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ERIC Number: EJ853072
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul-24
Pages: 0
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Diminishing Returns in Humanities Research
Bauerlein, Mark
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n42 Jul 2009
The author discusses the shift from criticism-as-explanation to criticism-as-performance that has taken place in literary criticism over the past five decades, and the resultant surge in published offerings to what has become a diminishing audience. The question of supersaturation applies to the institutions that demand and reward humanities research: departments, deans, and fund providers. Tendering jobs and money, they force individuals to overproduce scholarly goods, creating an army of researchers meeting nonexistent audience needs. In 2006 the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion noted, "Over 62 percent of all departments report that publication has increased in importance in tenure decisions over the last 10 years." Furthermore, the percentage of departments' valuing research above teaching had more than doubled since 1968 (35.4 percent to 75.7 percent). That trend makes no sense. The MLA report, which every dean and chairman should read, underscores the shrinking audience, particularly cuts in library purchases of humanities books. The task force, however, holds off from recommending that the research mandate be scaled downward, instead advising departments to respect essays and "new media" publications, and to end the "dominance of the monograph." But it is hard not to judge a flat reduction in research requirements as the direct solution to the difficulties that junior faculty members face. Foundations, university humanities research centers, and other organizations that subsidize humanities research also should recognize the audience decline. The author contends that before another year of hirings and promotions and awards passes, decision makers should sit down and examine the larger consequences of requiring a monograph for tenure, approving projects on well-worn subjects, and pretending that books and essays that nobody reads are a proper allocation of resources and way of judging people.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Adult Education; Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A