August 31, 2024

The worst U-press in America

Didja hear? Duke University Press has been named the worst university press in America.

Of course, because the distinction comes from a right-winger, that makes them the best.

Says the article writer, Charlotte Allen...

Welcome to the world of university presses, the home (and publisher) of everything that's wrong with contemporary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences: dense jargon, abstruse "theory" that seems designed to cover up the fact that many scholars don't have much to say, and minute scrutiny of the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary American culture in order to produce thick tomes of bloated pontifications upon the trivial and the ordinary.
Well, I know some people who might just agree with you there, Charlotte, but what would you have university presses do?
Time was when university presses were known mostly for publishing the dull but useful: monographs on soybean production, treatises on the rise and fall of the water table in Vanuatu and statistical summaries of the frequency of garbage collection in Midwestern suburbs. Times have changed: Nowadays with college presses, it's more like the dull and useless.
Oh. I see. That's somehow better? Listen, just because you don't know what "prefigure" means isn't a reason to knock them around a bit. Actually, I'm a bit jealous...

Posted by jason at August 31, 2024 01:55 AM


Gee, how could you possibly choose the worst university press? "Dull and useless" is probably right, but I can't recall a time when university presses were "dull but useful"; must've been a long time ago.

The real story, I think, is that university presses have been infected by the same money-grubbing mania that has taken over all other aspects of higher education, so they go whoring after big bucks by publishing cookbooks and deluxe illustrated editions and all that folderol.

They do indeed publish some, though less and less, obscure esoteric faddish academic junk. Those books are never intended to be read; they are intended to be published. The point is to secure an academic career for somebody who has enough patronage to get their dreck, as opposed to everybody else's dreck, into print.

Of course, there are two Midwestern university presses that I would exempt from all criticism. The purity of their intentions and the excellence of their lists shines for all to see.

Posted by: glen at August 31, 2024 09:56 AM
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