Saturday, 22 October 2016

Why I edit books

The fetishisation of the monograph is not a new concept.  Back in 2005 the MLA "deplored the 'fetishisation of the monograph' and called for a new metric to demonstrate scholarly worth, such as a body of articles, translations of works, electronic databases, etc'.* 

I raise the issue of the fetishisation of the monograph here, because I was told recently that it would benefit my career more, if I was to concentrate on writing single-author monographs, rather than editing lots of books.  It appears to follow from this, that editing and contributing to books and journals is of lesser scholarly value, and that the monograph (and only the monograph) represents the pinnacle of intellectual accomplishment.  It is a shame that such narrow judgements on scholarly esteem still drive certain parts of academia.  In the age of generic diversity and digital publishing, it is a limited and ultimately self-defeating definition of intellectual endeavour and academic merit.  

Driven by intellectual curiosity, my convictions, and enthusiasm for the diversity that literature possesses, I have published many articles and contributed many chapters to books.  I am really proud of all the contributions I have made to journals and books.  I recognise the effort and determination that went into each and every one of them, and that these publications have passed the peer review of my colleagues in these fields
.  If taken together, these works would constitute several single-author monographs.  But that would have been to the detriment of the edited volumes the publications appeared in, and thus defeated the point. Academic endeavour is devalued if it focuses on the packaging only.

I am extremely proud of the books and journal I am currently editing.  Enabling others to contribute to books and journals, as I myself have, is a crucial feature of collegial scholarship. I derive an intense sense of accomplishment from engaging in collaborative work and the community it builds. Working with other scholars and artists, across national and disciplinary boundaries, is really important in this time of Brexit isolationism.  As a Danish scholar working in Britain, I feel this strongly.  Collaborative work ensures a multifaceted content with a broader appeal and more impact.  The single-author monograph doesn't generally have a great deal of impact. Print runs are small, and the appeal is limited.  

I may publish a single-author monograph one day, or I may not. When I do, it will be on the basis of the form fitting my
 argument rather than dictating it.    

*Colin Steele, "Back to the Future: Twenty-First Century Models for the Scholarly Monograph." In Bernhardt, Beth R; Daniels, Tim; Steinle, Kim; Strauch, Katina P (Eds.) Charleston Conference Proceedings 2005. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. pp. 118-125. 121.

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