September 13, 2011

Barbara Fister on Tending the "Walled Gardens"

Here's the conclusion of Barbara Fister's recent piece "Where There is no Vision, We Publish and Perish."  The last three paragraphs are so good I had to include them all:
An old King James Bible line just came to me, which happens if you're old enough and were taught by nuns: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Turns out there’s another piece to that proverb that complicates the meaning a bit: “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs, 29:18) It doesn’t sound as classy in the NRSV: “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.” 

It seems to me the law we should follow is that old fashioned notion that the truth will set us free, and our job as scholars is to seek the truth and share it as widely as we can. We’re letting self-interest - in furthering our careers, boosting our institutional reputations, and protecting our disciplinary territory – divert us from that fundamental law. And I, for one, am not happy. 

It’ll cost money. It’ll take some serious work to hammer out the agreements, just as it took a lot of work for JSTOR to get publishers on board in the first place. But we need to do more for the world than tend our little walled gardens. We can do better. Where's that visionary thinking that started the whole thing? 
Take the time to read the rest, here.

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