Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Follow-up to The Literary Encyclopedia

So, I have a total of five entries in TLE -- two on Beagle, two one Stephen R. Donaldson, and one on Le Guin's The Dispossessed. Like most online platorms, too, TLE counts its.

The hits for Beagle? Between 60 and 80, which isn't bad for something that came out 2 weeks ago or so.

Donaldson? He's been out for over a year, and both entries are in the 400s. Again, respectable.

How about Le Guin? So far, there are over 3,000 hits. . .. in under two months. I'm practically dying here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Encyclopedia Entries on Beagle and Le Guin

Recently just had three good-sized encyclopedia entries published in The Literary Encyclopedia:

If anyone would like to see the entries but doesn't have institutional access to TLE, just send me a message, and I could forward a pdf.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Mentioned in the "Year's Work in Tolkien Studies 2016"

Ah . . . . I've made my first appearance(s) in "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies," the literature review published each year by Tolkien Studies. Personally, I love "TYW." As a grad student who knew very little about the secondary scholarship on Tolkien when he hit ABD, this bibliographic essay was a life-saver -- an exhaustive treatment of all the relevant scholarship since 2001.** (TS began in 2004, and the TYW does three years in the past.) 

So, my mentions:

My first essay in Tolkien Studies, which argued that The Silmarillion should be read as a unified text rather than a compilation. The reviewer, John Magoun, whose work I've not previously encountered, was rather ambivalent. On one hand, he said the article is an "extended and clever brief" (206), and it "semi-plausibly" defends its viewpoint. He did, however, think my final section was "rather weak." Still, what really stings is this: "Ignoring questions of writing style and readability. . ." Doh.

Now, I grant you, it's been three years since I've re-read the essay . . . and I'm very concerned with good academic style, BUT . .. . well, even without having re-reaad the essay, I fear Magoun might be right onthat one.  Maybe. But my academic prose has improved immensely in the last three years, especially in terms of tightness, and while I certainly remember some very finely phrased statements from my TS article, I have to admit that half the reason I haven't re-read it is all the stylistic infelicities I'm sure to find

Alas. I'm still very proud of that article, even if I'm unsure of it's ultimate importance to the field. (Next to my hiring by the University of Arizona, breaking into TS was the highlight of my academic life thus far.)

Which brings me to . . . .

This article is "Harken Not to Wild Beats" in The Journal of Tolkien Research, which argued that Saruman falls into the classic philosophical critique of rhetoric in the Western tradition. The reviewer is David Bratman, a savvy and informed Tolkienist with some strong opinions, so I was very pleasantly gratified to read that he called my article "a remarkable essay" (236). Well, spin me around and call me Sally -- I'll take that!

** Beyond the primary texts, I'd only read Tom Shippey's two major monographs, the Carpenter biography, some of the Letters, and a few odd articles on Tolkien. Otherwise, I was a complete neophyte.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Addendum to a previous post: A Happy Ending

So, in my next-to-last post, I related the rather mind-boggling incident of a young-ish academic who, submitting a review to me, had plagiarized my own review on that same book. Well, I'm happy to report that this situation will apparently have a happy ending. After a few sternly worded e-mails, it looks like the reviewer in question will work diligently to produce a new, better review. I won't know for sure until it's actually submitted, but I'm hopeful.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this was a teachable moment-- that's always my gut reaction in these kinds of cases, whether I'm dealing with undergraduate freshmen or more advanced academics. Sure, it astounded me that a doctoral student could believe I wouldn't notice the plagiarism. But everyone has to learn sometime, and one's first foray into professional academic discourse can be intimating. And while I'm more than willing to use my meager institutional authority strategically to employ guilt, shame, and chagrin as motivations, you shouldn't ever forget that academia is essentially a cooperative enterprise. Peer review, for example, might oftentimes feel brutal, but both the reviewer and the author ultimately want the same thing: a strong, published article.

What I find despicable, though, are those allegedly "old-school" academics who believe that academic life is fundamentally agonistic. I had one of those on my dissertation committee -- the only Tolkienist in the department, but I refused to invite him on my committee until a last-minute dropout forced my hand. In a way, it was nice that he hopped on board so late in the process -- and, initially, I felt the appropriate gratitude. Still, his commentary on my dissertation was so nasty, loathing anything beyond this guy's narrow and obsolete views on literary criticism, that my feeling of gratitude quickly dried up. What if, instead of a mid-30s white male confident in my own abilities and skills, I had been a more insecure or fragile graduate school? I've had friends leave grad school entirely because of such people, and there's actually a heavily gendered component to such abuse.***

Anyway, as I said, looks like this particular reviewer will pull through. I'm glad of that.

***At Ohio State, there were two sections of Intro to Critical theory that all incoming graduate students had to take. I had the good fortune to take my class with Dr. David Herman, one of the nicest people I've ever encountered , but the other section was led by a professor who clearly relished bullying students. On the first day of class, I later learned, he put examples of grad student writing on the board and then -- in front of everyone -- proceeded to mock the sentences he considered incompetent.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Fafnir -- an up and coming journal!

I'm ridiculously happy that I've managed to latch onto Fafnir: Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. Last July, after a fair bit of legwork, I managed to get us enrolled in the Directory of Open Access Journals, a nice piece of street cred that will raise our profile and grant greater exposure to our articles. Now, we're busy in the process of earning our DOAJ Seal of Approval for following best practice in open access publishing.

There's a lot of steps involved in this, but one of them is liberalizing our copyright so that authors, not Fafnir, retain it without restrictions. Esko just sent our the information e-mail out to our editorial board, and it just strikes me as immensely cool that I'm involved in something that requires e-mails to an editorial board.

Monday, November 11, 2019

All the Things I Never Expected as a Reviews Editor

When I first became reviews editor for Fafnir, there were a number of things I never anticipated. Late reviews, for one thing -- we give people three months for their review, but I still have to chase up over half of our volunteers, which is a colossal waste of my time, as well as simply being unprofessional. Also surprising are all the reviews -- a majority of them, in fact -- that require moderate to heavy revision. Maybe that shouldn't shock me, but it does. And then, of course, there was the case of the experienced Big Name academic who sent us a review both incompetent and unpublishable, and got huffy when politely asked for a re-write.**

The weirdest case, though, is what happened to me yesterday -- I was sent a review that clearly plagiarized a previously published review.

The catch? The review they were plagiarizing was my own.

Not even joking. The reviewer was smart enough to have written all the words themselves (typos included). But the ideas, specific analysis and evaluation, and even the structure of entire paragraphs were lifted directly from my own review.

Clearly, this is a case of a very youthful academic still lacking the self-confidence to put their own ideas out there. So, a teachable moment. Man oh man, though. Even with being nervous with one's first foray into academic discourse, how can any advanced doctoral student not know better?

And now they've written me back, denying that they "looked at any other reviews," which I respect less than if they had simply admitted the plagiarism. Still, they're promising to "immediately re-write" the review.

** In fact, when I first read what this person submitted, I thought it was a revenge review -- you know, Academic X getting back at Academic Y for something that happened years ago. Now I'm more inclined to suspect the reviewer simply had a chip on their shoulder about the subject matter, which involved religion and science fiction.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A New Teaching Opportunity (almost!)

One of our professors is sadly unable to finish out the semester, so the last 5 weeks of his senior-level course in "Travel Fiction / Travel Narrative" was advertised through out departmental listserv. I jumped at the chance -- it would have been a fantastic new line on the c.v., plus doesn't it just sound fun?

And I had the qualifications for it, too, with a doctorate in contemporary British and American literature. Only catch was that I don't formally know much about travel narrative or Latinx and minority literatures (this professor's emphasis). I told our Undergraduate Director that, of course. . . . and they ended up going with someone else.

Oh well. Would have been awesome, though.