John Sutherland

Last May Stephen Greenblatt, who was then president of the Modern Languages Association, the literary academic’s equivalent of the Teamsters, circulated a letter among its twenty thousand or so members. ‘Over the last few decades,’ he wrote, ‘most departments of language and literature have come to demand that junior faculty members produce, as a condition for being seriously considered for promotion to tenure, a full-length book published by a reputable press. A small number of departments’ – Greenblatt means institutions such as Harvard and Berkeley, at both of which he has taught and sat on tenure committees – ‘expect the publication of two such books.’ And, one might add, for subsequent promotion (to professor, endowed chair, or president of the MLA) more full-length books will be required.

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