Monday, April 21, 2014

Tenure books in German Studies, 2009-2013

German Studies is a book field. Ignore the wild-eyed preaching of the Digital Humanities apostle across the hall. Our discipline still makes its most important statements in book form, expects book-like dissertations, and demands—at least of those who hope to be tenured in departments that take research seriously—publication of a single-author monograph from an academic press. Of the 132 promotions to associate professor reported in “Personalia” since 2009, 82 appear to have had a book in their tenure file, if not already published then likely in press or under contract. On average, the books were published seven years after the Ph.D. had been earned, while promotion came 8.7 years afterwards on average.

Presses are not all the same, however. Many university presses  don’t publish books in German Studies. Of those who do, their reputations range from gold-plated to radioactive. Then there are the German academic presses, and a few presses whose role in German Studies is unlike their role in any other field.

If you are shopping around a manuscript or planning to do so, you need to understand profiles: your university’s profile, a press’s profile, your own profile as a scholar. You need to know which presses have published books that have been part of successful tenure applications at schools like yours or like the ones where you hope to work. The exercise is simple: Look at the last five years of “Personalia,” and see which presses have published books by those who are listed as new associate professors each year, and draw your own conclusions.

Or to save time, just keep reading this data-based guide to who’s who in German academic publishing.

The Nones. Almost half of those promoted to associate (50 out of 132 in our sample) didn’t need a monograph for tenure. The Nones actually include two distinct subgroups:
  • Linguists. If you’re a linguist, you can stop worrying. Of the 17 linguists (including SLA and historical linguistics) who were promoted in the last five years, only three had tenure books (two of them published with John Benjamins), and only one of those was at a Ph.D.-granting department. Linguistics can earn tenure anywhere without books. Go crank out more articles, and stop acting so smug.
  • Teachers. It’s not uncommon for schools not to require a book for promotion, and maybe yours is one of them. Of the non-linguists, 36 of 115, or 31%, were promoted without single-author monographs. While they may have published articles, translations, editions, or edited volumes, they did not need a traditional academic book. If your department only offers a BA (or maybe even an MA) and is housed at a non-selective SLAC (like Calvin College), a regional comprehensive (like Eastern Illinois), an R2 (like Kent State) or even a few lower-tier state flagships (like the University of Montana), it may be similar to others where German professors were promoted without a tenure book (see the complete list for details).
Die Emigrierten. If you are a native German, probably holding a Ph.D. from a German university, and you mostly publish your academic work in German, and especially if you’re employed by a Ph.D.-granting department or in Canada, then things work differently for you. Academics who fit this profile published their tenure books in German with a variety of German academic publishers, including Böhlau, De Gruyter, Königshausen und Neumann, Niemeyer, Rombach, S. Fischer, Schöningh, Wilhelm Fink, and Winter. With the exception of De Gruyter, English-language tenure books weren’t published by these presses in the last five years. Twelve of the promoted associate professors fit this profile. While books published in German have limited distribution (typically 50-100 copies reported by WorldCat), these authors not infrequently have multiple books on their CVs.

Any book will do. Sometimes known as “We judge each book by its scholarly contribution, not the prestige of its publisher.” The schools that aren’t picky about presses are not obviously different than the schools that didn’t require a book for promotion, including the same range of SLACs, schools with an undergraduate focus, and universities that emphasize both teaching and research. If your department awards a BA (or maybe even an MA) and fits this profile, you might be tenured with a book from one of these presses.
  • Peter Lang: the German press that American academics publish with, but don’t brag about. The most frequent outlet for tenure books, with 12 titles, is Peter Lang. It isn’t a highly prestigious press, but we’ve all cited its books at some point. It’s not embarrassing to list it in your bibliography, but it doesn’t really add much sparkle to a CV. Still, a book from Peter Lang was good enough to be promoted at a SLAC like Colby, a regional comprehensive like Central Michigan, and aspirational research schools like Ohio University or Wayne State.
  • Those other presses that we don’t talk about. Somewhat lower in reputation than Peter Lang are presses like Edwin Mellen, University Press of America, or Lambert. These presses are controversial, and some scholars view a book from these presses as weakening rather than strengthening a CV. Still, a book from one of these presses was sufficient for promotion in five cases at schools you’ve heard of, including Colardo State, Georgia Tech, and the University of Arkansas.
Going commercial. Respected academic work in English does get published by commercial houses. These aren’t the highest prestige presses, but a book from one of them might be good enough for tenure at some decent schools.
  • Corporate America: Routledge, Berghahn, Continuum, Palgrave Macmillan. There are other presses that fit this group that have published tenure books in German Studies, but don’t show up in the last five years. Books from these presses were written by thirteen people now tenured at highly-ranked SLACs (Pomona), MA-granting programs (Kentucky, South Carolina, and U Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and Ph.D. programs (Oregon and Ohio State). The two Continuum books were published by Pomona and Ohio State faculty, suggesting that Continuum may have an edge in the prestige factor.
  • Our European cousins: De Gruyter, Rodopi, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Other presses in this category might include Brill or Ashgate. Your colleagues in other departments have probably heard of these presses and consider them somewhat respectable. Books from these presses published in English contributed to tenure for five faculty members at some well-known Ph.D. programs, including UC Irvine and Vanderbilt (De Gruyter) and the University of Illinois (Rodopi).
  • Camden House: Our very own Peter Lang. Camden House, now an imprint of Boydell and Brewer, is an entire press devoted to German Studies. You probably skimmed one of their handbooks while cramming for quals in grad school, you probably cite chapters published in their books, and you probably know someone who has published with them. In the last five years, Camden House has published the tenure books of five faculty members at two BA programs and three MA-granting programs  (Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State), although these programs are all located in universities whose Carnegie classification is RU/H rather than the highest RU/VH level.
University presses: the gold standard. If you teach at a research-intensive university in a Ph.D.-granting department, maybe you’ll be OK with a book from De Gruyter, Rodopi, or Continuum, but the safe route—as demonstrated by where most of your peers who earn tenure have published their books—is with a university press. These presses also achieve the best distribution to academic libraries, with just over 300 copies reported by WorldCat on average, slightly higher than the European commercial processes and substantially higher than all other categories. Among the hundred-odd university presses in North America, however, not many publish in German Studies, and a relative handful stand out as the home for successful tenure books. Where you do turn first?
  • Ivy envy. There’s only one actual Ivy League press on the list of university presses associated with private universities, but plenty of envy: Northwestern (six books, with authors from UC Irvine, North Carolina, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and Berkeley); Cornell (four books, from Vassar, Bowdoin, Notre Dame, and Penn); Stanford (four books, from Brown, Berkeley, Indiana, and Michigan); Chicago (three books, including faculty promoted to associate at Columbia and Stanford); and Fordham (three books, from Illinois, Yale, and Northwestern; who knew?). In addition, one book appeared from MIT (for a Princeton author). Some notable presses are not on this list: Cambridge, Oxford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard come to mind. While they have printed books in German Studies, they do not show up in our sample. This isn’t to say that your book might be the one to turn Jerome Singermann’s head at Penn, or shake up the syndics at Cambridge. If you think your book is a good fit for their lists, then add them to your query list. But lately, the successful tenure books haven’t come from there.
  • Public wall-climbing vines who are not defensive about it at all. State university presses that have published tenure books in German Studies recently include Penn State (three books, with authors from Ph.D. programs at McGill and the University of Tennessee) and Michigan (two books, including one for promotion at Washington University). In addition, Minnesota and Rutgers published one tenure book each (with authors from the University of Colorado and Wayne State).
  • North of the border. The University of Toronto Press published two tenure books, with the authors in both cases employed in Canadian doctoral programs. Probably just a coincidence.
Don’t forget that the author’s subfield plays a role as well. Medievalists might target a different set of presses than film studies people do. But the analysis is clear: If you need a book for tenure at a school that strongly emphasizes research—or if you just want to get the search committee’s attention—then you may want to put Cornell, Fordham, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Stanford, and Toronto at or near the top of your list. The best options among the commercial houses look like De Gruyter, Continuum, and Rodopi. There are no guarantees—you won’t spend more than a few years in our field without hearing of someone who didn’t get tenure despite having a book from one of these presses, but you want to give yourself the best chance possible.

Let’s close with lists and graphs. First, note how the list of presses that published successful tenure books becomes much more restrictive once we limit the authors to those in Ph.D.-granting programs.

Figure 1: Tenure books in German Studies, 2009-2013, overall (left, showing only presses with two or more books, and excluding linguists) and Ph.D.-granting departments only (right, all presses, and excluding linguists)

We can see something similar, but in color, by comparing where different types of presses find their authors, at least the ones who are promoted to associate professor in German Studies. If we look again at what kind of degree the author’s program grants, then we see that most of the “nones” are from BA-granting programs, which is also true of Peter Lang authors. MA and Ph.D.-granting programs are the home to just over half the authors who published books with commercial presses. For university presses, on the other hand, nearly 80% of authors came from Ph.D.-granting programs.

Figure 2: Publishers of tenure books in German Studies, 2009-13, according to the degree granted of the tenuring department

If we look instead at the Carnegie classifications of the author’s university (simplified to put all Master’s-level institutions in one category, and lumping the few DRU schools along with the RU/H schools), we see a similar picture. (As before, we’re excluding linguistics and German-language books, but now we’re also excluding Canadian schools, since they aren’t included in the Carnegie classifications.) Apart from a few exceptions at highly-ranked SLACS, those who published their tenure books with university presses were promoted to associate at RU/VH schools.

Figure 3: Publishers of tenure books in German Studies, 2009-13, according to the simplified Carnegie classification of the tenuring university

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