Saturday, January 12, 2008

"The Office" (workstation series) 87 (cranking-out edition)

Got an "Office" edition today--"In the Trenches" is weekday teaching stuff, but this weekend is for book stuff. Hafta teach the Slow Session later today, and do a radio program either today or tomorrow, as well as write a couple of recommendation letters.

But the priority is the next step in the book - contract - hunt: editor has expressed interest to see additional chapters. I had previously sent a prospectus (overall description of the project's contribution to existing literature, and the format that the study would take), a CV, a Table of Contents, and one sample internal chapter. Had thought of also including the draft "Introduction" chapter, which included both the typical "this is why the study is important and here's what I'm gonna do" material, but also comprehensive Literature Review which I assembled for my own internal reference and sense/shape of the argument.

The problem is that a Literature Review really has no specific role in a scholarly book. It's something you write for a dissertation, and is mandated in that medium--because your committee needs to be convinced that (a) you have thought through the implications of your study, (b) know the existing literature, and (c) are not overlapping existing scholarship. And, in that respect, it's an invaluable part of the learning-to-write-scholarship training. And such a review has to be a stage in the creation of every scholarly text.

However, it's really superfluous in a piece of published scholarship: you still have to do the work, and have the command of the literature, but that command need not be exhaustively displayed for the general reader. Hence, the Literature Review is usually the very first component to be yanked out by editors in the process of transforming a dissertation into a book. Even more so, the inclusion of a Literature Review in a submitted manuscript almost literally signals "I'm still thinking like a dissertating graduate student."

So I've yanked the Lit Review out of my own introductory chapter. I still have it in my back pocket, and both the information (and perhaps much of the language) it contains will show up in one or another spot in the final manuscript--typically this would be in the parallel running commentary enabled by the footnotes (my mentor Peter Burkholder said: "you can have a whole parallel secondary argument going in the footnotes if you handle them right"). This is good, because it means that those readers who want/need to see how your argument fits into the jigsaw puzzle of existing scholarship can reference the footnotes--but those primarily interested in the argument itself, and its narrative, can skip the footnotes and keep the thread of the main text.

So Lit Review goes on the shelf for the moment, though it'll be referenced throughout the final-drafting process. And I polish the balance of the Introduction, sans Lit Review, to a high gleam, so that it, along with the internal chapter already submitted, can help persuade outside readers of the validity and solidity of the proposed manuscript.

And it needs to go in on Monday. Gotta go!

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