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I like scholarly books more than scholarly articles. Good books, of course—bad books are terrible. But good Monograph dissertation are better than good articles, for the same reason that good seasons of television shows are better than single episodes or good novels are better than their chapters.
The longer forms have a weight, a narrative and argumentative arc whose unfolding over time gives their parts new meaning.
The best closures are also openings. Opening a window onto the text, they rewrite its events and its structures, the totality of the whole emerging, or seeming to emerge, in the second reading, which is already, as Roland Barthes saw it, included in the first.
But to write a book you have to be very lucky. Because writing books takes three things: A system that favors the monograph dissertation favors lucky people. I argue that small changes will make the current literature PhD more open, without sacrificing basic goals or fundamental values.
The changes I propose will result in fewer published books, yes.
But not less scholarship. At that point, why care? For a while now, at least Monograph dissertation David Damrosch suggested it in We Scholars, the obvious alternative has been a series of linked articles, which together would add up to something like the same amount of work previously required by the dissertation.
The first thing to say is this: The monograph dissertation is a kind of writing for which most PhD students are critically unprepared see Hayot 36— It requires a level of psychological concentration and attention, as well as intellectual management, of a radically different order from the one required for articles.
Articles are deeper and more complex, richer than seminar papers; monographs are all these things, and eight times longer. As always, we are speaking of ideals here. Leave aside for the moment the idea of careers outside the academy, or indeed of careers at all. What the PhD says is that someone can A do original, publishable scholarship in their field and B teach university-level courses appropriate to their training.
Now, everything depends on how you frame A. The monograph dissertation has traditionally been taken to fulfill this part of this formula. We know that it has not done a perfect job; all the work most students have to do to turn their dissertations into books suggests as much as does all the advice about how to do it.
At the same time, we must recognize that the system has produced a great deal of success, including many wonderful first books. Our goal would then be to find another system that would at least do equally well, that would testify to our desired outcome at the same or better rate than the current one.
The point would be not to have to replace the system we have but to have two options, recognizing that even if the outcomes in terms of the profession were identical, the systems might have very different outcomes for students.
The monograph is hard for reasons that have as much to do with psychological qualities and personal luck as with intellectual ones; a system that does not put that kind of pressure on its writers would allow people for whom it is difficult to write books, but who are perfectly capable of producing publishable, article-length scholarship, to earn PhDs.
The argument then would be that, if our agreed-upon goal is to give PhDs to people who can do original, publishable scholarship, a system that has an article option and a monograph option would make a difference not to our capacity to meet our pedagogical and professional goals but to our capacity to make those goals accessible to a wider variety of people.
Here I want to urge you to give that up. Why should you care whether someone contributes to one field or to four? There are limits, after all; no one will write twenty articles in a career on totally different subjects. But knowing in advance anything about its seriousness seems unlikely.
All this explains how I, who write books and believe in books, have come to think that we need to get away from the requirement of the monograph dissertation while leaving it as an option.
Notice what I have not said: I have not said that books are old media, or tired, or only read by a few people; I have not claimed that any new system will have to open itself to the public humanities or be published digitally; I have not argued that we need to do this to save the humanities or to make them relevant again.
My only claim is pedagogical and professional: It would be better if, minimally, and as long as the new alternative met the fundamental demands measured by a PhD, we allowed for two kinds of luck for it is lucky, too, to be able to write articles.
Better for our students, and better for the profession and for scholarship. Why Probably No One Will Do Anything I say that a collection of articles can prove that someone can do original, publishable scholarship as well as a dissertation.
No one will know until someone tries it.The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world.
In our Department, as at many, one of the principal options for fulfilling the PhD “dissertation” requirement is the preparation of three “publishable” (if not published) manuscripts for journals in the discipline, although the option to do a monograph format (“traditional”) thesis still exists.
Monograph definition, a treatise on a particular subject, as a biographical study or study of the works of one artist. See more. a long piece of writing about a particular subject that is done to earn an advanced degree at a university. See the full definition for dissertation in the English Language Learners Dictionary.
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