Modern Languages and Literature
MLL scholarship guidelines for faculty undergoing review:
(March 2000, revised October 2000)
- General statement
Faculty members in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures are expected to be active participants in their field(s). Those fields include (but are not limited to): literary studies (including literary theory and Comparative Literature), linguistics, language pedagogy, translation theory and practice, creative writing, and interdisciplinary studies (such as Women's and Gender Studies, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, etc.). The preceding list is not exhaustive, nor does the order in which the fields are listed have any significance. Before recommending a candidate for tenure or promotion, the MLL department must be persuaded that the scholarly activity portion of the dossier contains materials pertinent to at least one of the many fields under our purview.
Generally speaking, the highest professional achievement in the above disciplines is peer-reviewed publication. It is important to know that there are many different ways in which publications are "peer-reviewed" (see part II below), and that many viable outlets for one's scholarly work exist besides print publication.
The revolution in information technology has affected the disciplines of MLL more than most fields in the Humanities. Electronic/multimedia publication, whether for a local, consortial, national or global audience, has become one of the primary means in our department of contributing to the profession. One of the biggest challenges facing us is the responsibility to evaluate work in emerging technologies fairly and accurately, with the help of guidelines developed by the Modern Language Association (reference to be found in part II of this document).
When examining an individual faculty member's dossier, one must also be aware of other facts that do not always pertain in other disciplines. In the category of book-length publications, for example, it is customary in the humanities to place scholarly monographs above textbooks. However, quite aside from the fact that a good textbook is more valuable to the profession than a mediocre book, for a language pedagogy specialist, writing an innovative and effective textbook is likely to be the highest possible single achievement in his or her field.
In part II (following), categories of achievement are listed, with a number of examples under each one. The list follows a very rough hierarchy from largest to smallest in terms of potential importance to the field, but it is important to realize that exceptions to this order can easily occur. It is perfectly possible, for example, for an article to make a more valuable contribution to the field than a book; electronic publication is not inherently inferior to print publication; and so on. In evaluating the work of any MLL faculty member under review, it is our hope that the department, the provost, and the TPC will take utmost care in ascertaining the quality of the work under consideration rather than quantity, for example by reading published reviews of the faculty member's book(s), electronic publication(s), etc.
- Categories of scholarly and artistic achievement
1. Book-length publications: Scholarly monographs, textbooks, and literary works or translations
2. Article-length publications: Articles in refereed journals (both print and electronic), book chapters, articles in anthologies, proceedings, etc. It is important to note that virtually all such publications are the result of a peer-review process, not just journal articles. Conference proceedings are almost always highly selective. Publishing in an anthology such as a festschrift may not be "peer review" in the traditional sense, but the mere fact of being invited to contribute to such a work is in itself a sign of distinction.
3. Multimedia: Over the last several years, the production of multimedia CD-Roms and web-based materials has been a major activity of our department and of the field of modern languages in general. It is important that such work be granted the same consideration as traditional print publication. Our primary national organization, the Modern Language Association, has published statements which serve as a useful guideline for evaluating this type of activity. (These can be found on the web at "www.mla.org" under the title "Reports from the MLA Committee on Computers and Emerging Technologies in Teaching and Research". It is important that TPC have these documents in hand whenever an MLL faculty member with multimedia work in his or her dossier comes up for review.) Moderating a discussion list, though it is more akin to editing (see "B" below), nevertheless fits into the "multimedia" category, broadly defined.
4. Dictionary/encyclopedia entries, book reviews, and other miscellaneous publication: Though typically short, such publications can have a significant impact. One might include under this heading journalism, op-ed pieces, and other publications that tend to connect the field to a broader audience. Also, an MLL member who is a practicing poet, playwright or translator, but does not have a book-length work to his or her credit, will no doubt present shorter pieces as evidence of professional accomplishment.
B. Professional scholarly activity
1. Editing an anthology of essays or conference proceedings, serving on the editorial/advisory board of scholarly journals or academic presses
2. Presentations at other campuses, and at international/national/regional conferences or workshops, especially invited talks. In our fields, conference papers are almost always subject to a rigorous peer-review process before being accepted.
3. Service as officer of a professional organization
4. Service on grant review and national exam boards
5. Presentations for non-academic audiences (libraries, civic organizations, primary and secondary schools, etc.)
6. Organization and/or chairing of sessions at conferences
7. Participation in workshops
8. Attendance at professional meetings/conferences
9. Membership in a professional organization
C. Individual and institutional development
1. Successful application for outside grants and fellowships
2. Successful application for in-house awards
D. Scholarship on-campus
1. Mentoring exceptional student research (summer research fellowships, conferences at which students present their research, etc.)
2. Presentations delivered at Kenyon (Kenyon Seminar, Common Hour and evening presentations/panels, etc.)
We hope the above statement and list will help clarify the role and importance of research in our various fields, and serve as a useful guide for those inside and, especially, those outside the department who will be passing judgment on MLL faculty members undergoing review. Furthermore, we hope it will serve as a guide for junior members of the department as they prepare for the various stages of review, especially the tenure review.
Faculty members undergoing review and their evaluators may tend to emphasize the "hierarchical" aspect of our list, and pay more attention to items near the top than near the bottom. We will not be able to prevent this natural tendency, but we hope to mitigate its potentially negative effects by reiterating that it is the quality of the work that counts, not the length or quantity. We do believe in the principle that the quality of one's work is measured most accurately the more experts have seen it; it does not follow from that belief, however, that numbers and length of publications should be the primary measure by which we determine a faculty member's portion of the 0 to 30% of the review (and of the maximum merit raise available that year) that pertains to scholarly and artistic activity. What matters most is what knowledgeable people, both inside and outside of Kenyon, say about a person's work. In determining quality, published reviews of one's work are of course a primary source of information, as well as the opinions of colleagues contained in the letters.