The Gold Standard in English Literary Discourse: Some Functions of the Academic Article in Peer-Reviewed Journals in South Africa

By Barker, Derek; de Kock, Leon | Journal of Literary Studies, June 2007 | Go to article overview

The Gold Standard in English Literary Discourse: Some Functions of the Academic Article in Peer-Reviewed Journals in South Africa


Barker, Derek, de Kock, Leon, Journal of Literary Studies


Summary

This article is based on a completed research project in which the discipline of English studies, as manifested in the discourse of published, peer-reviewed academic articles over the period 1958-2004--what we call the "gold standard" of academic literary discourse--forms the object of analysis. The focus of the article is to delineate and describe three major functions of the discipline as manifested by its gold standard, namely career formation, knowledge formation, and canon formation. Our general aim is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the functions of peer-reviewed journals, to reveal the presence of rules governing discursive production, and to lay bare historical shifts in approach and choice of disciplinary objects.

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel is gebaseer op 'n voltooide navorsingsprojek waarin die studie-dissipline Engels, soos gemanifesteer in die diskoers van gepubliseerde, portuurbeoordeelde akademiese artikels oor die tydperk 1958-2004 (wat vir ons die "goudstandaard" van akademiese literere diskoers is), die objek van analise uitmaak. Die fokuspunt van die artikel is die omskrywing en beskrywing van drie hooffunksies van die dissipline soos gemanifesteer deur die goudstandaard daarvan, naamlik loopbaanvorming, kennisvorming, en kanonvorming. Ons algemene oogmerk is om 'n omvattender begrip van die funksies van portuurbeoordeelde tydskrifte te verwerf en om historiese verskuiwings in benadering en keuse van dissiplinere doelstellings bloot te le.

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It does not matter that discourse appears to be of little account, because the prohibitions that surround it very soon reveal its link with desire and with power.

(Foucault 1971: 52)

1

If the academic article in the peer-reviewed journal is the gold standard of intellectual achievement, and the index of intellectual output in a discipline, then it is to these journals, first and foremost, that one should turn to take the discipline's measure, and to delineate its major functions, which is the focus of this article, with specific reference to English academic literary discourse. Since the launch of the journal English Studies in Africa by the Department of English at the University of Witwatersrand in 1958, there has been steady growth in peer-reviewed journal articles in the field of English academic literary discourse as a mode of discursive output. A considerable number of journals have been launched since, though several have been discontinued. This article is based on a completed doctoral research project in which the discipline of English studies, as manifested in the discourse published in academic journals over the period 1958-2004, forms the object of analysis. (1) Although the ultimate focus of this article is to delineate and describe three major functions of the discipline as manifested by the gold standard of its output, namely career formation, knowledge formation, and canon formation, we start off by providing a summary of the project and its findings in general. In addition, we find it necessary to elaborate in some detail on the field of discourse covered by the research undertaking as a precursor to discussing what we believe to be the primary functions of academic discourse in the peer-reviewed journal. We recount the history of the journals very briefly in order, inter alia, to profile their relationship to the discipline of English studies. Also, we make discriminations about the nature of academic literary discourse, as against other forms of such discourse, so as to delimit our topic precisely--as will be seen, much depends on delimitation.

In our view, the academic discourse represented by the peer-reviewed journal differs in function, if not always in form or content, from its apparent correlate, the literary journal or so-called "little magazine". Moreover, the functions of academic discourse are derivative of another stream of related discourse: imaginative literary works, or what we refer to as primary literary discourse (as opposed to the secondary discourse, that is, discourse which is both temporally separated from its object, as well as derivative in the sense that its statements are based on interpretations of the primary work). …

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