My Radical Change of Heart

When I first began blogging, I had this notion: I could use this platform to share with a much wider audience all the interesting ideas I’d gleaned from twenty years of studying literature in an academic context. I felt very strongly that there was no idea that couldn’t be conveyed to a general public; it all depended on how you put it across. And when I became interested in writing more commercially, it was that same belief that motivated me. I had so enjoyed my academic studies and I’d loved teaching students. I am a firm believer that the right book at the right time taught the right way can change a person’s life. It doesn’t have to go that far; the study of literature is full of practical knowledge to be used in the service of living; it’s fundamentally worthwhile.

So I was very disconcerted yesterday to find, on reading a book I’d been saving up for many years by a world-renowned academic critic, that I was thoroughly bored by it. Well, disconcerted isn’t the word. I felt the horror of a prophet who suddenly realises that the God she has served is a fraud. This was a critic I had previously revered, and I found her writing overly verbose, obscure, pointless. Her arguments focussed in on details that were irrelevant and came to conclusions that I didn’t feel were valuable. There was just so much writing, in order to make very little progress at all.

An anomaly, perhaps, a bad day for that critic, or an impatient day for me?  But it had happened before, with a book I used quite frequently in my research. I reread a chapter for a blog post I was planning and was astounded by how much unnecessary padding there was, how little I could actually use. I put it down then to my state of mind, still somewhat befuddled by chronic fatigue. Yesterday there were no such excuses: I realised I had fallen out of love with academic writing. And worse than that, I had done so because academic writing itself seemed bloated and esoteric.

Thinking about it, I felt the problem lay between what can be said and what has to be said for a piece of writing to be acceptable within the parameters of its genre. In academia, you need to say so much, in order to be able to say something quite small. The real point you want to make has to come last, like the final pair of cards in a house of cards; you have to build up all that foundation before you can say it: those are the rules. And in the meantime, you save yourself from boredom by trying to be clever with a few details en route, rather in the way ballerinas will hold up a pas de deux by performing multiple pirouettes on the spot. It was not always thus; the old school of critics, Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson, even Frank Kermode or F. R. Leavis, were writing to be read by anyone keen on books. The educated class was a more homogenous layer of society then, and a more obvious audience. And the theoreticians who came along in the sixties and seventies and changed the face of humanities were not critics who I despised or despaired of. I really enjoyed theory; I do wonder, though, whether academia went wrong when it stopped writing for a general reader, and became a competition among peers.

Much has been said about the crisis in humanities, its imminent death, its irrelevance, and I have staunchly argued against it all. I’m still firmly in favour of academic study. This is because there is no alternative to academic writing other than commercial writing, and ‘commercial’ is defined as popular enough for the mass market to hand over money in exchange for its ideas. Very few people are willing to pay for writing that challenges their beliefs, argues for different principles, that simply says things they do not wish to hear. Academia and literature are both essential, then, in keeping us real and honest and attentive to uncomfortable moral implications.

The issue is not so much what is said, as the way we say it. Books are written in order to tug at the nerve ends of a reader’s sensibility, they are written in states of passion and outrage, they appeal to our fiercest emotions, our sense of justice, our ethical principles. They work because they are profoundly embedded in the disquieting realities of life. Whatever we want to do with them as critics, I think we have to keep our analysis grounded in their vital relevance for the everyday. And I think we ought to write for anyone who is interested in picking up the book concerned and reading it. Now that I am sufficiently outside the university enclaves to look at its products with fresh eyes, I am gutted to realise how much gets produced that is actually quite useless, devoid of powerful ideas. Is it possible that academics could give up being so clever, in order to concentrate on what is valuable because it is true?

25 thoughts on “My Radical Change of Heart

  1. You need a great dose of courage, honesty and lucidity to write such a post. Bravo.

    Well you may remember what I think of lit crit, as valuable as I think it is, I still think it’s not for me. And although I love reading David Lodge, I’ve always been puzzled by the characters’ professional field. For me, it’s just another planet, so away from my everyday life.

  2. This reminded me so vividly of the frustration I used to feel in coaching writers who were post-graduate-degreed…especially in writing fiction, they couldn’t ever say what they wanted to say. They had to prove it with enless quotations from third parties, and prop it up with examples from other people’s lives. And even with all that, unless the writer is a scientist, there is no absolute truth … it’s theoretical, the grinding of a different lens through which to see George Eliot or “Of Mice and Men” or what happened to the princes in the tower, or whatever it may be. While it’s useful to have researched any topic about which one is writing, the thing I was always trying (and failing) to get across is that in the best of all possible writing, that research is internalized. I realize that this is not usually possible with academic writing, but with memoir and fiction, it should be…the research is the bedrock upon which the structure is built…whereas in academic writing, it seems to me, the point is more to expose the bedrock pebble by pebble, simply to whisk away the veil over what is, more often than not, a house of cards. I’d rather have the good house, and the invisible foundation. Some academic and quasi-academic writing achieves this (I am thinking at the moment of the wonderful book Parallel Lives ) but much of it is, as you say…rather gaseous.

  3. In my more cynical moments, I sometimes think that academic writing is overly verbose and obscure precisely so that the writers will be difficult to understand and therefore seem clever to people who don’t quite understand what they’re saying. That’s in my more cynical moments, mind you, and I know there are times when complex jargon and long explanations of the precise meaning of a word are helpful. Some of my own work as an editor involves taking writing of academics and shaping it into something that a professional, but not necessarily academic audience can understand. Most of the time, once I clear away the jargon and the throat-clearing, there’s still something of use there, and that’s very rewarding. But every now and then, there isn’t, or at least not as much as there appeared to be at first. And that’s when my cynical side speaks up.

  4. I was disconcerted by the padding of academic writing when I first encountered it, but I often thought it was because I didn’t get it. It’s faintly comforting for me to hear you say it was padding all along, though I am sad to hear you are gutted.

    Now here’s an idea: could it all be padding because academics tend to construct their arguments in an artful and artificial third person? Blogging is much more direct because it involves an “I” and when there’s an “I”, there has to be truth – even if it’s hidden.

  5. I think one can be clever , say much with less and have a broader appeal. What you’ve written echoes how I first felt when I came across the works of bell hooks. She is a clever critic and yet her books are written to appeal to us non-academics. She takes her audience of readers quite seriously. I remember she first received some slack for writing books that to me were free, unencumbered and yet presented a well-thought out analysis of the intersection of race and gender. So it can be and should be done. Thanks and all the best.

  6. “you need to say so much, in order to be able to say something quite small”. Oh yes. Yes yes yes. And like you, I have found that the more time I spend reading outside academic discourse, the harder it becomes to return to it. There is some critical writing that has the kind of vigor and passion you want (I think of something like The Madwoman in the Attic, which for all its faults or idiosyncrasies, is written in a kind of high heat of intellectual excitement and discovery. And I’m still always happy to read straightforward accounts of writers and their works, particularly when I myself am new to them and trying to get oriented in how to think about them (here, I would cite the book Dangerous by Degrees as a recent example). The less travelled the territory, the less abstruse the criticism! But I must have downloaded 100 recent articles and book reviews on my sabbatical, with the virtuous intention of “catching up” on recent work in my field, and nearly every time I found my eyes glazing over as I endeavoured to make myself care enough to keep reading. I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees here, but in fact I think this is a case in which I would say the forest really is more important: it is crucial that there be people of serious intellect, rigor, and patience pursuing disinterested scholarly inquiry, else, as you suggest, all we may be left with is what sells, or easily appeals. When you are floundering among the roots and branches, though, the trees really do feel like an obstacle to understanding. I find that this whole situation is increasingly difficult to me in my role as a graduate teacher and supervisor. Indeed, my eyes often glaze over now reading the work of my own students, and yet I know I owe it to them (and my professional conscience) to persist to the best of my ability. I do say, much more often than I used to, “can you put this in a simpler way? and get to your point sooner? and sound excited, so your reader can become engaged?”–but that’s not the advice that will help them enter the guild.

  7. It is precisely because we’re looking for non-commercial, academic writing about literature that so many of us regularly visit your blog and others like it. Newspapers and magazines are full of interviews of celebrity authors and reviews of the ‘most-anticipated’ books. At least in India, we’re rarely introduced to exciting new authors who don’t have a knack for self-publicity. We’re not being introduced to any debates on literary forms, language, concepts. If it doesn’t pay, then it’s not written about.

  8. It is sad that academic writing isn’t more accessible to anyone who is interested in literature, since it obviously has been in the past. The thing is, in the hands of the right person it seems like it really could be accessible. Far too often I’ve felt like I was on the outside looking in and that was because I don’t have the right kind of education/background, but maybe that’s not the entire story?

  9. Once again, you articulate how I feel: “In academia, you need to say so much, in order to be able to say something quite small.”

    I am attempting to break into academia, and of course I love the idea of writing in order to learn more about books and share with a community of peers who care as much about literature as I do. However, the more criticism I read, the more I feel that the structure and language has been designed to exclude rather than to inform. I understand that complex ideas require more nuanced writing, but after I’ve read a sentence over and over, only to discover that the real meaning is minimally relevant or inconsequential to what I want to know, I get discouraged. Your writing on this blog represents what I wish more academic writing were like, and I can only hope that someday I can produce academic writing that is both relevant in the field and accessible to interested members of the public.

  10. I never finished my PhD for pretty much the same or similar reasons. It seemed to far from what I really wanted to write or read which doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy reading the one or the other academic book. But I still think academic writing spoils the writing abilities, the voice.
    One of the reasons why I started to write in another language is that it keeps me simple.
    All this aside I can see how this moment must also have been a painful moment for you. Libertaing as well.
    My biggest problem with academia is that it is exclucive or excluding. It doesn’t want to be for everyone. I’d like to write in a way that it is understandable for every person.
    When I was 20 I enjoyed briefly not being understood because my way of speaking was too sophisticated. Thank God, that urge is long gone.

  11. The previous anonymous commentator has it absolutely right: “Your writing on this blog represents what i wish more academic writing were like.” I’d call it elegant precision, and it contains far more ideas, connections and exposition than the impenetrable “academic” jargon that amounts to the equivalent of hideous business management-speak, full of sound and fury, signifying…well, not very much, actually.

  12. Ah, yes, my dissertation in psychology was merely an exercise in convincing the parole board (the faculty committee), of something that seemed simply common sense to me all along. I never tried to publish it because I was so ashamed of the redundant citing of sources to prove my point. This is a very inspiring post, because lately I’ve gone back to reading some of my own psychotherapy theory and practice books and wondering about explaining some of the rich concepts on my blog in a personal way. Take the long-winded academics of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and make them useful in real life in a concrete and down-to-earth way.

  13. I’ll play devil’s advocate and stick up for academic writing, just for fun. Here’s an example: I love to read about quantum physics, chaos theory and things like that. But unfortunately I have no specialised knowledge at all – I gave up physics when I was 13. So I read the pop science books and get a good general idea of what’s going on, and get inspired by the weirdness of it all, and then move on to things more up my street, like novels. The pop science books are great for me, but I also recognise that they simplify a lot of things and are pretty much useless to the people who really want to move the science forward – those people need to communicate on a different level, in language I could never understand. It’s true that it never used to be that way, but I think that’s due to the advances we’ve made – whereas the well-read Victorian gentlemen could grasp any subject, so many fields today have become highly specialised, and are the preserve of experts communicating highly complex ideas. Hence academic writing is often incomprehensible to those who don’t know the references, the terminology, etc.

    Of course, there are also books where you feel the obscurity is not necessary – I know exactly what you mean, and what seems to have struck a chord with so many commenters. My take on it, from my limited experience of academia, is that it’s not really about pomposity or trying to sound clever, but about fear. I remember as a history undergraduate reading the historical journals and being shocked by the viciousness of some of the articles, as respected historians lined up to skewer each other for a missed fact or an unsubstantiated piece of analysis. It struck me that perhaps that was why so many of the books I read were boring – the authors were terrified of being wrong, and so diluted every clear, strong sentence with a deluge of modifiers and sub-clauses and passive constructions, defending themselves pre-emptively against all the potential counter-arguments.

    I found a review I wrote last year of a book which I felt had that dry academic style, and here’s what I said:

    “I understand why academic writing is often like that. Spend years immersed in any subject and your knowledge becomes so extensive that to communicate it in plain language must be a challenge. With every argument you immediately anticipate the potential counter-argument, and so counter it pre-emptively with a counter-counter-argument which, itself, seems incomplete without reference to another idea which also needs buttressing by facts and references and footnotes and a thorough consideration of all possible objections. There’s a lot to admire about such thoroughness, but it makes for a dull read…”

    Full review here if you’re interested:
    http://andrewblackman.net/2010/06/race-and-racism-in-britain-by-john-solomos/

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

  14. This argument falls when you tune in to what you find on science blogs, like Cosmic Variance, Bad Astronomy and many others–where you can follow cutting edge science from people who are tops in their field–like particle physicist, Sean Carroll, or in philosophy–where, on Larval Subjects for one, far from talking down to their readers, the most exciting new thinking takes place before your eyes. These blogs reach out and encourage participation from other disciplines and a broad general audience. If a cosmetologist can write about time & entropy, about the latest discoveries from Cern, why aren’t lit theory people in academic English and language departments doing this? Surely narrative structure can’t be more challenging to make intelligible outside a specialty than particle physics!

  15. Although I’ve never been able to put it as elegantly as you have here, I, for some time, have felt that “academia went wrong when it stopped writing for a general reader, and became a competition among peers.” I much prefer the days of academic peers challenging each other, as well as the general public, rather than trying to prove how superior and knowledgeable and clever they are. I wish all that were unacceptable. My hope is that the Internet is maybe changing things to some degree, and that we will have a resurgence of academia and the public at large sharing ideas? Blogs, although they seem to be dying these days, are still prominent in the world of academics, and academics do tend to write more accessibly on blogs, so maybe the competitive model will disappear. One can hope. After all, anything is possible in a world in which, as I just found out today, gamers, not scientists, might actually having cracked the code for an AIDS cure.

  16. What a heartfelt, passionate, intelligent post, Litlove. There were so many places I thought–if this was in print I could underline it. Yes, yes yes–all so well said and thought out. The sad part is the padding but the exciting part of the post is the need for intelligent, academic analysis, the need for challenge, and the need to have a place where challenge is legitimate, not challenge for its own sake (which can happen too) or verbosity to fill the pages or attack between peers, but a meeting place of ideas and and a place to engage them.

  17. Spot on, Litlove.

    I’ve just finished my Literature MA, which I started with the intention of going on to do a PhD – now I’m not so sure. I’ve learnt a lot, in the sense that I had time to read critically and pretty expansively, but almost as a trade-off I feel creatively stifled – smothered, somehow, by the theoretical snowstorm. In particular, what I wrote now reads as irredeemably obtuse, affected and – well, just plain dull. That’s pretty depressing.

    I think the malaise you’re writing about is symptomatic of a larger – viral, almost – transformation that’s taking place, in which literature as we know it is becoming defunct, is being slowly pulled like a deep-set tooth, and will eventually be replaced almost entirely by new media – video games, for example, and other digital, interactive artforms. There’s a sense in which the study of literature, the opening of a paperback, already feels anachronistic, arcane, stupidly analogue. How long will it be until a shelf of hardbacks beside the ipad looks as incongruous as a gramaphone next to an ipod? Not long, I think. I’m not sure the person you call the ‘general reader’ will exist in twenty years: we might well then be taking about the general player, or the general user. It’s exciting, in a way, and horrible too.

  18. Victor – what a wonderful comment – thank you! I will treasure that one.

    Jacob – aw bless you for that – you know I’m delighted to have found you, too.

    Emma – believe me, I was horrified when I read that book and realised just how much my feelings had changed. When I was teaching it mattered to me a lot that what I said in lectures or seminars was crystal clear. But I realise now that much of what went on around me was not. It must have been very confusing for the students, and of course a non-starter for people who didn’t know the academic discourse. I’d hate to be without the possibility of appraising narrative – I still think that’s a valuable and interesting thing to do. But I do want to think more about the ways it can be discussed without being quite so rebarbative to the general reader.

    David – oh that is it exactly! We are taught that half of what we do must be ‘an overview of the existing field’, whilst the other half is a ‘contribution to the field of knowledge’. This means that more than half, usually, is that painstaking, hair-splitting, this is what x said and I agree here and criticize it here, and here… I have Parallel Lives to read, and not long ago I read and loved Katie Roiphe’s recent version of the same idea, Uncommon Arrangements. It is time, I think, for a return to including biograpical information, historical information, for finding elegant and exciting ways to explore what goes on in stories, and for a different way of assuring rigor in research. At the moment it risks becoming rigor mortis.

    Teresa – I feel I want to look back over several of the books that I remember as being basically good reads when I was teaching and researching, see if they have stood the test of time, and a change in perspective. There must be well-written, well-argued work out there that doesn’t collapse into jargon and padding. I always felt that every book or article contained something worth using, and now I’m having to revise that. But there must be good stuff. Very interesting indeed to hear your editorial point of view.

    Charlotte – I feel sure you are onto something there. The thing you are not supposed to do as an academic (or at least I was ‘brought up’ this way) is say ‘I’. This is because it is understood that your subjectivity clouds your judgement, and you must always state what position you write from when a more personal perspective is involved (in political issues like feminism or post-colonial writing). Blogging was so interesting for me because finally I could say ‘I’ and it felt like I cleared a mass of debris by doing so.

    kinna – thank you so much for that recommendation. I’ve heard of bell hooks but have never read anything by her. I’m really interested now in reading more of those ‘marginal’ critics, people who don’t write from within an institution (or even a tradition). I do feel sure there must be writing out there of the kind that now fills my imagination, intelligent and informed, but also elegant and readable.

    Rohan – so interesting hearing your point of view on this. I nearly added a paragraph about blogging, and wondering whether it wouldn’t produce new forms of academic writing that DID have the general reader in mind, that are more accessible and relevant. It’s going to require a huge seachange for critics to embrace a different discourse, because the old one is so bound up in ideas of competitive intellectualism – the market your grads think they’re aiming for. And yet of course, what jobs are our grads likely to get? Only a tiny percentage will end up in academia, and so I don’t think it’s in any way wrong to encourage them to think of the stylistics of what they are doing. Learning how to write well might just be the best transferrable skill they take away with them. But ways to write in an informed and intelligent manner about books without being overly opaque, whilst persuading people to pick up classics or harder texts, this is surely something that we (and I really do mean bloggers like you and me) should be thinking more about. If the humanities shrink over the next five years, then we need new ways to get people thinking and talking about them. The desire certainly exists.

    p2c2u – first of all, thank you for such a lovely comment. My husband keeps telling me that people are given fewer ‘reading skills’ than ever in schools, but keen readers love learning more about stories, how to get as much out of them as possible. The commercial world isn’t interested in this because it doesn’t seem like a source of revenue (not like celebrities and big books), but the desire to know more is honest and real. When I began blogging I loved the thought of reaching out to more people who loved reading and who were sensitive to books, and goodness me has this blog proved to me that they are out there!

    iwriteinbooks – oh bless you, that’s kind. The thing is, I’ve just taken a six-year break from academia – I think perhaps I’ve cleared my head too much! But it’s true there are so many types of writing out there that what I’m interested in surely exists. Now to start the search for it…

  19. Danielle – well this post alone makes me realise just how many people have felt excluded from academic discourse on books, and some of them are academics!! Ever since publication has been a requirement of the academic’s job, and a big one at that, and ever since the humanities became infected with the desire for a level of complexity in their work that matched the sciences, what academics say about books has become gradually more and more refined and restricted in its audience. But I do think it’s time for that to begin to change. We’re missing out on so much if we can’t convey our passion and our ideas to a wide audience.

    Anonymous – aw thank you, what a wonderful comment. Well, I say, be brave and go your own way. Humanities departments across the western world are rapidly shrinking, but there is a huge market of people who love reading and who want to think more about the experiences they’ve had with books. It seems to me that this represents a huge opportunity and how great it would be if more and more of us with some sort of training were able to express our passion and ideas to more people. That seems a really worthwhile ambition to me.

    Caroline – lol! I laughed at your last remark. I recognise that in my clever students, the delight of being able to do something than not many people can do. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that for a while, and most do grow out of it eventually! I also like what you say about the ability to write. When I first tried to move over from writing academic stuff to commercial books, I thought I wasn’t a bad writer, but my goodness me have I had a lot to learn (and still so much further to go!). I think you hit a nail on the head there. It’s the quality of the writing that has been abandoned in all this.

    Deborah – I think I just want to hug you for that! Thank you. Blogging has been a good discipline for me – and I feel I’m still learning a lot from the proper writers like you!

    Squirrel – oh yes! Do that thing! You know I am a devotee of psychoanalytic writing, and yet I see such a huge difference between the Andre Green’s of the world and the Adam Phillips’. Just last week I picked up a book by Rosemary Dinnage called One to One. It was a series of interviews with people who had been in long-term therapy, questions and prompts removed, so it sounded simply as if they were telling their stories. It was completely fascinating. Psychoanalysis is about such important things, such vital things – wouldn’t everybody be interested if they only realised that?

    Andrew – a post of mine from a while back was about an argument between C.P. Snow, batting for sciences, and F.R. Leavis, batting for arts. At that time (the sixties) Leavis argued that the arts were just as vital as the sciences precisely because anyone could have a point of view about them. They offered a conversation that any intelligent person could take part in, whereas science was an exclusive discourse for which you needed precise understanding. It’s a bit rich if science has now become the accessible discipline and the arts are too elitist for any but highly trained academics. But I agree that fear had a lot to do with it, and not just on an individual level. The arts and humanities feared they were considered second class citizens by people like C. P. Snow (they were) because they didn’t have the same level of technical expertise and rigor. Time to redress that balance, I think.

    Jacob – in a word: quite!! (Mind you, anyone who could explain particle physics to me deserves a medal!)

    Emily – for real? Gamers? Oh boy, I must tell my son that one. I do think you are onto something with blogging. Academics are good at keeping things up, we have incredible stamina and are used to people not paying us much attention. So my hope is that the academic bloggers among us will just trundle on and eventually there will be a stable community of online information and discussion that anyone can join in. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I do so agree with you that the endless competition is tiring. When I began as a grad student, I swore I would never write the kind of article that spent 5,000 words proving why some other hapless critic was wrong. Was that really the best anyone could think of doing with these fantastic books??

    Lilian – oh absolutely! When I wrote this post I felt quite depressed about academia. But now I feel hugely encouraged by the number of people who love books, want to talk about them, think deeply about them and write lucidly about them. Such opportunities here, surely!

    Dervish – you are such a good writer, such an original writer about narrative, I would hate to think that further study could quash that in you. Whatever you do, I really hope you’ll keep exploring your own voice, because it’s worth it. I’m not so convinced that what we’re looking at is the end for books. In the first place, I think the best analogy is with music, which has undergone a huge transformation in the way it’s stored and transmitted, but that hasn’t changed music at all. No one has decided to get rid of classical, for instance, just because music is digitally stored. And then my other argument is my son, 16, a keen computer gamer and a child who has grown up with information on screens, the internet and a host of gadgets. I offered him an ereader and he turned me down flat. If he wanted to read a book, he’d read a book. I just don’t think that he is as… impressed, I suppose, by technological developments as older generations are. He’ll choose screens when they work for him, but he doesn’t see the need to have all his information coming that way. I think we are in a massive transition, that’s true, but I also think the future is unguessable. The last publishing conference I attended, the publishers were pointing out they had always worked with multi-media. The paperback was supposed to destroy the hardback, the audio book provided a new format. They suggested it would be a while before they put all their eggs in one basket.

  20. Sorry to be late to the party, but just wanted to add that I regularly have peer reviewers of my articles ask me, more or less explicitly, to add jargon to my work. I try to write clearly and straightforwardly, because I think the padding is unhelpful at best and farcical at worst, and I’ve had my writing called “journalistic” and worse. A few passive constructions and abstruse phrases would probably do me no harm, but, like Bartleby, I prefer not to.

  21. Wonderful post Litlove! I know exactly what you mean. The change you mention from earlier critics has happened over a period of time and I wonder if it has to do with tenure and an attempt to make literature more important? I don’t know about there, but here there is lots going on about tenure, who gets it, who doesn’t, what kind of publications count toward it and what don’t. I think in America tenure review committees tend to frown on internet publication and writing for a general audience as being not scholarly enough which forces academics into writing books and articles no one but themselves will read. The turn to theory and having a theory and the jargon of theory back in the, was it the 80s?, was suppsed to “save” literature departments, reinvigorate them, make them less soft and more science-y (we have theories too!) and for awhile it was rather exciting with the friction created between French theorists and everyone else. But when that ran its course there was nothing to take its place and it seems that everyone is stuck in the obscurities of trying to get tenure and what appears to be the need to still write from a theory instead of just writing. When books for general readers are published by academics the authors are tenured and firmly esstablished in their success. These are my impressions from the fringes of academia located somewhere over there in the library🙂

  22. Amen! I too firmly believe in the importance of academic criticism, and I want to defend it, and we need people doing it. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done better than it is. I would love to have a return to a more accessible prose style in academic criticism, although at the same time, I think the carefulness and slowness is important. Your ideas about blogging in the comments are interesting; I do hope that having access to a wider audience will encourage more academics to think about how best to write for people other than fellow academics.

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