Monday, 7 April 2008

Slow writing

One of the two hungry souls (recently, if temporarily, replete by the sounds of things) sent this interesting article round. A Call For Slow Writing, by Lindsay Waters.

For a piece railing about bad writing in the academy it's surprisingly badly written.

But who am I to talk!? This blog is quite a feast of infelicity and cliche...

Nevertheless, assuming that the information about the publishing process and the academic ladder in the US is accurate (and since the writer is executive editor at Harvard UP, I think we can assume that for now) the article does confirm many of my worst fears from when I was dabbling in the murky world of academic writing. There are a lot of bad books out there, and being published by a university press is not a seal of quality. This cheers me up when I reflect on choosing a few years ago (not entirely willingly) a different path to the academy!

Waters reserves some of his harshest condemnation for writers in the realm of cultural studies (a field in which most writers disappear up their own backsides shortly after picking up their pens), and names Slavoj Zizek as the leading promulgator (churner?) of poor prose. While there is much to be said in favour of serious study of continental philosophy, and continental philosophers are free to write whatever they like as far as I'm concerned, I have to agree that Zizek is, if not exactly opaque then, certainly unnecessarily unclear. I shall post my review of his The Fragile Absolute soon.

Anyhow, back to Waters. There are of course responses from slightly aggrieved academics, such as this chap from the University of Mississipi, but the advice to slow down in publishing academic works is unlikely to be bad.