A Dissertation or a Book
Here is an excellent little excerpt from a book by William Germano reflecting on some of the challenges of moving from being a PhD student writing a dissertation–which is basically where I am at–to having a publishable book that would be interesting to read for an editor. While some of this ideas in this excerpt strike me as commonsense, some others are worth reflecting on. Here is a brief excerpt of this book.
“As theory became the queen of disciplines, it seemed that every young scholar was under the double obligation not only to come up with a theory, but to do it in a way that was—truly, madly, deeply—theoretical. A good idea might be an embarrassment when what was wanted was a highly philosophical examination of the subject, enriched with the work of German and French thinkers. “As Foucault has said,” “According to Hegel,” “As Derrida has written,” became the incipits of much academic writing, both at the professorial and graduate student levels. Theory meant many things to many people.
Even today, many dissertations fall into the trap of making claims too grand for the evidence mustered by the author. All too often, a small and perceptive idea is dressed up in clothes two sizes too large and trotted out as a theory. Publishers understand that a graduate student needs to demonstrate what he or she knows. But the book that a dissertation hopes to become won’t work if it appears to be a cottage built somewhere on the rolling estate of another scholar’s work. It would be healthy if dissertations could be entitled “My Footnotes to Jameson” or “Two Small Thoughts about Bretton Woods”—healthy, honest even, but unlikely to win the author a job.”
You can read a longer excerpt of From Dissertation to Book here on the University of Chicago Press page.