Monday, July 25, 2011

From Half-Baked to Baked

I have this terrible tendency to do a half-baked job on scholarly papers. Only once in my entire academic career have I had a paper (in either philosophy or children's literature) accepted by a journal outright. I always get a "revise and resubmit," with a LONG list of what the revision needs to include for my paper to be deemed publishable. Sometimes I can tell that the editor is almost embarrassed to be sending me such scathing comments from the outside reviewers. But I respond cheerfully: "Don't worry! Reviewers ALWAYS say scathing things about my papers! And I always fix them up lickety split! And they always end up getting accepted. So it will all be okay!"

Part of why my papers are so half-baked is that I have at some level an aversion to the whole enterprise of "scholarship," which often seems to involve simply finding somebody else to quote who is saying the same thing that I am already saying. I laugh aloud when I see my undergraduate students quoting Wikipedia in their papers as the authority behind their claim that, e.g., John Stuart Mill believed in the principle of utility. Why not just quote Mill himself? Mill's own words? Why quote somebody else saying that this is what Mill said?

But this does seem to be what scholars are expected to do. In this most recent paper, my Nietzschean analysis of the picture book The Rainbow Fish, initially I had lots of quotes from Nietzsche. But now, after my massive revision, I have as well lots of quotes from other people about Nietzsche, mainly repeating what Nietzsche said. I went to the library and checked out a dozen books on Nietzsche, skim-read the relevant section of each one to find the quotes I needed, and stuck them in. Instant scholarship!

I have to admit that the paper feels much less skimpy now, much more weighty and impressive. It reads better, too. And I did manage to use my scholarly authorities to offer more nuance and complexity in my reading of Nietzsche. I like my paper ten thousand times better now. I hope the editor of this volume will like it ten thousand times better, too.

Even if I mainly quote Cameron, Danto, Kaufmann, Hatab, Holub, Leiter, May, and Wallace to say what I already said.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to read your "stand alone" thoughts, but I do love your cheerful heart for tackling the massive revisions, Claudia.