Making A Book Transparent

A movie theater and live sex shop in Times Square, 1975: more photos of the world’s most famous red light district prior to its conversion to a mainstream tourist attraction can be found here.

Welcome! Most of you know me from Tenured Radical, the blog I began in 2007 and moved to the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2011. That blog still thrives, but this space has a more specialized task: to work out the research ethics, methods, analytical framework and narrative for the book that is described on my home page, Beyond Pornography: How Feminism Survived the Age of Reagan. Blogging has brought me great professional opportunities, wonderful friends, a keen sense of what it means to write for a broader public and a new career in digital humanities.

Now I want it to bring a book into being, one that I have been researching for five years and hope to move to completion in 2015. I hope that if you are interested in recent history, feminism, gender, the history of sexuality, conservative social movements, violence against women, social justice, and the state that you will want to read along and add your comments.You might ask: couldn’t I just do this kind of work in the occasional post at Tenured Radical? I think the answer is no. My work at the Chronicle is intended to raise larger issues related to politics, research, teaching, hirings, firings and the many other things that comprise an academic career. This blog is about the process of bringing a book project to fruition, and making the process of book-writing transparent. I will be making crucial aspects of the book such as timelines, archival sources, videos that are publicly available, and secondary source materials available to other researchers. I will post small pieces of writing and analysis. From time to time, I will put some of my major arguments out in public to help me learn from the criticism of knowledgeable people: I have probably learned more in the course of this project from corrections than from praise. Because of the topic, and the period, I anticipate that there will be strong disagreements with some of my findings, and even after the book is published, this blog might be a good forum to discuss what issues other scholars will want to address.

What will not be published here? Personal papers, oral histories, or anything else that I do not yet have permission to make public will not be leaked on the blog, nor will I be publishing finished chapters. Constructive criticism and vigorous debate are welcome: personal attacks on me, or on any of the people in the book are not. In other words, the comments section will be moderated.

Most of all, this is an experiment in making book writing a public, rather than a private activity. So welcome: to my process, to my research, and to my journey to understanding about how the anti-pornography movement kept feminism, and a vigorous conversation about gender equality, alive during the Age of Reagan.

3 Comments

  1. Claire, this is a really interesting addition to the conversation about embargoing dissertations that we both commented on last summer, I believe. You seem to suggest here that you have no fear of committing scholarship and writing your book in public. You’ll have to report back to us on the reactions you get from prospective publishers–unless you’ve already run this by one?

    W/r/t the embargoing conversation, I thought then (and still think) that the whole thing seemed weirdly paranoid and fearful of the digital world, especially since dissertations have been available to anyone with a library card for decades (as they are in fact published & publicly available scholarship.) I thought all of the worry that publishers would assume that one’s work had “already been published” strange, esp. as most first books are radically revised from their dissertation state. You are taking a dramatically different approach here–one that I think publishers will reward, as this blog becomes a built-in publicity machine for your intended audience.

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