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Academic Obsolescence, Indeed

Mail is taking a while to catch up with me these days, given that it’s got to go through the postal service, campus mail, my department, campus mail, and the postal service again before it gets to me. So needless to say, I’m a little behind on some things. But I last week received this letter [Edited to remove link, as target is now long gone. Suffice it to say that this was a link to the Greenblatt letter. –KF], which was apparently sent to all members of the MLA.

Having just completed (yay!) a first full-length scholarly manuscript (known in various stages of its composition as My Stupid Book, and at others demarked by other adjectives), I’m uncertain whether to be relieved by the import of this letter — whew! perhaps this manuscript getting accepted or not won’t be the turn of fate that drives my tenure decision — or deeply chilled. Have I spent the last six years on a project that will never see print?

When I’m able to escape my own self-involvement, however, I can see that there are some deeper issues to be pondered here. Is academic publishing obsolete? Aside from those of us still trying to get tenure, will anyone miss it if it is? And if it’s not, how can it escape the fiscal crisis in which it’s mired? Certain refereed journals on the web have begun to make inroads into that avenue of academic publishing, such that having an article in Postmodern Culture, say, has the something of the same clout as having an article in Representations would. Can the same be done for the monograph? Will anyone stand — er, sit — for reading a monograph on the web? Or is the scholarly monograph all but dead?


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