Monograph lite

Interesting article at The Chronicle of Higher EdDitch the Monograph.” I wouldn’t go so far as to follow the title’s incendiary imperative, but e-publishing smaller works does seem like a distinct possibility. Somewhere in between a 25-page journal article and a 250-page book. It might actually improve the discussion among EMEMH if more (shorter, more focused) works were published – quicker to publication, more timely, more possibility for real substantive debate.

In addition to decreasing the delays between submission and ‘publication,’ as well as the lower costs, it also makes sense in a world where most consumers of the average academic monograph read just one or two chapters rather than slog through the book as a whole. Not that I’ve ever done that.

For my money though, I’d want the hybrid genre (monoessay? essaygraph? monoarticle?) to take advantage of the possibilities of the dynamic digital domain: graphic visualization, animation, semantic markup, links to other content such as sources… Particularly important for me would be more data-dense argumentation, i.e. illustrating that the author isn’t just cherry-picking a few quotes here and there and then making a grand theory out of it. Not that anyone’s ever done such a thing in EMEMH. (On a related note, sometime I’ll post my thoughts on how we can keep authors honest with the Ostwald Review Index.)

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3 responses to “Monograph lite”

  1. Erik Lund says :

    Shorter monographs will dissolve the blockage and produce a flood of scholarly work by tenured academics!

    In an unrelated point, did you know that much corrosively bitter Internet sarcasm starts with the word “Shorter?” It’s true!

  2. Erik Lund says :

    Eh, there’s this thing with research that it takes a certain length of time for new work to penetrate a new field. So a big molecular biology paper starts beig cited in a few months, while in physics it might be a year or two.

    In history. . . .Well, so, the department hires some promising hotshot. A few years later, there’s a tenure review, which said hotshot passes on the strength of, oh, I don’t know, a thesis brought out as a book by the Praeger group, or maybe an instant textbook. Cool. Not as impressive as the book you’re going to write applying the full rigours of postmodern critical analysis to unravel the intersection of the socially constructed world of nineteenth century political reform and the gritty reality of economic interest, but cool.

    A few years later, you see the hotshot at a departmental meeting (you hardly attend, the hotshot hardly attends). Seems pretty sharp. But who knows? It’s not like you know anything about the social history of the Burma oil industry. or that he’s interested in the politics of the nineteenth century novel, with particular emphasis on Italy.

    Then a few years after that, the hotshot’s students start showing up in the departmental lounge in the first few months of each semester, before they find their own hangouts. Seem like nice kids, for young whippersnappers. Does the department credit, even if you can’t figure out how there could be a “gender history of the Burma oilfields.” I mean, like, whatever. Anyone want to hear about what Dickens thought about Italy?

    So then here you are, working on the final draft of your big monograph (Dickens: He Totally Invented Christmas) when someone hands you the hotshot’s Festschrift. Wow. Turns out that there’s so much cool stuff about the Burmese oilfields from way back in the eighteenth century and whenever. Who knew? Now you’re excited about his monograph, which, they say, is coming out next year.

    So, anyway, bummer about the hotshot’s premature death, but what are you going to do? Maybe one of the former students will edit the book for publication?

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