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How Do You Know What To Write About?

I continue here my thread on how I go about writing a trade book for general audiences.  So far I have talked about how I start with reading about the topics of relevance.  When I’ve done a lot of that I eventually get to the point where I realize I’ve read all the major works that I need to have read in order to have a good sense both of what others have said about a topic and about what I have to say myself. Maybe I should pause a bit – for a post or two -- on this question of “what I have to say.”   There are several aspects of this question that are important and fairly interesting.   The first has to do with having an idea about what to write.   I’ll get to the issue in a roundabout way, which is my wont, as you may have noticed… I’ve had graduate students now for twenty-six years, and over the years they have evidenced a wide range of both ability and temperament.  Of [...]

2020-04-03T16:35:40-04:00September 6th, 2014|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions|

The Work of a Professional Scholar 2: Supervising PhD Dissertations

In describing what professional scholars in the academy do – at least those who teach in the Humanities, the one area I know something about – the first thing that comes to my mind is probably not what would come to yours.  It comes to mind because I have just now been traveling across country (I’m now in an airline lounge in Chicago) and in the plane I have been reading a (very fine) doctoral dissertation, whose author will be “defending” (that is, being subject to interrogation by the five faculty members on her committee) tomorrow. It’s a very good dissertation, I think.  Like all dissertations it is book-length (will be turned into a published monograph, I should think), highly technical in places, very learned, the result of something like three years of full time labor.   This particular student is not one that I am directing (each student has one faculty member directly responsible for supervision of the dissertation); I am just one of the other committee members. One of the things I like best [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:08-04:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|
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