Outstanding Books from the University Presses

Comment by Clifford Geertz


in:  The American Scholar, vol. 43, no. 3 (Summer 1974), p. 519-520.

The immediate impression is of course of diversity, particularly since each press is represented by one book from each of the major categories of scholarly publishing. From that point of view the categories are interesting as a kind of "deep structure" picture of what university presses think scholarship is (or at least what scholarship outside the sciences is) right now. Some ma­jor pigeonholes do emerge. Biographies of scholars or artists — but less of political figures, although these too appear with some frequency — seem still to be a major genre, if not actually a growing one. Letters and fugitive papers of the same sorts of people also seem prominent, adding to the general sense that scholarship — or the press's view of scholarship — is rather "personality-oriented." History, criticism and social science all seem to flow in this channel more than I would expect; certainly more than I like.

Thus, the overall impression is one of a scholarly community more at home in hanging whatever ideas it has onto individual persons rather than places, types of societies, historical periods, theoretical frameworks, or philosophical perspectives, something I think does not reflect altogether well on us. There are other ways to approach England than through Masefield, religion than through de Chardin, socialism than through Tawney, or the federal judiciary than through Learned Hand. They seem at the moment, unfortunately, rather less favored

Clifford Geertz

online source: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41207236


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