Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, September 1, 2017

how to mark your participation in an academic guild

This is just a brief follow-up to last night’s post on my personal blog about my experience reading biblical scholars. All scholarly guilds have their characteristic markers of valid participation, but they vary considerably. For biblical scholars those markers seem to be, as far as I can tell, largely structural: that is, as I explained in that post, monographs are expected to begin with a methodological introduction and a literature review. But in my field, literary study, the markers tend not to be structural but terminological. We can organize our monographs in a good many ways, but we need to signal our deference to guild sensibilities by deploying certain terms: in one era we needed to point to aporias in the texts we studied, while later on we needed to acknowledge our complicity in the very structures we sought to critique, or to speak with appropriate regretfulness about the power of patriarchy; later on still it was heteronormativity that needed to be acknowledged.

The rules were never specific, and we could always neglect certain terms if we made use of others that were equally au courant; but terminological markers have to be there for a book to be a guild book. It would be interesting to hear from various academics about what they perceive to be the key scholarly markers of membership in their own guilds. Comment below, perhaps? (I'm also to hear challenges to my thoughts on these matters.)

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