There are moments when a reviewer becomes so fed up with the American academy that she must take care, lest in the manner of Oedipus she strike out at someone who is more or less herself. We’re all in this together, and (oh, just for example) any translator and popularizer who begins to imagine that she isn’t interwoven had better take a deep breath and look at her Documents folder and recent schedule.

Still, it’s deplorable, and should be called deplorable, that scholarly publication is an “arms race” (not my terminology, but that of a senior professor tasked with reviewing promotion and tenure applications). Making my living through writing stuff and publishing it in these tough times, I have more reason than most to hate the paper and electronic stockpiles and the pure competitive displays of nit-picking and jargon-spewing power.

In parts of some fields, scholarly publication does combat...


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