7.0361 Rs: Edwin Mellen Press (5/257)

Tue, 21 Dec 1993 16:12:59 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0361. Tuesday, 21 Dec 1993.

(1) Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 15:28:08 +0100 (MET) (17 lines)
From: BRILL@rulcri.LeidenUniv.nl
Subject: Edwin Mellen Press

(2) Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1993 13:45:38 -0500 (154 lines)
From: "Sarah L. Higley" <slhi@troi.cc.rochester.EDU>
Subject: Edwin Mellen: power and prestige and other myths of academia

(3) Date: Fri, 17 Dec 93 9:10:02 MST (57 lines)
From: Karla Poewe <kpoewe@acs.ucalgary.ca>
Subject: Edwin Mellen Press

(4) Date: Sun, 19 Dec 93 18:51:51 CST (16 lines)
From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Edwin Mellen

(5) Date: Mon, 20 Dec 93 15:45:12 CST (13 lines)
From: Tony Schwartz <SCHWART@ricevm1.rice.edu>
Subject: Mellen Pr. (one more time)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 15:28:08 +0100 (MET)
From: BRILL@rulcri.LeidenUniv.nl
Subject: Edwin Mellen Press

I read with a certain dismay Irving Hexham's comment that Brill
regularly requires subventions for its publications. I contacted
him and discovered that he had based this remark on contacts with
Brill in the middle seventies. The situation is different in
the nineties. Brill asks subventions "regularly" in the sense
that subventions are received for a small number of very
specialist books and some large prestige projects each year,
but this is not the case for the vast majority of our

Julian Deahl
Classics Editor
E.J. Brill
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------167---
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1993 13:45:38 -0500
From: "Sarah L. Higley" <slhi@troi.cc.rochester.EDU>
Subject: Edwin Mellen: power and prestige and other myths of academia

I suppose this discussion of the Edwin Mellen press is instigated by the
recent excoriating review in _Lingua Franca_? Before anyone jumps whole-
heartedly to the defense of EMP, or into a refutation of the charge that
EMP does not referee or revise submissions, go read the article. It has
some interesting revelations about the press's activities and philsophies,
and a few appalling case histories.

Bear in mind, though, that the article is opinionated, that
the ad hominem attack on Richardson is reproachable, and the fun poked in
the title and opening paragraphs at Washington's book (published by the
press) doesn't examine the spirit of the book or the tradition that W.
is writing in. Forgive me for not providing titles and dates. The
article is at school and I am at home, and I haven't looked at it recently.
I also don't know what controversies the article stirred up and would like
to be informed. Perhaps it has been addressed on Humanist already.

To be sure, W's book is excessively wordy and ornamental-- almost to the
point of ludicrousness (he writes as much for alliterative effect as he
does for content, it seems), but I and a colleague looked it up (yes,
our library bought it, just like the article accused libraries of doing
without reviewing), and it struck me that the style of the book, while
impenetrable to me, imitated certain features of Black gospel or religious
speaking/writing. I may be entirely wrong here. What was clear was
that it wasn't written in the coded style of received, standard
academic English that most of us in the field take for good writing, and
consequently it's no wonder that it came under attack in an article that
found fault with EMP's buying. It's full of chapter headings like (and
here I have to adlib, not remembering the titles exactly): "Pontificating Upon
the Princely Patterns of Patriarchic Paternity." We noticed, though, that
Washington has published other books with other presses, many of them sporting
titles just as flamboyent--perhaps the Mellen Press gives him an outlet for
the writing style of his choice that few other presses do. The article in LF
failed to mention that the book addressed the economic status of African
nations vis a vis the first world, and perhaps the author intended to
challenge the language of white academia. I'm not saying I liked the book or
found its writing to be excellent or even commendable; I'm saying that the
article in Lingua Franca omitted important orienting information that
contextualized it. They made it seem idiotic, point blank.

On the other hand, though, I don't think the rest of the article has invented
some of the peculiarities of the press and its procedures. It is out for the
big sell. It offers you the convenience of publishing what you want to write
about and in the style you choose without the hassle and rejection
that most University Presses give you. That EMP has published some
valuable works goes without saying, but many of them are on subjects so
obscure that most other presses won't touch them. Perhaps the EMP is
the wave of the future: after all, look at the rising power of the
InterNet. Our libraries are so overflowing with books published by
"accredited presses" that they can hardly contain all of them.
Publishing a book is now _de rigour_ for promotion; not to publish is
professional death for many scholars, and yet we kill more trees and
buckle the floorboards of our libraries doing so. It's crazy. The
InterNet offers free publication, and it's open to many many different
styles. As a critical voice, I think it will eventually outshout the
old forms of publication and commentary, but we are still terrifically
attached to the beautifully edited and presented BOOK. And this,
finally, is what I dislike about Edwin Mellen. It caters to that kind
of conservative mentality. Why not admit under a more radical rubric that
anyone can seize the podium in the Halls of EMP? But you see EMP
doesn't want to be radical or underground. It aims for the LOOK of
"respectability" that it hasn't earned yet. It's a blockbuster movement
that relies on the author's need to publish and willingness to go to any
expense to do so. The author gives the press camera-ready copy, which
can look quite nice what with the desktop printing options we have
available. The final edition is beautifully and tastefully bound, and
horrendously expensive. Only libraries can usually afford to buy these
books at prices like $90 for five hundred pages on usually quite obscure
topics. It also bothered me to learn from the article that EMP is in the
process of establishing an "accredited" university in some third world nation
in order to buy academic respectability. This is really putting the cart
before the horse. And I do believe it's true that they will publish
everything that they solicit or that is submitted to them. I was
approached THREE TIMES by EMP to publish my Berkeley dissertation. I
was mailed long explications about why MY work "deserved" to be
published without payment or royalties, how publication was "reward
enough"; I was told that they could probably even get two books out of
my dissertation. A professor emeritus in Wales wrote me a personal
letter (that I still have) asking me to allow them to publish my
manuscript. Not "consider" it, "publish" it. He hadn't even seen my
revised manuscript, and being the scrupulous and traditional scholar
that I know that he is, in any other context he would have been wary
of my applications of canon revisionist and feminist theory to the study
of early Welsh poetry. The message I repeatedly got from these people
in Wales who kept recommending me to EMP was that I was not respectable
enough for the University of Wales Press, but that my subject was
too narrow for any other press. I found this annoying, and published
with a good university press which refereed and had me revise my text; the
book costs $45 dollars hardback: less, I believe, than even Boydell and
Brewer would publish it for.

The upshot, then, of this verbose and irritable letter is that I have
very mixed feelings about the Edwin Mellen Press, but also VERY mixed
feelings about our canons of "respectability" and power. To be frank
about the exigencies of tenure and the competitive and critical nature
of many departments, I would not advise an untenured colleague to
publish with EMP as it does not yet give quite the message that
publishing with an accredited University Press does, despite EMP's
former appeals to the pressures of tenure that it will alleviate. I say
"former," because I think it may have revised its soliciting strategies
and is not coming on so strongly as it did six years ago.

And it does not reduce the stress upon the trees or library shelving space
and floorboards-- or your own pocketbooks for that matter. On the other
hand, it allows many people to publish their serious scholarship who don't
want to or can't afford to go through the hassles of submission and rejection
and revision and division and collision that all the "accredited" University
Presses put you through. But if a press publishes just about EVERYTHING
it solicits or gets sent, having you pay a large part if not most of the
cost, how much can it inspire our confidence that what it accepts of ours
is based on merit and demand, and not on the money it can rake in from

Just to complicate things, I might add that respected University Presses
are quite as commercial, but would still have us cling to the myth of learned
poverty: we like to think that we publish for art's sake, and not for
money, hence we spend years on a 60,000 word manuscript for a promotion
without raise that would earn us maybe 15,000 dollars plus residuals were
it a reasonably popular novel or a good cookbook. Note, however, how hard
it is to publish these, how competing skills COUNT. Like the barristers
of England who turn their backs on their remunerators (what else can that
little dangling pouch symbolize?), scholars like to think that they
publish for intellectual purposes only, and not for prestige or gain,
and that this way they are FREE of the pressures of competition. HA.
This huge myth was RAMPANT at the university of Geneva when I was there,
where I had to listen to sanctimonious lectures on the evils of the
merit system in American Universities from all the maitre-assistants who
were infatuated with keeping up with the Derridians and other fashionable
isms of europe.

Nonetheless, I love any critical argument which explores and exposes the
myths of intellectual asceticism, and I can see, as I write, how I'm
warming up to a supportive comment for EMP. We should all pay to get
published. We should all be required to buy a certain amount of
airtime, the way we do on the Net, and dispense with the laborious and
classist machinery of submission, reference and rejection. Something
like EMP would offer the best and truest forum for what people are
thinking out there. I only wish it would stop posing as a member of the
club, flashing its newly bought credentials, and appealing to the same
old anxieties and needs of the same old Academy.

So I take it all back. Publish and be damned! ;-)

Working on my cookbook-- do you think Edwin Mellen will buy it? if I
make it academic enough?

Sarah Higley
Associate Professor of English
The University of Rochester
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------74----
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 93 9:10:02 MST
From: Karla Poewe <kpoewe@acs.ucalgary.ca>
Subject: Edwin Mellen Press

Although I am not a regular subscriber to THE HUMANIST, I have
read the recent correspondence on the Edwin Mellen Press and hope
that you will accept the following comments:--

In the early 1980's I completed extensive fieldwork among
Herero living in the Black township of Katura, Namibia. When I
had written up my research I submitted a manuscript to possible
publishers. The response was generally positive except that I was asked by
several of them to "add a chapter on
SWAPO" because, they explained, this would increase sales. Most
wanted me to say good things about SWAPO, although one publisher
was prepared to accept a highly critical chapter. Unfortuantely,
I had to refuse because the people I studied had virtually no
contact with SWAPO and to have added a chapter about them would
have been fraudulent.

One publisher, the Ravan Press in Johannesburg, which is
closely associated with Indiana University Press, accepted my
book but warned me that it would be 3 to 4 years before they
would be able to publish it. Therefore, they suggested I might
want to take the manuscript elsewhere.

Because of the rapidly changing political situation in
Southern Africa I decided to give the manuscript to the Edwin
Mellen Press which produced it in under six months without making
any changes to my text. The book, THE NAMIBIAN HERERO: A HISTORY
Edwin Mellen Press, 1985, subsequently received excellent
reviews, including one in the TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, 20
February 1987, p. 190.

LUAPULA, ZAMBIA, Lewiston, Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. Once again
the background to my decision to use the Edwin Mellen Press was
political. In this case the original manuscript had been accepted
for publication by a major publihser in the mid-1970's. But,
before publication someone pressured the press to have
me falsify certain medical data for poitical reasons. I refused
to make any changes. After a prolonged discussion the press
suddenly found that it had "financial problems" and was unable
to publish my book. After this experience I left the manuscript
alone and published several other books with different presses.
In 1989 I revised my Zambian manuscript and sent it to the Edwin
Mellen Press which published it. Since then it has been
extensively cited in medical journals and very well reviewed.

These two experiences convince me that the Edwin Mellen
Press plays an important role in small, politically volatile, and
uneconomic fields like African Studies.

Karla Poewe
Professor of Anthropology
University of Calgary
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------29----
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 93 18:51:51 CST
From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Edwin Mellen

I break no lance for the Mellen company; I _have_ bought some books from
them and reviewed some. Some are good, some are bad, that's the way books
are. To condemn a whole press because of a poor book or two seems to be
folly. The line between vanity presses and non-vanity presses has been
blurred for a long time now. Many noble presses require subventions, and
the time of letterpress and good peer review (who pays for peer review?) is
long since gone. Unfortunately, libraries have neither the staff nor
expertise to decide on a book-by-book order policy; I used to suggest books
to the library, but I gave up on that long ago. At any rate, blanket
orders, unless your library has a great deal of many, seem to be a poor way
to solve the problem.
Jim Marchand.
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------21----
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 93 15:45:12 CST
From: Tony Schwartz <SCHWART@ricevm1.rice.edu>
Subject: Mellen Pr. (one more time)

Craig Walton expressed "surprise and sadness" at my message that
academic libraries generally do not include Mellen Press in their
approval plans and suggested that such "negative broad-scale
judgments" could "kill a small press." A point of clarification:
Academic libraries do not have as one of their purposes to support
small presses; that sort of altruism became untenable a quarter-century
ago in face of the extraordinary growth and price inflation of scholarly
publishing. *However,* academic libraries are vitally concerned with
the economic plight of small research _fields_. Tony Schwartz, Rice U.