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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Friday, April 08, 2005

The Art of the Blog

Posted by Daniel Green on 04/08/05 at 12:41 PM

In a recent post at his blog, Daniel Drezner asks, “Can Academics Be Bloggers?”

To put it gently, some top-notch academics have not completely mastered the art of the blog. In all likelihood this will change, but it points to a barrier to entry for good scholars; unlike lower-level primates like myself, high-profile academics will often attract attention the moment they start blogging, stripping them of the opportunity to stumble out of the gates and move down the learning curve under the radar.

Furthermore, tenured academics have to adjust to a new and strange power structure if they start blogging. Suddenly they’re in a world where mere graduate students, or worse yet, people possessing only a B.A., wield more power and influence than them. . . .

The “learning curve” exists, but it’s more like an “unlearning” curve, as Drezner further clarifies:

Yes, academics have writing experience, but they’ve been trained within an inch of their lives to eschew clear prose for jargon-laden discourse. There are sound and unsound reasons for this within the academy, but for blogging to the general public it’s disastrous.

This doesn’t mean that something like learned discourse can’t be sustained (in moderation) on a blog, but it does mean that most readers aren’t going to tolerate the current version of “jargon-laden” discourse to be found in academic literary study, even when they might be willing to tolerate it in journal articles or monographs. If literary blogging is going to carve out a place for itself among the respectable forms of academic/literary commentary, it will be as something somewhere between general-interest book reviewing and academic criticism: Serious about its subject (but not solemn), willing to explore the subject at some length (but also striving for concision).

More than anything else, academic blogging (in its literary version) is going to have to muster up some enthusiasm for its ostensible subject--literature. In my view, such enthusiasm is precisely what has been missing from academic criticism for at least the last two decades, and it is the reason why so many of those “mere graduate students” and “people possessing only a B.A.” have established themselves as bloggers worth reading. Many of them have enthusiasm to burn, and even though they also take their areas of study (whether it be literature, philosophy, art, or social science) very seriously, they want to convey their interest in these disciplines in a way that helps readers understand why one would want to study such things in the first place.

Drezner comments further that

Colleagues who do not write for a wide audience will overestimate the amount of time you devote to blogging, because they assume a one-to-one correspondence between public articles and scholarly articles (the actual ratio is more like 1:3). They will also underestimate the possibility that blogging is a complement rather than a substitute to traditional scholarship.

I agree that blogging is a complement to conventional scholarship, but this does not mean it cannot engage as substantively with works of literature, literary history, or critical theory as journal-published articles or cannot have an influence on the way readers come to terms with these subjects. Indeed, the wider audience blogs already command, as well as the way in which particular posts can be disseminated quite quickly through “linkage,” ought to allow literary/academic blogs to acquire a progressively more respectable name as sources of intellectual debate. I know that this is what John Holbo has in mind for The Valve. And ultimately, once the distinctive rhetorical requirements of the weblog as a form have been mastered, the amount of time spent composing a post, or reading it, should really have no bearing on how valuable an enterprise it turns out to be.


Yea verily. Enthusiasm is such a precious commodity,and you have clearly recognised it on your blog even as you demonstrate the ‘rhetorical requirements’, Dan.

I think there has always been a place in academic teaching (as distinct from publishing) for enthusiastic teachers of the reading of literature who are not afraid to speak in plain language, and a blog is one more place for them to engage with all kinds of audiences, really - readers, MFAs, non-academic writers…

Let’s face it, I did not go to uni in the ‘eighties for the dry published heads of departments’ lectures, I went to hear poets talk about Shakespeare and Yeats, and still remember some of the things they said ( I think..)

And academic bloggers’ writing styles do need to be tailored to this. Some will buckle and perish under the strain, no doubt.

By genevieve on 04/08/05 at 09:32 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have never read a single scholarly article that was both “jargon landen” and of any significance whatsoever. Jargon is, and always has been, a mask for people who have absolutely nothing to say. God Bless the D.W. Robertson and Charles Muscatines of this world. Donna Harraway can go fuck herself.

By on 04/09/05 at 04:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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