Sunday, January 16, 2005

Production and Overproduction

An article, can't remember where I found it (Crooked Timber?) about the (over) production of scholarship in the academy. There seems to be a great deal about this on academic blogs lately, perhaps coincidental with the several midyear academic conferences (APA, AHA, MLA) that traditionally have meat market hiring components. I don't quite know what to do about this so called overproduction. I think much of the self publishing of blogs and the web is good...let a thousand flowers bloom... Following Robert Boice, a keen psychologist who has written wisely on academic writing, many, many more than the typical 10-15% who do most of the publishing could be publishing if they gained writing fluency and made writing less of a priority (Boice has interesting things to say about binge writing as well as academics who say they don't have time to write).

With Boice, I don't buy the argument that some academics should not bother publishing because they don't have anything to say, or that there is too much published.

Lindsay Waters's booklet, Enemies of Promise, which I have yet to read (ah, there is too much for me to read...hahahaha), says, if I remember the part I have skimmed, that we are forcing scholarship too early in a person's career. The claim, oft said, that there are books that should not be books. I begin to wonder about this too...will have to think about it. Boice talks about getting you to write BEFORE you are ready, and getting stuff out.

My major professor essentially thought that unless you could match Plato, you shouldn't publish it. Well, this may be a bit too strong...but I do remember that nearly crippling sentiment from graduate school. On the other hand, I did have another model...the "good enough" model of getting writing out, and using writing as a mode of communication and inquiry... I think I like this latter model...it is healthier, and besides, Plato has been dead a long time.

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