Books in the humanities

In the context of recent discussion of monograph publishing in the humanities I was interested to read this recommendation in Marc Taylor's NYT op-ed this morning. It is a critique of graduate education .....

4. Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce "theses" in alternative formats. [NYT - Opinion - End the university as we know it]

One of his concerns is over-specialization:

And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations. [NYT - Opinion - End the university as we know it]

That said, unburdened by any relevent knowledge ;-) I can imagine somebody feeling that that is a useful contribution .....?

Duns Scotus: Worldcat identity
Marc C Taylor: Worldcat identity

Comments: 1

Apr 28, 2009
Nathan

From the article:

"A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations."

The horror of it all. We *know* that such a practice could *never* be relevant, of course. As the priority becomes "solving the world's problems", will there be any place for truth, deeply understanding human nature and exploring life's most profound questions?

Well, probably - actually these questions will probably become more and more important to us. I'm guessing we will see a resurgence of more traditional philosophy, and...

Anyway, I'll stop now. : )

-Nathan