Saturday, January 08, 2011

A New View on Public Scholarship

Beth Luey, Expanding the American Mind: Books and the Popularization of Knowledge (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010).

Luey, with extensive experience in scholarly publishing, makes, with this book, a valuable contribution to the literature on what has been dubbed public scholarship. She leads us through the changing technologies of publishing and the history of publishing to consider when and where occurred the interests in writing and disseminating books intended to reach and educate a broad audience. More specifically, Luey notes how the growth in academic specialization and the stress in research as a means of evaluating faculty has made the task of reaching or educating the public more problematic. Research and research funding has pushed aside teaching as a means of evaluating faculty and the old model of the tea her-scholar has been weakened, even lost, in many universities. The loss of the public as the audience has led to highly technical, opaque writing, or, to put it another way, has shrunk the audience of many academics to small groups of their colleagues or even farther down to their tenure and promotion committees. This is not a book that is concerned with the debates about the future of the printed book or that of reading, choosing instead to consider how the idea and practice of public scholarship has changed and how it needs to be re-established. Luey brings both a fresh perspective to the volumes of advice on academic writing, based on deep reading and extensive experience.

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