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Thursday, April 12, 2007


I'm looking for a little advice from our readers. Or from my co-bloggers. There's one chapter of my dissertation -- actually, the chapter that was the basis of my job talk at State U, in another lifetime -- which, in the massive revisions I ended up doing, I decided to drop from the book. It just no longer fit with the revised (and, I hope, now finally coherent) argument. I've held onto this piece for a while now, because although it isn't in the book, it's still obviously pretty close to the book, and I didn't want to give the appearance of publishing too much stuff from the book when I was shopping it around to various publishers. Now I've picked up that old chapter again, to see whether I can make an article out of it. I already did a quick polish on it. (It's amazing how your writing changes, with a few years: man, it read like crap when I looked at it again. I couldn't believe it: and I spent so much time on it, back in the day).

The thing is, I sort of feel that its moment has passed. I think it's fine, as a reading of a certain play; I think it says something about that play that no one else has quite said before, and at that level, I still believe it. But I don't really care about the larger trajectory of the argument anymore, and I find it hard to believe that other people will care about it much, either: I just don't think it has any real intervention to make, now. Too much time has passed.

So: do I try to publish it or just put it aside?

(Maybe I'm kidding myself about making an "intervention" -- I'm not even sure what that word means, actually. I think I picked it up from one of my advisers in grad school).

  • At 4/12/2007 08:15:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I think that if you still like the argument, and if it's still something that hasn't really been done before, then you should send it off. Because look at it this way: it might seem right now that "the moment" has passed (although that in itself might be questionable), but when scholars 3 or 4 years from now (much less 10 years from now) are working on this play, they're going to call up a bunch of articles in MLA or Muse or whatever, and it'd be good if they could read yours, since it says something that other pieces don't. After a few more years, the whole question of whether the "moment" has passed will be moot, if it ever really mattered in the first place. I think more important than the moment is whether it still says something new and interesting and worth saying. And I'm sure it does. So I say you should send it off. Remember, too, how common it is for people to publish this sort of piece that is ancillary to their book, because there's always material left over like that. And I've found some great articles that way. Finally, since you're at State U, I imagine an extra article can't hurt with raises, no?


  • At 4/12/2007 08:41:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I agree with H, and if it's the piece I think it is, then I definitely agree. I've been secretly wanting to rip off that argument when I teach, so it'd really help me if you'd publish the thing.


  • At 4/12/2007 10:04:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    Do it. We should all be so lucky as to have something like that waiting in the wings.


  • At 4/12/2007 11:19:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I want to hear all three of you saying "Do it." Man, I wish there were some way of doing accents on blogger.

    OK, that's three pros. I don't know if it's the argument you're thinking of Simplicius, but please, steal away. For teaching, anything is fair game, right?

    I've actually been very leery of teaching anything at all related to the book. This is the first semester I've really even come close, and even now I'm more teaching by way of some general presuppositions related to the book, than anything actually related to the argument of the book.


  • At 4/13/2007 12:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Re: not teaching according to your book.

    Wow, Inkhorn, that takes rigor. I'm already teaching the half-baked ideas that I've *yet* to write in my dissertation. I'm a fraud.


  • At 4/13/2007 04:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Well, I'd say: if it's a text that you feel not to be a text by the author you are now, but just by some person you were once, long long ago: I'd suggest to go for something intermediate between handing it in to some journal and not publishing it at all: make it available via your website, perhaps with a note that this is published like that in order to document what you once thought and found out, not as a document of your present thought, writing and research.


  • At 4/13/2007 05:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I'd say publish, especially if no one else has come up with the same argument. I did something similar, but at an earlier stage: I had a chapter in my original book proposal that was basically the why-the-world-needs-this-approach-now bit from the dissertation. It didn't really fit the project as it was reconceived for the book, and all of the initial readers for the press told me that I didn't need to be so stroppy. So I took it out and published it separately. I'm pretty glad that I did, and that it's out there (I wish that it didn't contain a howling factual error, but that's another issue...)


  • At 4/13/2007 09:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    look deep within, inkhorn, and ask yourself the following: what would washington do?

    seriously, though, folks are making some good points: add my benstillerish "do it" to the chorus.

    p.s. lucy, "stroppy" is my new favorite word.


  • At 4/13/2007 09:44:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    "stroppy": I had to look up that one.

    I too am familiar with the genre of the howling factual error, but it's surprising how infrequently such errors are noted/corrected by others (thankfully).


  • At 4/13/2007 10:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I would publish the piece, Inkhorn, and then fuck the shit out of bears.


  • At 4/13/2007 02:27:00 PM, Blogger Rachel Roberts wrote…

    re: G. Washington's comment.

    Wait ... this isn't another iteration of the caption competition, is it?


  • At 4/13/2007 06:07:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Man, our blog brings out the dead presidents. Like, actually.

    hd: I was going to say that he would kick me apart, or dip my hand in a jar of acid at a party, but I guess he has other plans. But he can probably do all these things at once, if he wants to.

    anonymous: it's really the exact opposite of rigor: I'm just perfectly willing to teach stuff I don't really know anything about. I mean, "teach."

    Adam Roberts: if that's a real question, then you should spend a little time on youtube. It's enlightening. It turns out the stuff I learned in grade school history was all wrong. All wrong.

    Thanks for the advice, everybody. I guess I'll finish polishing the essay. It's just that every time I pick it up I hear Homer say, "bo-ring"...


  • At 4/14/2007 06:56:00 PM, Blogger dhawhee wrote…

    ha! GW's comment made me look up that video again, after like a year or something.


    Oh yah, totally send it out there. Nothing to lose.


  • At 4/14/2007 08:13:00 PM, Blogger James wrote…

    A new acquaintance of mine that I met at SAA gave me the phrase "phantom chapter" to decribe this phenomenon that it seems everyone has, the chunk of your dissertation that doesn't quite fit into the book, isn't good enough on its own simply to extract and send out, and haunts your waking hours after the book is done and in, hovering there on your hard drive and mocking you with how much work you did on it back in the day.


  • At 4/15/2007 04:11:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    There's always the option of submitting it to a journal that isn't indexed up-to-date on the MLA Bibliography and such. That way, you publish it, and unless folks know exactly where to look it's not going to show up in searches any time soon ;)


  • At 4/15/2007 07:14:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    Who cares if it's bo-ring? Especially if you're well on your way to tenure. Isn't that what being well on your way to getting tenure is all about, after all? Getting to submit articles that aren't The Next Big Thing, even if Homer Simpson thinks they're bo-ring?

    Incidentally, I don't think I've had a "phantom chapter," but only because my dissertation was three long and rather incoherent chapters. My book proposal takes these incoherent chapters, turns them into something a bit more palatable, and adds two more new ones. Damn, I wish I had a phantom chapter, though. Writing new chapters from scratch is a lonely business . . .


  • At 4/15/2007 08:56:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    James: I like the idea of the "phantom chapter." It hurts even after you cut it out.

    So, my running tally is:

    8 Yes's (I'm counting George Washington's vote, though it's a little suspect.)

    2 No's (If James's vote is a "No," and counting Heinrich Kuhn's idea of putting it on the website as a "No" -- though to Hieronimo's eternal disgust, I actually don't have a website).

    1 Publish-it-but-bury it

    There it is. If only our caption contest worked on such open and democratic principles.

    Thanks again, everybody. Maybe I should start arranging all my professional decisions this way...


  • At 4/16/2007 12:45:00 AM, Blogger James wrote…

    My vote was a yes, actually; I just forgot to say so. Publish that bastard.


  • At 4/16/2007 11:20:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    My vote was sort of a "yes" too.

    It tried to propose some sort of "irresponsible" publication (like "Yes, I did write that; but it's not what I'd write now; on the other hand, as I won't write on this subject ever ever again anyway: you are better off to have it as is.")

    BTW: No website???? How can you remain pseudonymous now that we have that information??? There can't be that many people in the field who don't have a website!


  • At 4/16/2007 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I guess we had some voting irregularities. The revised count is 10-0-1.

    Heinrich: I did worry about that, briefly. I'm guessing I'm not absolutely the only one, though. I hope.

    All right, the bastard is going out. Here's for bastards. Now I have an appointment with a bear.


  • At 4/16/2007 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Go get 'em, Inkhorn. Make me proud.


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