The Little Professor
The debate on scholarly publishing (see, e.g., here
, and here
) has unintentionally illuminated another issue: there is no actual data available on either a) tenure requirements or b) the amount of publication "required" to get a tenure-track job. I'm in a system that expects some publication for tenure, but not a book. (Yes, I wrote a book, but no, it's not required.) There are liberal arts colleges that emphasize teaching over publication, to the extent that many faculty never publish anything at all--and some may in fact be penalized for doing so--but there are also liberal arts colleges that require serious scholarship. Similarly, there are regional comprehensives with 4/4 or 5/5 loads that, thank goodness, do not expect much in the way of publications from their faculty--but then again, there are those that do. It's difficult to discuss a crisis or recommend policy changes unless we know what the policies are, although one can certainly make broader recommendations (e.g., schools with 4/4 + loads should require minimal publications for tenure).
And what about the perception that one "must publish" to get a tenure-track job? Again, it would be interesting to see some kind of survey examining the publication records of new hires*, categorized according to the number of years the candidate spent on the market, the graduate school "tier," and the type of school doing the hiring. As Donald E. Hall
(CoHE link; reg. req.) points out, too much of a research focus can sink your application at a school like mine; not enough of one can sink your application at Yale. Some schools are really interested in promise
, while others want achievement
I'm not sure, incidentally, when scholarship was last widely available to a public audience. As both Janice Radway and Joan Shelley Rubin point out, Henry Canby was complaining about over-specialization in the early
twentieth century. While pre-1950s work, say, may seem less "jargony," it is still highly specialized and hardly pleasure reading. Much of the work I've read from the 1940s and earlier attempts to offer the fullest possible catalog of data, often with surprisingly little argument attached. On the upside, this means that some of this scholarship, like Hillhouse's work on Scott's reception, remains extremely useful; on the downside, it also means that this scholarship remains almost completely unreadable, despite
the absence of jargon. Or, looking at the European example, one might think about Auerbach's Mimesis
(enjoyable to read, to be sure, but not something a non-academic would be likely or willing to pick up), or Curtius' European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages
(rich mine of information, but again, not for the non-specialist). Strictly speaking, American academia has been "professional" since the late nineteenth century, with the kind of elite specialization that entails. There are a number of recent books on the disciplinary histories of English and history that may be relevant here.
*Bearing in mind that the relevant databases may not be up to date. (My last four publications are nowhere to be found in the MLA database, and one of them will certainly never appear there.)
This week's acquisitions:
- Lady Georgiana Fullerton, Mrs. Gerald's Niece (Burnes and Oates, 1886). A Catholic novel critiquing, among other things, High Church Anglicanism (for being hypocritical, it looks like).
- Edna Lyall, To Right the Wrong (Hurst and Blackett, 1894). Historical novel about the English Civil War.
- Garrett Stewart, Dear Reader: The Conscripted Audience in Victorian Fiction (Johns Hopkins, 1996). One of a crop of recent studies on the rhetorical function of direct address to the reader.
- Dorrit Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction (Johns Hopkins, 2000). Critiques recent attempts to collapse the boundary-line between historical and fictional discourses.
- Felicity Nussbaum, The Autobiographical Subject: Gender and Ideology in Eighteenth-Century England (Johns Hopkins, 1995). Feminist interpretation of how eighteenth-century authors constructed the self through writing.
- Thomas Haskell, Objectivity is Not Neutrality: Explanatory Schemes in History (Johns Hopkins, 2000). A counter to attacks on objectivity in recent philosophies of history.
- Thomas Bender, Intellect and Public Life: Essays on the Social History of the Academic Intellectual in the United States (Johns Hopkins, 1997). Fraught relations between the professoriate and American culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
1. I hereby propose that anyone who wishes to make "knowing" or "incisive" or, heavens forbid, "satirical" generalizations about the foibles of academics must demonstrate a prior acquaintance with the Microcosmographia Academica
(1908). Because, you know, there's really no reason to reinvent the wheel.
2. Moving thousands of books around is hard on the arms. And legs. Not too good for the back either, come to think of it.
3. The end of those two essays for the companion is slowly but surely coming into sight. Which is good, because I've just received an inquiry about doing something else. And I'd like to finish off my article about Emily Sarah Holt, which I haven't been able to touch since June. And there's still an index looming on the horizon...
4. I'm currently reading Janice Radway's A Feeling For Books
, which is a fascinating failure, albeit an interesting and informative one. I can see what she's trying to do with the mix of personal and scholarly discourses, which enacts her own sense of the conflict between professional and pleasure reading, but in the end it produces a slightly unsatisfying text. Still, the historical background is genuinely useful--especially since it shows that the recent Oprah book club brouhaha repeats a debate from several decades earlier.
This week's acquisitions (good thing the second new bookcase is coming next week...):
- Louisa C. Silke, Steadfast and True: A Tale of the Huguenots (RTS). Probably the 1905 reprint of this historical novel about the aftermath of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
- Harriette E. Burch, Wind and Wave Fulfilling His Word: A Story of the Siege of Leyden, 1574 (RTS, 1901). Historical novel about the resistance to Catholicism in Holland.
- Emily Sarah Holt, It Might Have Been: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot (RTS). Guy Fawkes and co.; this being Holt, anti-Catholic as per the usual. Not her usual publisher, interestingly enough.
- James Bettley, The Art of the Book: From Medieval Manuscript to Graphic Novel (Victoria & Albert, 2001). Lots of color plates covering topics like engraving, book binding, photography, illumination, etc.
- Friedrich Schiller, Mary Stuart (Penguin, 1999). Schiller's classic drama about the clash of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, including an imaginary encounter between the two queens. Project Gutenberg has a copy; the play also comes up in this essay on British images of Mary Stuart, which links to a number of contemporary reviews.
- Louisa May Alcott, Work (Penguin, 1994). Woman seeks independence through labor in nineteenth-century America.
- Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie, The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge, 2002). Essays exploring the roots of Protestantism in the sixteenth century, in response to the current revisionist debates in Reformation studies.
Lord Lloyd-Webber's Pre-Raphaelite exhibition
is taking a bit of a thwacking
from the Guardian
, which is using it as a convenient blunt instrument for attacking Victorian art in general. (Theatre critic Michael Billington
is kinder.) Not, of course, that contemporaries were always positive
either. Oddly, I sympathize...sort of. Some Pre-Raphaelite painting seems deficient in craftmanship (weird foreshortenings, for example, which can't be explained by the PRB aesthetic program). Sometimes the colors can be garish. Victorian painting in general can be deadening in its sentimentality, when it isn't simply being bizarre. (Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's
habit of painting diaphanously-clad classical figures lying gracefully recumbent upon, of all things, cold hard marble comes to mind--as it has often come to the minds of others.) But...but still. I don't object to the complex and heavily layered symbolism of much Pre-Raphaelite painting. John Everett Millais
went on to become a brilliant portraitist. Moreover, there is real fascination and pleasure to be found in Victorian narrative paintings, which demand to be read like novels. And certainly Victorian artistic practices were far more varied than I suspect the Lloyd-Webber collection lets on. In other words, I don't think that one has to be surreptitious about enjoying Victorian painting.
Tonight's graduate study menu includes a generous helping of my favorite Dickens novel, Bleak House
(1852-53). Reading the novel straight through like this does not quite convey the Victorian experience of the text, released as it was in parts
. (As I explained to my students, reading a serialized or part-published novel might take well over a year, during which time you'd have several other books on the burner. It's always worth taking a look at where the novelist started and stopped the serialized sections, since that affected the overall rhythm of the plot.) The always-reliable Victorian Web includes a couple of brief critical pieces
on the novel; see also these reflections
by G. K. Chesterton, one of Dickens' most influential early twentieth-century critics. This useful page
offers spoilers, a map, and a run-down of the principal characters. There's even a Bleak House
museum. For more information on Dickens' illustrator Hablot K. Browne (a.k.a. "Phiz"), see here
; his illustrations for David Copperfield
are also online
. (The Charles Dickens Page
includes brief biographical sketches of all of Dickens' illustrators.)
This week's acquisitions (and there were quite a few of them...):
- Ann B. Shteir, Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora's Daughters and Botany in England 1760 to 1860 (Johns Hopkins, 1999). The role of women in shaping the field of botany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
- Robin Lippincott, Mr. Dalloway (Sarabande, 1999). Rewrites Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway; cf. Michael Cunningham's The Hours.
- Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, 13th American ed. from the last London ed. (Harper, 1824). One of the most significant rhetorics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (This copy is in surprisingly good shape--many surviving copies are ex-school texts and, therefore, torn to shreds.) You can find details about Blair and summaries of the lectures here.
- Sheridan Gilley, Newman and His Age (Christian Classics, 1990). A biography of Newman by one of the leading specialists in nineteenth-century British and Irish Catholic history.
- C. Grey, The Early Years of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort... (Harper & Brothers, 1867). Biography originally written for circulation within the royal family after Prince Albert's death.
- David Norton, A History of the English Bible as Literature (Cambridge, 2000). Abridged edition of Norton's two-volume (and far mor expensive...) study.
- James Vernon, Politics and the People: A Study of English Political Culture, 1815-1867 (Cambridge, 1993). Democratization of English politics at mid-century.
- Randall Craig, Promising Language: Betrothal in Victorian Law and Fiction (SUNY, 2003). The multiple meanings of promises in Victorian culture.
- Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman, Twelve Lectures on the Connexion Between Science and Revealed Religion (Murphy & Co., 1852). First volume of lectures by Wiseman, who often lectured on the sciences more generally.
- John D. Barbour, Versions of Deconversion: Autobiography and the Loss of Faith (Virginia, 1994). The rhetoric of deconversion from the beginnings of Christianity to the present day.
- Peter Lake and Michael C. Questier, The Anti-Christ's Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists, and Players in Post-Reformation England (Yale, 2002). Massive study of the religious pamphlet wars in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.
- J. G. Farrell, Troubles (NYRB, 2002). Third volume of Farrell's so-called "Empire Trilogy," set in post-WWI Ireland.
- John Haddon Leith, Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine, from the Bible to the Present (John Knox, 1983). Collects and annotates the creeds of the various Christian dominations.
- Scott Bravmann, Queer Fictions of the Past: History, Culture, and Difference (Cambridge, 1997). Role of history in shaping modern gay identities.
Tomorrow's teaching schedule features the somewhat odd combination of John Keats
and Anne Bradstreet
. The Keats in question is "Ode on a Grecian Urn,"
which I hope my students will enjoy rather more than they did "The Eve of St. Agnes."
(A poem which I
happen to like quite a bit.) There are a number of paintings based on "The Eve of St. Agnes"; see, for example, those by William Holman Hunt
, John Everett Millais,
and Elizabeth Siddal
In the meantime, since the deadline for my companion articles is fast approaching, I've found myself scribbling a bit about folks normally outside my purview: Giovanni Boccaccio
, Geoffrey Chaucer
, and Christine de Pisan
. Lucy Aikin
is a bit closer to home, needless to say--although I'm writing about the later Memoirs
(Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I) and not the better-known Epistles on Women
(No, I didn't change my template for aesthetic reasons. Blogger just sort of...um...waved its wand and made my sidebar disappear. Very exciting, that.)
The book went off to England today, minus its index, which can't be finalized until the printers are done looking over the text. Tomorrow, I celebrate the (temporary) absence of the MS by visiting the Finger Lakes
region with one of my colleagues.
proofreading my own work. All these teensy-weensy errors in formatting, or in author/editor attributions ("um, wait, I've got the wrong editor here..."), or in goodness-knows-what. But the book will
be mailed to the UK tomorrow. *puts foot down*
Meanwhile, between proofreading, printing, and printing some more, I finally got fed up with looking at books on my living room floor--a hint to cheapskates: the combination of a Sauder pressed wood bookcase + ice damming=kaput bookcase--and went to Raymour & Flanigan for two Thornton Oak 84" bookcases
. Besides being attractive bookcases, they should also temporarily ameliorate the "oh no, I'm out of space again
" problem. (You'd think 24+ bookcases for a single person would be enough. But if you think that, you clearly haven't met me!)
My graduate seminar spent last night discussing Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights
(1847), which, they all agreed, was one of the strangest novels they had ever read. Indeed, as Instapundit might say. I'm much more of a Jane Eyre
person myself--that's next week's assignment--but there's no denying that Wuthering Heights
is a potent brew of Byronic
Romanticism, the Gothic
, and a rather offbeat anti-Calvinist theology. (On post-Romantic Byronism, see, for example, Andrew Elfenbein
and the collection edited by Frances Wilson
.) Emily wrote genuinely striking poetry as well; see, for example, her work in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
(1846). (Ramblings of a Philosophe
features some critical essays and lectures on the work of both Emily and Anne, with an emphasis on the poetry.) For a good, albeit brief, biographical introduction to Emily's work, see Steven Vine's
essay at the Literary Encyclopedia. The Brontë Sisters Web
provides a number of useful links to Emily's poetry and fiction (although several were dead). To see some title pages, try this exhibit
at the University of Virginia. And don't forget to drop in for a visit at the Brontë Parsonage Museum
, or maybe take a trip to the Brontë Birthplace
I confess to being somewhat baffled by this article
in the NYT
(reg. req.). Once I got beyond the initial nods of agreement--no, it won't kill senior faculty to teach freshmen; yes, good teaching should be rewarded--I found myself lost in a miasma of vague promises and claims. To begin with, the idea of a "teaching faculty," while problematic*, might
be a good one if
the teaching faculty were treated on an even keel with the research faculty. I.e.: sabbaticals, grants, and release time for course development; tenure and promotion based on demonstrated teaching ability; and so forth. But where's the even keel in keeping the teaching faculty off the tenure track? This paragraph didn't improve matters: "But in an academic culture where tenure is the grand prize, Dr. Sexton is struggling with how to accord them status. He said he would find other ways to reward and honor them and assure them of academic freedom." What does that
mean? I can see someone exchanging tenure for $$$, but what's being described here really seems to be a stepped-up adjuncting system. Even a teaching "star" is an adjunct when hired on a temporary contract without any hope of obtaining "security of employment" (as administrators normally call tenure for lecturers). Substituting contract faculty for part-timers is a good idea, but don't we already call such faculty "lecturers" or "visiting professors"? It doesn't help that the administration and the adjunct union seem to, ah, differ so strongly in their accounts of who's doing what.
*Thus: do teaching faculty have a heavier courseload? What happens to the teaching professor who discovers a desperate urge to write a monograph on Marivaux? Who assesses their work? How do you assess their work? Can you switch tracks? How does a teaching professor maintain his or her status within the department?