinary work, -thus far the new Centre appears to have interpreted ‘continuity’ as involving efforts to preserve the ‘old’ organisations within a ‘new’ one. Because of the occasionally forceful commitment of individuals to their own established research interests there appears to be a tension between a sense of continuity that will deliver a revised and integrated programme of research and the more conservative sense of a continuity that preserves past practice (in structural and organisational terms). There appears, therefore, to be a gap between the exciting interdisciplinary prospects that the new Centre offers, and the practice of defending particular intellectual territory. Indeed, the Centre will need to address the philosophical question of continuity, and will need to find ways of translating that into an organisational structure that at the end of the day is something more than the sum of its parts. Once it does this, then some of the larger more amorphous research strands can be broken down into manageable units and then more explicitly integrated as part of a coherent Centre policy.


9. REGIONAL ROLE

This is not a strictly relevant category since the work of the Centre is international and national.


10. NATIONAL INTEREST

As a Centre that is by definition ‘comparative’ in its outlook its work is, of necessity, of national importance.


11. INTERNATIONAL PROFILE

The Centre’s international profile is impressive, both in terms of its publications and in terms of its existing and planned collaborative networks. Indeed, in terms of the potential for logical development of some of the research strands the connections with universities outside Portugal could be extended even further and in some innovative directions.


12. DISTINCTIVE FUTURES AND ADDED VALUE

This centre has considerable potential but it will need to engage in a degree of reflection and self-criticism about its organisational structures, and about how it develops particular research strands. It has a very solid foundation on which to build, and an enviable international publishing record, but this should not lull it into a false sense of security. This Centre has the capacity to produce a very high order of interdisciplinary research, but in order to do so it will need to move from an evidently reactive stance to one that is prepared to explore innovative possibilities in positive rather than in a defensive manner.


13. GRADING OF CENTRE AND EVALUATIVE STATEMENT

At present the grading for this Centre is good. There are some very solid research strands, but there are others (e.g. the American Studies group) that have not focused upon a clear set of research questions that will help to narrow the scope of their activities into something that is more coherent, less fragmented, and more clearly methodological. Some of the research strands are connected to international and comparative research activity, and are thus developing at a faster rate than others. What makes this Centre not quite 4 is the comparative reticence of its management structure in its reluctance to draw the various strands into a genuinely coherent intellectual programme. All of the ingredients are there to do so, but what is not there, or only there in glimpses, is a clear conceptual framework, and an organisational structure that would allow for an ongoing debate about identity.


14. RECOMMENDATIONS

The work of the Centre should receive FCT support but its development in the next 3 years needs to be carefully monitored annually. There are certain issues that require to be addressed:
(i) An urgent review of management structures

(ii) A targeting and greater concentration on productive research strands

(iii) The Development of a convincing interdisciplinary rationale

(iv) A stronger emphasis on what is distinctive about this Centre’s comparative work

(v) An exploration of the interdependency of some of the research strands


15. SUPPORT / DISCONTINUATION OF RESEARCH LINES

A number of research lines offer the Centre a ready-made path into international debates. Consequently the following 3 strands: Shakespeare and The English Canon, Anglo-Portuguese Studies, Literature, Media and Discourse need to be preserved. The Mapping Dreams strand is also a very good comparative enterprise, and should be retained. The strand of Relational Forms: Intertextual and inter-Arts Dynamics in the Cultures of Ireland and Britain is also worth preserving but its remit needs to be expanded to take in Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-Welsh culture, and it needs a more innovative edge that will allow for some comparison with Portuguese writing. The Reception of British Political Thought in Portugal 1865-1910, should be subsumed as a sub•group within the strand for Anglo-Portuguese Studies; some of the concerns of this group can overlap with those of other groups e.g. Literature, Media and Discourse. Distilling Systems: Intersections in American Literature, Culture and Thought is, at this stage too wide an area, and some serious thought must be given to where the Centre’s investment in American Literature and Culture should be. It would be judicious to focus on Utopian aspects at this stage. Also, a different kind of linking might emerge that takes its cue from the Travel Writing theme in the Anglo-Portuguese strand, and that could form a thematic grouping across strands relation to Colonial and Postcolonial Studies.
Overall, some rationalisation of strands, more adventurous thematic thinking across strands, and a narrowing of focus in relation to some of the general strands. This debate on some reconfiguration is an urgent one if the Centre is to make the best of its potential and opportunities.


16. LEADERSHIP AND RENEWAL

The leadership question has already been addressed. The question of ‘renewal’ is premature since in the case of this Centre the foundations have not yet been firmly established. This is where the emphasis needs to be placed in the immediate future.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Anglo-Portuguese Studies [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4097-1678]
British Culture and History [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4097-1675]
Distilling Systems: Intersections in American Literature, Culture, and Thought [RG-LIT-Norte-Porto-4097-2360]
Literature, Media and Discourse Analysis [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-4097-1676]
Mapping Dreams: British and North-American Utopianism [RG-LIT-Norte-Porto-4097-1680]
Relational Forms: Intertextual and Inter-Arts Dynamics in the Cultures of Ireland and Britain [RG-LIT-Norte-Porto-4097-1679]
Shakespeare and the English Canon: a research and translation project [RG-LIT-Norte-Porto-4097-1677]

Comentários da unidade

Highlights from the evaluation report:

“There is ample evidence in the Centre of vibrant intellectual activity”

“The Centre’s international profile is impressive, both in terms of its publications and in terms of its existing and planned collaborative networks.”

“The Centre’s publications both in terms of range and international impact, are impressive. In addition to publishing within Portugal a number of members of the Centre have published and are publishing in some of the major Anglo-American outlets, and are subject to the refereeing protocols of those journals/essay collections.”

“There are solid plans for ongoing publication, and for the generation of research students, and there are also plans to expand the Centre’s international network and collaborations.”

“there have been a number of symposia/colloquia (...) There have been annual conferences”

“The new Centre’s outreach plans are solid, and in addition to links with other European and British and Irish universities, with a view to exchanging students and staff, there are also media links, and links with schools.”

Our position:

CETAPS takes due note of this acknowledgement of the quality, volume, dissemination and reach of its research work: these are the key aspects of a successful and academically influential research unit.
However, the Centre manifests its surprise that this recognition has materialised in an assessment as “Good”.
Under normal circumstances, an “impressive” publication record, national and “international impact”, and “solid plans” for continued research and advanced training are seen as defining a Centre’s proven capacity to pursue its goals at the highest level.
In this report, however, the panel’s avowed scepticism regarding the amalgamation of research units in general, and of IEI and CEAP in particular, has been disproportionately valued in relation to the other aspects mentioned. The report insistently evokes organisational and (literally) “managerial” concerns to support an attitude of doubt regarding the Centre’s capacity to continue producing the quality research that is acknowledged in the quotations above.
In view of this surprising disparity, CETAPS intends to contest a grade that it sees as doing no justice to the achievements that the panel itself has noted and expressed.