Specialist perspectives: the Project works with the Miltonists

The Project was recently invited to speak at the Eleventh International Milton Symposium (University of Exeter, 20-24 July) by Professor Thomas Corns. Prof. Corns is a member of the Project’s Advisory Board as well an eminent Milton scholar – he was recently awarded a British Academy Fellowship in recognition of his contribution to Milton studies – and is therefore ideally situated to channel (and provoke!) conversation between the Project and this group of specialist researchers. This post is a summary of the issues, thoughts, concerns, and ideas that arose during this session.

Thanks to @RichardACarter for live-tweeting the session! Credit: @RichardACarter

                    Thanks to @RichardACarter for live-tweeting the session! Credit: @RichardACarter

After a brief presentation from Rebecca Lyons to introduce the Project, outline its aims, summarise progress to date, and explain why the Project was at a symposium on Milton, Prof. Corns took over. He started off with a quotation:

‘The monograph is something that every academic wants to write, few academics want to read, and no academic wants to buy’, as a distinguished commissioning editor once provocatively remarked.

Prof. Corns then put into play the view that the monograph constitutes the ‘gold standard’ for arts and humanities scholars, a view that certainly shaped institutional thinking across the sector in preparation for the recent REF, but he asked: if very few people want to read these books, and even fewer are buying them – what is the rationale behind this status? Why is the monograph still supreme?

A member of the audience responded, considering disciplines besides those in the arts and humanities:

 

‘I frequently work with colleagues in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and when you ask them to read a book, they’re reluctant because they work in articles. I love the book, but insisting on the monograph as the gold standard keeps the arts and humanities segregated from these other areas, and therefore somewhat limited.’

 

The issue of ‘monograph vs journal article’ has cropped up fairly regularly in Project conversations with other stakeholder groups and communities, from a range of angles – including the idea of ‘thesis-by-articles’ as an alternative to the 80-100,000 word monograph that has hitherto been the standard model. There have been a variety of responses to this proposal, ranging from enthusiastic to the horrified, so this was a pertinent point.

Another participant offered an alternative response:

 

‘If we bow to pressure to exclusively publish articles rather than books, then we will lose what we do really well in the arts and humanities. Yes, we can write very good articles too, and yes, it is a very good idea to engage with our counterparts in science and engineering – but it is not necessary to give up the long form monograph in order to do these things.’

 

The conversation shifted slightly, considering the implications of monographs and journals, hard copy and digital, for libraries and their expenditure on research resources. A Miltonist working in the US stated:

 

‘There is a huge crisis in library funding. My institution’s library has been cut so far to the bone that we don’t even automatically buy books published by the big university presses anymore like we used to. More and more we are relying on digital resources. Articles provide a much more accessible and immediate resource.’

 

But again, there was an alternative view (from another US-based scholar):

 

‘We have the opposite situation – my institution’s library doesn’t automatically buy all books but will buy all books on reading lists made by academics. It does not, however, subscribe to all the online journals as this is too expensive for our budgets.’

 

He went on to make the point that some universities feel “walled out” by subscription prices combined with restricted budgets:

 

‘$100 for one academic book is still cheaper than a $1000 journal subscription that expires within a year. And at least you get to keep the book! Digital, online content is not this egalitarian utopia it’s sometimes made out to be.’

 

Another comment on this came from another scholar, citing the need to distinguish long-term and short-term consultation of material:

 

‘There are several examples of texts that I’d want to access for five minutes, just to check something, but only a few where I’d actually want to own them.’

 

The subject of available institutional funding for the purchase of books and subscriptions seemed to be a pivotal concern. The conversation continued with a suggestion:

 

‘How about the interlibrary loan of digital texts? It’s what happens with physical books – why not digital ones?’

 

Here the conversation turned to other digital matters – starting with Open Access (OA). One scholar condemned OA in no uncertain terms:

 

‘It is the spume of the devil.’

 

Others had questions:

 

‘At places like the British Library or Library of Congress is there, or will there be, an obligation for digital books to be made available, as physical ones are?’

 

Or concerns, about the present state of things:

 

‘Intellectual property is an issue: if one of your books is available digitally – what it to stop it being misused? Many of us have seen agreements violated, for instance, and PhD theses sold immediately, despite an embargo. The more we move into the digital, the more likely this is to be a problem. We must be aware of how our work makes it into the public sphere – it has become necessary to Google ourselves and check regularly what is out there.’

 

As well as the future:

 

‘In the 2020 REF monographs will be excluded from the obligation to be OA, whereas articles won’t be – what will be the implications of this?’

 

Other concerns centred upon business models:

 

‘I work for a journal and if we are made to open up our content for free then we will disappear.’

 

Or career issues:

 

‘If your thesis is OA then it can problematic to have it published. It becomes an issue of hiring and tenure. The American History Society advised all graduate students not to have their thesis as OA.’

 

There were also suggestions:

 

‘Could University Presses create a consortium to open books up for a small subscription fee, like Spotify for books?’

 

Here the conversation shifted to the authors and how the drive towards OA affects them:

 

‘Academics as authors are increasingly threatened by these forces – we need better rights to protect the authors.’

 

Another scholar also commented on these ‘forces’, using the analogy of airlines in the US that are conglomerating:

 

‘You get less and less choice for more and more money. I am worried that this is happening with publishing and platforms. In terms of authors and editors, our individuality and choice is being taken away.’

 

I couldn’t help but think of huge supermarkets here, where small organic groceries have sprung up in response. Or instances where people start to grow vegetables themselves instead. Will people publish themselves in the future?

Some attendees wondered about teaching in a digital world – how do students use books, create their own content, and what other content do they use such as the excellent Milton Reading Room hosted by Dartmouth College (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/contents/text.shtml). How is teaching going to be affected by these new books, materials, and new contexts?

 

One scholar commented:

 

‘I work at an institution that has a footprint in one place but also has commitments in education elsewhere (Palestine), so the digital content that we subscribe to has a great reach, and is really valued by these students who wouldn’t be able to access this content otherwise.’

 

Prof. Corns was forced to draw the conversation to a close due to time constraints, but it was clear that we had only just started to scratch the surface. One final closing comment from an attendee resonated, not only with the aims and scope of the Project, but with the rest of the scholars in the room, and probably beyond:

 

‘The questions and comments are all too small. This is not about the Future of the Academic Book. This is about the Future of the Humanities.’

 


 

Do these points resonate in your discipline?

Are there are others for you and your colleagues?

Do you vehemently disagree with any of the above?

Get in touch using the comments below!

 

Note: The views given above are not necessarily those of the Project or its partners, or Milton scholars en masse! The Project has attempted, insofar as possible, to accurately capture the views and opinions expressed at this event. All opinions and comments have been anonymised.

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Building a career: ECRs in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Brigitte_ShullUsing Greg Semenza and Garret Sullivan, Jr.’s recent blog post on life-building in the Humanities as her point of departure, in this post Brigitte Shull (Head of Editorial and Author Services & Publisher, Literature at Palgrave Macmillan), switches to the other side of the coin: how to build a career in the Humanities and Social Sciences: starting with publishing your research.

Early career researchers (ECRs) are under tremendous pressure to find a tenure-track job despite scarce resources, and they’re expected to publish, give papers, and teach a full course load (among many other things), right off the bat.

As reinforced by the recent findings of a survey of over 200 ECRs after the Research Excellence Framework (REF), conducted by Charlotte Mathieson of the University of Warwick, the increasingly competitive job market is “focused solely on ‘REFable’ publications”. To quote Benjamin Bowman, a final-year PhD student at the University of Bath, in a recent article in the Times Higher Education Supplement: “When you are an early career researcher, one of the things you really have to do is get a publication or an understanding of the publishing process.” The importance of publishing for an academic career is undeniable in the rest of the world too. So where does this leave the ECR? How are they supported on the path to publication?

Organisations and universities tend to favour grants, research support, and awards over true career development. Many of the bigger initiatives, such as the European Research Council, tend to be oriented towards scientific research. While beneficial for the ECR, no doubt, there still is a lacuna between the support of research and the jump to getting that research published.

Resources about publishing exist, but very few of them come from publishers themselves. At conferences, I often find myself having conversations with ECRs who refer to advice they’ve received that is full of misinformation about the publishing process. A quick Google search looking for ECR information on publishers’ websites pulls up Elsevier’s robust site but very little comes up from humanities and social science publishers. Most academic conferences have publishing panels but the fact that these are so well attended further points to a real gap in practical and personal advice for junior scholars.

I recently attended the Society for Scholarly Publishers’ annual meeting. In the panel “The Researcher’s New Big Picture,” one of the takeaways was that publishers need to be doing more to make researchers’ lives easier. At Palgrave Macmillan, we embrace transparency as the best approach for our authors and have set out to demystify the submission, peer review, revision, and publishing process as much as possible. To that end, we have created advice and content around the usual pain points including proposal writing dos and don’ts, a glossary of publishing terms, advice on revising their thesis to monograph, among other things. For the ECRs reading this, I hope that our new hub will be a valuable resource. I also hope that the hub will be a jumping off point and something we can continue to add tools to and fill gaps through collaboration. When we think about the academic book of the future or the author/researcher of the future, it’s important that publishers don’t forget that postdocs make up a rising percentage of academic researchers (a postdocalypse, as some call it!). If we’re really serious about making our authors’ lives easier, we should keep in mind what impact shifting demographics will have on the tools and services we offer.

There is so much potential for publishers to support researchers in every stage of their career—from fostering interdisciplinary connections to demonstrating impact to helping new sub-fields get off the ground. I encourage everyone to keep the conversation going by commenting on this post, emailing me directly, or chatting with one of our editors at a conference. We look forward to collaborating!

SHARP 2015: Generations and Regenerations of the Book

Montreal 7 – 10 July 2015

SHARP 2015 was a bilingual conference hosted by the Groupe de recherches et d’études sur le livre au Québec, the University of Sherbrooke, McGill University and the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The conference included lectures, keynote addresses, a digital projects showcase, roundtables, lightning papers presented by doctoral students, a poster exhibition featuring the work of master’s students as well as workshops. Over 350 people attended the conference, which was held in three locations over four days. Nick Canty writes this conference report.

SHARP_July2015_2

Credit: Mel Ramdarshan Bold.

The theme of the conference – Generations and Regenerations of the Book – was highly appropriate to discuss in a round table the future of the academic book. The round table consisted of Nick Canty, UCL, Christoph Blasi, Gutenberg University Mainz, Claire Squires, Stirling University and Siobhan McMenemy, University of Toronto Press. The event was chaired by Alexis Weedon from the University of Bedfordshire. Each participant briefly addressed the topic. Nick Canty outlined the AHRC Academic Book of the Future project, Claire Squires asked how SHARP could consider the question and where the topic sits in the context of Book History before addressing the definitions – what is a book, what should we consider an academic book and how what timeframe should we consider for the future. Siobhan McMenemy set out the publisher perspective with a focus on costs, monograph print runs and commercial imperatives with a sobering thought that a monograph in Canada costs C$ 32,000 to produce. Christoph Blasi saw the topic from two perspectives; bottom up driven by technological advances and the ability for content to be manipulated and distributed in radical grass-roots ways, and top down driven by institutional requirements – such as the UK REF. While we cannot know what the future holds there are some reformist top-down approaches in universities.

The debate was then opened up to the floor and started with a discussion around predatory publishers of the sort found on Beale’s List which try to hoodwink naïve researchers wanting to get their work published. This sort of publishing activity however should be seen as a symptom of the environment and not the cause. There was however a recognition that there needed to be a value shift and a questioning of whether the monograph was appropriate for all disciplines and in particular emerging disciplines – does the monograph give more authority to these as the discipline builds its infrastructure and seeks academic recognition? There are questions here around legitimacy and innovation which have yet to be resolved. Early career researchers may consider publishing a monograph from their PhD but they may achieve more visibility by publishing papers in a journal instead.

The question of funding and money was addressed which was seen as a significant issue for Arts & Humanities disciplines where the cost of Open Access books is prohibitive. Publishers are certainly experimenting with new business models such as the University of California Press community business model which a member of the audience saw as a possible solution here although this initiative is currently funded by the Mellon Foundation only for a limited period. A further suggestion was that university presses might alleviate competition by honing their publishing lists so they (the publishers) are unique. This route is being actively pursued by the Association of Spanish University Presses which is encouraging its members to specialise by discipline. The University of Toronto Press expect Open Access models to reduce profits by 50%.

The functionality of print and digital books was debated at some length with some members of the audience disliking Ebooks which were seen as less easy to navigate than paper despite innovations from publishers allowing users to annotate the content. This led on to a discussion around whether we are witnessing the slow demise of the library as a space for learning and whether students and universities needed a physical space any longer. The University of Toronto built a new library but has changed the name to a student learning space and provides limited access to print books. Ebooks should enable a convergence of content and pedagogy through virtual learning environments although this presents challenges for publishers who risk their business models changing from institutional sales to libraries to selling to the individual student.

The round table concluded with an acknowledgement that the future of the academic book will be shaped by discipline and technology but we are likely to exist in a hybrid print and digital world for the foreseeable future, and at least until there is an institutional recognition of content taking novel and innovative forms.

While the round table finished, the debate continues and follow-up activities will include blog posts for the Academic book of the Future website and a post by forum chair Alexis Weedon. The discussion will be taken forward through numerous and varied activities as part of the AHRC project and specifically during Academic Book Week, 9-16 November 2015.

Academic Book Week aims to encourage discussion around the future of the academic book while looking at how scholarly work in the arts and humanities will be produced and read in coming years. The week will see academic books discussed, showcased and even written across a number of events – notably a launch event with academic publishers at Stationers Hall in London on Monday 9 November and the Opening Up the Book Debate with Kathryn Sutherland, University of Oxford and Marilyn Deegan, King’s College London, while the British Library will host an academic book showcase ceremony and Palgrave Macmillan put the writing of an academic book into practice with a faster publishing model aiming to publish a book in a month.

Through The Academic Book of the Future project the opinions of all those who read, write, sell, produce and use academic books can be heard and the topic will be discussed at the next SHARP conference in Paris in 2016, an issue Claire Squires was keen to see addressed and saw as an issue central to the mission of SHARP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards an Ethics of Circulation: A Manifesto in Tweets

On 19 June 2015 a group of anthropologists and ethnographers met at RMIT Europe in Barcelona to discuss The Academic Book of the Future project. The aim of the workshop was to situate the future of the book in the context of broader anthropological engagements with how knowledge circulates, the form knowledge takes, and the ethical questions that these engagements raise. What follows is a series of principles designed to engage with the Project, composed by the anthropologists and ethnographers that took part in the workshop: it is their manifesto (with a twist).

The principles are written for Twitter-friendly dissemination (under 140-characters) in order to maximise their circulation and impact within the world of publishing and academia. Our manifesto highlights our dissatisfaction with the contemporary climate in the UK (and other national contexts) for Open Access, and acknowledges the limitations and closed nature of many of our conversations about the circulation of academic texts, which all too often do not really take into account our obligations to readers. In an era of ‘Impact’, we seek to re-centre our focus upon engaging in conversations with the people we work with, the public and other academics, challenging assumptions about why they may not be understood as one and the same.

  1. UK defined Gold+Green #OA support the status quo of commercial publishing. Both are inadequate responses to our ethical responsibilities.

  1. Readers matter most! Who are our readers? Who should be our readers?

  1. Do not fetishise the digital. We need a mixed media ecology in order to disseminate our work smartly.

  1. Practice Slow Publishing. The academic book’s greatest threat is denial of the time it takes to produce truly insightful and enduring work.

  1. Dismantle the academy’s fetish for individual authorship in favour of a recognition of the value of collaboration across all levels.

  1. Metrics cannot measure our full value. We also need to acknowledge value through ethical and human principles.

  1. A publication is not simply a closed and bounded object or commodity. It lives on and proceeds into an uncertain world.

 

signed Haidy Geismar (@haidygeismar), Heather Horst (@hahhh), Daniel Miller (@DannyAnth), Sarah Pink (@pinkydigital), Mary Murrell (@M_Murrell), Elisenda Ardevol (@Mediacciones), and Christiane Brosius.

 

This manifesto is intended to be thought-provoking, and to prompt further conversation. Do you agree or disagree with any parts of it, or have any questions? Get in touch!

 

The full programme, along with abstracts and speaker bios from the workshop are available here.

 

 

Project Activity Snapshot: July 2015

As the 2014/15 academic year draws to a close, conference season has played out in its usual wild frenzy of networking and inspirational talks, and preparations begin for the 2015/16 academic year, the Project has decided to take stock. A huge amount of activity and planning has taken place already, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of our Community Coalition, Project Partners, and of course the core Project Team – and this post celebrates all that has happened, and looks forward to what is still to come.

So, to date…

The Project has engaged with:

  • 15 publishers
  • 12 libraries
  • 24 academic institutions in the UK
  • 10 academic institutions outside the UK
  • 3 booksellers
  • 24 organisations and societies
  • 95 individual collaborators

The Project Team has also:

  • attended 19 events
  • given 12 talks
  • initiated 55 events and mini-projects
  • published 16 blog posts
  • gained 571 Twitter followers
  • had 173 Facebook ‘likes’

Project activity has extended across several countries, including:

  • UK
  • Japan
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Sudan
  • The Netherlands

The Project has also launched a special website, to promote and celebrate all the wonderful events happening across the UK and internationally during Academic Book Week (9-16 November): http://acbookweek.com/

A huge THANK YOU to everyone in our Community Coalition, our Project Partners, and the AHRC for the enthusiasm, support, and collaboration so far – we look forward to continuing to work with you all!

 

All figures correct as of 29/07/15.

By the Book 2, Florence 18-19 June 2015: conference report

Project Team member Nick Canty (UCL) recently spoke at the two-day By the Book conference in Florence. This post is a brief report on the conference and some of the major themes and issues that emerged.

The overarching theme for this two-day conference was ‘Books and reading in an age of media overload’ – a big subject. We were fortunate the event was held in the rarefied location of the Villa Finaly outside Florence, which since 1953 has been owned by the 13 institutions which comprise the universities of Paris – this place is no stranger to big ideas.

Villa Finaly, Florence

Villa Finaly, Florence

The conference brought together scholars from the field of publishing studies to examine key issues around the digital transformation of the book, as well as to discuss the developing field of publishing studies. In total, 14 countries were represented, an increase on last year when the conference was first held.

The conference started with the evolution and transformation of reading with three presentations looking at cross-media storytelling and screen reading practices which suggested that the pdf has established itself as an influential format with its own sets of references and screen reading habits and will be likely to influence future devices and reading habits. This, it was argued, is because we see the connection to paper from the pdf. The final session was an analysis of student book-buying practices, which suggested students take little notice of reading lists and recommendations from academics, at least in Nanking, Pisa and Zadar. Of the three countries surveyed Chinese students were far more likely to be reading on smartphones.

Staying with the book, a later session considered the book as a dissemination machine with talks on design in digital textbooks, ebook trends in Poland and software as amplified content raising the question about whether software can be considered publishing. As with all large questions this defied any easy answers.

The session on scholarly publishing had three perspectives – one looking at the use of ebooks in Swedish academic libraries; a talk by Sally Hughes from Oxford Brookes University on how the Met Museum in New York had repurposed their back catalogue to create a free online resource; and a talk from Elsevier on value and exchange in scholarly publishing interactions, referencing John Thompson’s arguments around capital and value and supply chains in publishing.

Two papers specifically addressed editing. Susan Greenberg from Roehampton University talked about the poetics of editing with her definition of editing as a decision-making process – selecting, shaping and linking content – delivering the meaning of a work to its audience, and the art of seeing text as if it is not yet finished. As was pointed out, given the conference setting, this is rather like seeing the statue of David from a block of marble. Dr Greenberg argued that there were many studies which portrayed editors in a negative light, particularly in the 1940s concept as the gatekeeper, a concept now challenged as new media can democratise the field. Katherine Reeve from Bath Spa University made a powerful case for using editors better in publishing companies as they often offer the best ideas to promote and develop content – but they need to be given the opportunity to develop new skills. This was reinforced by Frania Hall from London College of Communication who discussed a recent survey with publishers in the UK which indicated that the editorial function is getting the least attention when looking at digital change.

I gave a paper on book culture, considering books in social spaces – particularly on YouTube – and how vloggers are being picked up by publishers with varying degrees of success. UCL’s Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold’s analysis of authors on WattPad asserted we are far from witnessing the death of the author and as pointed out by Professor Alexis Weedon from the University of Bedfordshire there is space to examine author brands as part of celebrity studies.

As with every conference on publishing, the issue of definitions reared its head. Zoran Velagic talked about the problems of definitions and how traditional methods to understand publishing (functional or linear chains as articulated by John Thompson) are redundant in the digital era. He suggested instead four new approaches: media-oriented – looking at what a book does to society; an author perspective – particularly because of the increase in self-publishing; a content view, which considers network participation and asks how capital can be maximised from content; and lastly a producer orientated approach, which looks at the author and content.

Claudio Piers Franco from the University of Bedfordshire introduced us to the concept of the ‘gamebook’ and to what extent different media formats have what might be considered ‘bookness’ in them, and considered the book as a social space, influenced by bloggers coming together in a shared space.

One interesting point to note is that despite various technological developments, the term ‘book’ persists.

 

Full programme from the 2015 conference available here:

http://publishing.brookes.ac.uk/resources/By_the_Book2_-_Programme_15_June_2015.pdf

 

Next year’s By the Book conference theme is audience development.

A Tough Time to Build a Life in the Humanities?

Academic books are not written, produced, sold, or read in a vacuum – contexts play an important part, and academia itself has a huge effect on the outputs (including books!) produced by those individuals embedded in it. Here, Greg Colón Semenza (Associate Professor of English, University of Connecticut) and Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr (Professor of English, Penn State University) talk about the difficulties involved in building a life as an academic in the humanities in current contexts. We are grateful to Greg and Garrett for using a slightly modified excerpt from the introduction to their new book as a basis for this post.

How to Build a Life in the HumanitiesIn our new co-edited collection, How to Build a Life in the Humanities: Meditations on the Academic Work-Life Balance, we set out to consider the basic but vexing issue captured in our title. Our initial thought was that while a lot of attention had been paid to the difficult endeavor of getting an academic job, relatively little emphasis had been placed on the crucial task of working out how to shape one’s existence in relation to that job. And, of course, no two people complete this task in the same way, especially given differences in gender, race, class, sexual preference, and so on. As our collection developed, though, we were repeatedly reminded of the extent to which, for humanists, the question of life-building is intimately bound up in the broader issue of the place of the humanities in society—as the following (slightly modified) excerpt from our introduction suggests.

– – –

In spite of all the talk about the so-called “work-life” balance, we rarely stop to ask the simpler questions, such as how one might actually build a life in the Humanities? Certainly, the questions of constructing a career and a life are distinct, if inevitably interwoven. It’s one thing to say that scholars should work many hours each week, for example, but how are they to do so while trying to raise children, maintain a home, deal with personal crises, or manage the daily stresses of the office? While various forms of professional advice are readily available and widely disseminated, the issue of building an academic life remains comparatively underexplored. Graduate students and new junior faculty are amply oriented to their institutions, but not to the possible lives they might construct for themselves within the academy.

The impact on our daily lives of twenty-first-century academic realities—increasing corporatization and administrative oversight, dwindling state support, decreasing employment opportunities for PhDs, and so forth—is too infrequently discussed in professional forums and publications, and almost never in spaces dedicated exclusively to the topic. Graduate students and younger faculty members especially, but also experienced academics navigating the murky waters of the mid-career phase, are often forced to deal with their personal ordeals alone, although such ordeals tend to be quite common. We believe that collective meditation on the personal side of academic life is both an ethical and practical obligation of those humanists who are in a position to share their experiences with others.

One challenge we all face is negotiating the relationship between our lives in the humanities and in the outside world. Most of us have had awkward conversations at family reunions or holiday parties about our jobs. Some of us have been foolhardy enough to try to explain “what we are working on”; others have fallen back on partial and misleading truths. In both cases, we’ve often been greeted with blank stares or longing glances at the drinks cabinet. If building an academic life is a challenge for us, its workings are, to many of our interlocutors, a mystery they don’t care to solve.

Moreover, what we do tends to be undervalued as well as imperfectly understood. In January 2013, Forbes Magazine published an article by Susan Adams identifying that year’s “Least Stressful Jobs.” Alone at the top of the list stands the university professor. As Adams puts it:

University professors have a lot less stress than most of us. Unless they teach summer school, they are off between May and September and they enjoy long breaks during the school year, including a month over Christmas and New Year’s and another chunk of time in the spring. Even when school is in session they don’t spend too many hours in the classroom. For tenure-track professors, there is some pressure to publish books and articles, but deadlines are few.

Adams’ characterization of professorial life provoked enough of a response to inspire her to add an addendum:

Since writing the above piece I have received more than 150 comments, many of them outraged, from professors who say their jobs are terribly stressful. While I characterize their lives as full of unrestricted time, few deadlines and frequent, extended breaks, the commenters insist that most professors work upwards of 60 hours a week preparing lectures, correcting papers and doing research for required publications in journals and books. Most everyone says they never take the summer off, barely get a single day’s break for Christmas or New Year’s and work almost every night into the wee hours.

The comments to Adams’s essay nicely articulate some of the stresses attendant upon academic life. For instance, “Anthroprof” notes both that professors are only on nine-month contracts—one reason for their relatively low salaries—and that “summers actually present a break from committee work and classroom time to engage in other responsibilities necessary for me to KEEP MY JOB.” As Mary Leech points out, “We may spend few hours in the classroom, but for every hour in the classroom, at least two to four hours are spent in preparation. Tests, papers, labs, and homework are all graded outside of the classroom, and add many hours of work.” Ian Durham asserts that “a very small sub-sample of university professors have cushy jobs. The rest of us are overworked and often underpaid.” And David Perry (in a comment highlighted in Adams’ addendum) observes, “I love my job. It’s definitely deeply rewarding. But the stresses are intense and the workload never ending.”

If the Forbes article misrepresents the lot of the professor, it does so at a moment when the “University Professor” resembles an endangered species. Indeed, those of us with tenure-track jobs are aware that most graduate students, postdocs, visiting assistant professors, or adjunct faculty members would eagerly embrace our stresses. Our cultural moment is marked by a relatively long time to degree for Humanities PhD students; a dearth of tenure-track and full-time professorial jobs; relatively low salaries for those lucky enough to hold permanent positions and an absence of salaried jobs for everyone else; and, increasingly, a lack of public and institutional support for what we do, not to mention the types of skills we teach.

This is a tough time to be building a life in the humanities.

Moreover, even those of us fortunate enough to secure permanent employment are shadowed by the sense that we are not only overtaxed but also culturally marginalized. In proclaiming our stresses, we are also seeking legitimation. At the same time, we think that David Perry got it right: we love our jobs, and we feel profoundly lucky to have them, but they are extremely stressful. We build our lives around them, but they make it hard to live. Our book tries to account for many of the difficulties and joys attendant upon working in the humanities, in the twin hopes of making the process of building an academic life a little less mysterious or opaque and of clarifying for ourselves the humanities’ value to our own lives.

How to Build a Life in the Humanities: Meditations on the Academic Work-Life BalanceHow to Build a Life in the Humanities

Edited by Greg Colón Semenza, Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, May 2015