English Department Guidelines for Criteria of Evaluation of Scholarly or Artistic Engagement
Since these guidelines are intended to assist the Tenure and Promotion Committee in its work, as well as to provide information to tenure-track faculty members in the English Department, it seems useful to describe some of the conditions for publication in our discipline, something about our departmental culture, and even some of the debates over the meaning and value of research and scholarship in literary study.
- Some Conditions for Publication in English
Unlike the Natural Sciences and some of the Social Sciences, and with the possible exception of fields such as textual scholarship and linguistics, English is a discipline in which books and monographs are the most important mode of publication. However, it must be added that, in both literary research and creative writing, publication in edited collections, scholarly journals, and literary magazines can be very prestigious. Most publication takes the form of hard-copy print even when there are electronic versions, though some refereed scholarly periodicals and prestigious magazines that publish creative writing are beginning to appear on the internet (for example, Early Modern Literary Studies, Jouvert: A Journal for Postcolonial Studies, Nerve, Postmodern Culture, Romanticism on the Net).
A few important periodicals (notably PMLA) have a policy of "blind submissions," a practice that tends to create publishing opportunities for younger scholars and for those not affiliated with research institutions. However, most journals and magazines, and most presses that publish literary criticism, poetry, and fiction, attend to such matters as the author's institutional affiliation and record of previous publications, and whether or not the manuscript was solicited for review or recommended by a senior colleague in the field. Some foundations send out the project descriptions of fellowship recipients to university presses, which often in response solicit manuscripts. The editors of university presses regularly visit major research universities in search of potentially suitable manuscripts. Some English Departments at research universities essentially have a "default" university press with which a candidate for tenure will typically publish his or her first book.
Manuscripts are often rejected by the editors themselves without being sent out for further peer-review. In such cases, the authors may receive a form letter rejection or, occasionally, substantial commentary. Manuscripts sent out for peer-review are typically sent to one or two readers. In the case of both journal submissions and book manuscripts, it is not unusual for the author to wait as long as an entire year to hear about the fate of a manuscript.
- Departmental Culture
The success of the English Department at Kenyon College is not simply a result of the tradition of important writers who have taught and studied here in the past-a tradition that, some might think, gets further away from us with each passing year. Rather, our success is renewed every year by the people we hire and by the continuing hard work and commitment of faculty members who have been here for a few or for many years. That commitment has been made above all to teaching excellence and to the broad education of our students. Even though most arrive here having proven themselves to be successful teachers in graduate school or at other institutions, new faculty members in the English Department nearly always feel greater pressure, given the pedagogical talents of their senior colleagues, to strive to improve their teaching than to publish more of their work. Our commitment to educational breadth, in the context of a residential college, generally requires that we have a significant involvement in our students' lives outside of the classroom and of required office hours.
In the context of these research criteria, we cannot go into a full description of English Department culture. However, we must point out that our hiring decisions are never made primarily on the likelihood of scholarly productivity. While we always attend to the publication record in evaluating candidates, we depend more on our own assessments of scholarly and creative work than we do on those of editorial boards. In every search we can remember, there have been many candidates who have had a greater quantity of publications than the candidates whom we hired did. Typically, we hire not specialists (who as experts in a narrowly defined field might find it easier to publish) but rather scholars and writers with a broad knowledge of literature in English and wide-ranging intellectual interests.
One other decision that the Kenyon English Department has made needs to be mentioned, since it also has a significant impact on scholarly and creative productivity. We have chosen- though our geographical isolation in a school without graduate students partly makes the decision necessary-not to "free" tenure-track faculty members from first-year teaching and, specifically, from the teaching of writing. In most research-intensive English Departments, even in liberal arts colleges, tenured and tenure-track faculty do not teach writing-intensive courses and only rarely encounter first-year students, generally in the context of seminars for students with advanced placement credit. We believe that one of the main reasons for our success as a department is that we do not divorce the teaching of writing from the teaching of literature; nor do we relegate the teaching of writing to a cadre of adjuncts, lecturers, and low-status teachers of rhetoric and composition.
- Debates about Research in Literary Study
Partly motivated by concern for the disjunction between graduate training in research and the institutional expectations of liberal arts colleges and lesser state universities and colleges with heavy teaching loads and time-consuming service demands, faculty members writing about the state of the modern language professions have questioned the heavy reliance on publication in retention and promotion decisions and other assessments of faculty performance. George Levine of Rutgers University draws upon such histories of the profession as Gerald Graff's Professing Literature (1987) in denying that "the research model of careers in English is a natural one"; on the contrary, Levine argues, "the research model now seems to be damaging both to people who aspire to join the profession and to undergraduate students whose instruction depends on it" (45). Also drawing upon Graff, John W. Kronik of Cornell University reminds us "that in the late-nineteenth-century days of Matthew Arnold technified research, narrowly specialized fields, and quantified scholarly production were attacked for undermining traditional humanism and for erecting barriers between literature and the student" (161). Jane Hedley, an English professor and Associate Provost at Bryn Mawr College, concludes a recent essay on scholarship and teaching by expressing the view that "undergraduate teaching and scholarship, as scholarship is currently defined and practiced, [are] less compatible than we can afford to admit" (43).
One of the solutions proposed by Kronik and others is an expansion beyond simply publication of what counts as scholarship in English and the modern languages. In arguing for an expanded conception of research, Kronik observes, as we might expect a language professor to do, "that no dictionary definition of the word research ever includes publication" (162). Similarly, Randolph D. Pope of Washington University notes that, "Ironically, school and scholarship derive from the Greek 'leisure,' implying a state of having enough time to contemplate and study" (155). The irony for Pope is that scholarship in the contemporary corporate university has been reduced to an eminently quantifiable business task imposed on faculty members who are now facing, like almost all American workers, ever increasing demands on their time. Arguing instead for "a rigorous distinction between scholarship and publications, between the activity and one of its results," Pope defines that activity as "the spirit of inquiry, the fearless exploration of the unknown, the vast erudition, the patient effort, the enthusiasm for the subject matter, the joy of discovery, and the engaging dialogue" (155). In practical terms, Pope recommends that we recognize and reward, for their scholarship, "professors who are well informed, who explore new fields, and who connect in mysterious ways with the students" (157). In a rhetorical question with clear practical implications, Pope asks, "Why shouldn't the learning of a language be as legitimate a basis for a salary increase as the publication of an essay?" (157-58).
It may be that Kenyon College's rather ill-defined criteria for scholarly and artistic engagement in the past permitted precisely the kind of broad conception of research and scholarship that some professors began to call for in the 1990s. Kenyon has been the kind of institution that has been able to value serious scholarship whether or not it has led to publication. However, the Kenyon faculty has determined that greater clarity is desirable, especially for faculty members who will be undergoing reviews. In these circumstances, the English Department merely wishes to urge caution, lest we change this college from the kind of institution that permits the development of long-term projects, into the kind in which essays, books, and creative works must be rushed into print to meet the administrative deadlines of the reappointment process. Publications at Kenyon College should be encouraged because we hire scholars and writers who have important contributions to make to literature and learning, and because faculty members with the time and opportunities to make those important contributions will generally prove to be better teachers.
Since, as we have indicated, English is a discipline in which the book is the most important mode of publication, the department believes that candidates for reappointment, tenure, and promotion ought to be seriously working on book projects. However, no member of the department holds the view that a published book or book contract should be required for tenure. Rather, we agreed that the seriousness of the work on book projects ought to be apparent by the time of the second reappointment review and, by the time of tenure, ought to be validated by the scholarly or literary community beyond Gambier, either in the form of published poems, stories, articles, reviews, or essays in edited collections or, in some cases, by the clear strength of independent ("arm's-length") outside evaluators' views of an unpublished manuscript. While it is desirable that a book project will have been completed and accepted for publication by the time of promotion to full professor, we do not wish to rule out promotion for excellent teachers who engage in regular publication in journals and magazines and in public presentation of their work at conferences and in other venues beyond Gambier.
Although we might not all agree with John Kronik that "It is patently unfair to demand of the junior faculty a level of productivity that senior members do not meet" (Kronik 164), we do think that demands for more publication ought to be accompanied by a commitment to creating the opportunities and providing the financial resources that will help to make publication possible. While we believe that we should hold ourselves up to high standards, that success scarcely counts if there is little risk of failure, and that we should aspire to be a better department in the future than we are today, we hope that our ambitions and aspirations will never result in unfair expectations being imposed on the talented young scholars and writers who choose careers at Kenyon. Enhancing the profile of Kenyon College by increasing the opportunities for research is clearly a good thing insofar as it helps to lessen for new faculty the gulf between their research training in graduate school and the expectations of this institution.
While we have quite deliberately left these guidelines unspecific, we do not wish to imply that we do not value publication. We hope and expect that members of our department will organize and chair panels, deliver conference papers, and give invited lectures and readings. We value very highly the publication of articles and essays in scholarly journals and edited collections, and individual stories and poems in literary and commercial magazines. We value even more highly books of criticism, of poems, and of short stories. We value novels, travel-books, edited collections, scholarly editions, and text-books. However, we value still more a conception of the profession in which scholarly and creative work is never quantified. The vagueness of our guidelines results from a deliberate attempt to resist quantification. Such quantification might take a form, for the Tenure and Promotion Committee, something like this: "If you read between the lines, what the English Department means is that it demands one article by the time of second reappointment, three for tenure, and a book for promotion to Full Professor." No. What the English Department means is that we both value publication and resist quantification. What we have tried to do here is to justify those positions and to provide some useful information. In compensation for any vagueness in our guidelines, we can provide the strongest assurances that individual and departmental letters will always make clear to the TPC our views of the quality of the scholarly and creative work of our individual candidates for reappointment and promotion. We believe that we are still a school in which individual cases can be carefully assessed on their own merits rather than being measured against abstract guidelines.
Hedley, Jane. "Scholarship and Teaching: Mixed Mentoring Messages." ADE Bulletin No. 125 (Spring 2000): 40-43.
Kronik, John W. "'My Teaching and My Work': The Conditions of Professing." Profession 1997. New York: MLA, 1997. 159-67.
Levine, George. "The Real Trouble." Profession 93. New York: MLA, 1993. 43-45.
Pope, Randolph D. ""Why Scholarship?" Profession 1997. New York: MLA, 1997. 152-58.