Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Article vs the Most Recent One

A while ago, I shared the story of my very first research article that I wrote - oh my God, this is really scary - exactly 10 years ago. This week, I will be finishing my tenth research piece (not counting the two dissertations, of course) that I have written in these ten years. (Is ten articles in ten years considered good in the Humanities? Somehow, the number sounds very puny. I know I will go into a fit of bemoaning my lack of productivity after I finish this post. And then everybody who knows me will have to spend hours telling me, "Oh no, of course, you are not stupid.").

The article I'm about to finish is on the same writer that I discussed in the very first piece of research I published. On the positive side, I know a lot more in terms of the historical context of the novel I'm discussing. I have a good understanding of my critical apparatus. It also helps that I have read most of what this writer and the most famous of his contemporaries ever published. I am also writing this article in English, which is something I wouldn't have been able to do successfully all those years ago (the first article was, of course, in Spanish.)

On the negative side, though, I am beset by a multitude of fears and doubts. What if a critic whose conclusions I dispute ends up reviewing the article for publication? What if the article first gets into the hands of that scary Hispanist who hates me from the bottom of her heart? What if my choice of theory upsets somebody? What if one of the reviewers hates the word "consumerism" that is so central to my analysis? What if quoting Zizek turns out to be one huge mistake that tanks my article?

Given that you can only submit your work to one journal at a time and the review process takes between 6 months and one year, these questions become daunting. Fear, however, is not a good aid for creativity. Often it gets so paralyzing that it's difficult to type a single word.

Oh youth, oh innocence! How much I miss you! It was so wonderful just to write without even knowing that any of these things can happen to you.


Jonathan said...

It's interesting that your only worries are about what happens once the article is submitted. You are not worried about producing a good article, only about its chances of publication. The Hispanist who hates you will not know you wrote the article, if submissions are blind as they should be. The critic whose conclusions you dispute may not give you a fair hearing, but she might if she is fair-minded and the dissent is framed in terms of ideas and not personalities. Consumerism is an unobjectionable word.

Clarissa said...

I think it's going to be a really good article, Jonathan. I've been working on it since May. I've read everything that has ever been published on Galdos's Lo prohibido, and nobody has said what I'm saying here.

I always tend to know when I've produced something substandard. And this one is shaping up to be pretty good. I think. But now you've given me something else to worry about. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's a great article, but your fears are natural. Review is not blind, Jonathan -- academic subfields are small and peoples' writing styles are individual; if any part of this paper has been presented at a major conference, the reviewers may have seen the presentation. Hispanist who hates, yes the hatred will prevent her from being fair minded. And I've sent things to journals supposedly for blind review and then received reader's reports that mentioned my name. So, Clarissa's fears are justified - but don't let them paralyze you Clarissa!

Clarissa said...

Some editors also pre-sort articles before they send them in for blind review. Some people don't even get to the stage of blind review because the editor decides they shouldn't.

But thank you, guys, for the support!!!

Jonathan said...

Have you submitted anything to REH across the river from where you teach? They have a lot of 19th century Peninsular specialists on their editorial board. I'm biased because I am married to the editor and serve on the editorial board (appointed by the previous editor), but I think their process is very fair and they won't take a year to give you an answer.

It's true that some articles aren't sent to reviewers. You don't want to waste the time of your editorial board with obviously unpublishable articles. Suppose an article on Nazarín had only three works in the bibliography. You know right away that it is not a serious article.

Clarissa said...

That is a very good journal, you are right. It is also true that many people are not educated on what an acceptable piece of research should look like. I was lucky in that I had very good mentors who taught me those things. But maybe there should be workshops on how to publish in grad school. There aren't enough of those.

Anonymous said...

But in graduate school you read a lot of published research, and you write seminar papers. Seminar papers are supposed to aim at being publishable, right? And you can't get even a B in a graduate course if you write a paper and only cite 3 sources, right?