Saturday, December 03, 2005

Blind Review at the Quarterly Journal of Speech

Josh Gunn (Communication, UT-Austin) has posted (on the blog Underscore Collective) an email exchange he had with a Quarterly Journal of Speech reviewer. The story so far: Apparently Gunn submitted a paper to the QJS and it was brutally rejected. So he somehow found out who the blind reviewer was (he says the reviewer showed his hand by complaining that Gunn had not cited a certain authority in his paper; to Gunn, this could only have been a reference to the reviewer himself. I'm not convinced that this is the principal way that Gunn found out the identity of the reviewer, however). After a flurry of back and forths, Gunn says they "made up." (In the comments section to the blog post, he reveals that the reviewer has even invited him to guest lecture at his University, with a $500 honorarium consolation prize to boot).


In a July 7 2005 posting (also involving Gunn), I expressed my disquiet at what I considered to be the sham that was the "blind" reviewing process in the Communication Studies discipline. In that incident Gunn had suffered a brutal review and this is what he said then happened: "
The editor [of the journal Gunn submitted the paper to], bless her, offered a revise and resubmit with significant revisions, but I decided to send it elsewhere because I think the damn thing is good enough already, and I don't want to take advantage our friendship (I suspect she would have rejected someone she did not know with the same set of reviews)." That last line seemed to me damning. In response, however, Gunn argued that the problem was not nepotism but rather "editors who do not know whom to send your work to, and when they do know, the unexpected policing of turf that sometimes ensues." I did not press the point any further and I will let you, dear reader draw your own conclusions.

And now to this revealing exchange. (But before that... I speculated the other time that Gunn was referring to the QJS editor. He denied it. You'd think that would stop me from speculating again. But this is what Jim Henley describes as the howlersphere where normal rules of incivility are way too tame. And so prizes for trying to figure out who the blind reviewer is. Gunn's teaser of a clue seems to indicate that he(?) is somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. And the reviewer also claims to be a Public Address historian. I know of only one person who fits the bill -- S.H.B. If I'm wrong, a little googling next year whenever Gunn makes his winter pilgrimage Northward to "make up" should clear up the mystery).

Here is the email exchange posted below, along with Gunn's comment post:

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battered junior scholar syndrome: a performance">battered junior scholar syndrome: a performance

November 27th, 2005 by josh

Music: Low: Things We Lost in the Fire

SCENE: PRIMAL, AS YOUNG SCHOLAR INTIALLY MISTAKES VIOLENCE AS ‘TOUGH LOVE’ (MOMMY IS NOT DYING. OH YES, SHE IS!). COMES TO SENSES; BRUISED EGO, TEAR, SLOW TRICKLE OF BLOOD FROM ORIFACE OF ORIGINATION. DOWN-PEERING, READS TEXT [EDITED] FROM A REJECTION LETTER

Quarterly Journal of Abuse

Senior Scholar Big Name, Editor-Elect
Department of Easy Major, and Everyone Knows It
Box 454052
City, State, and so on.

MS ID #: 05-027 Reviewer: A

MS Title: “Academicish Sounding Title With Requisite Colon and Stupid Subtitle, With Alliteration.”

Comments to the Author/s

This may have mistakenly been sent to me on the assumption that it was about [some topic of substance]. It is not, of course, and as a historian of American public address I fail to discern any contribution at all to the literature on those subjects. [snip three paragraphs of ripping new orifices]

Finally, just a word about the “explanatory power” of a “psychoanalytic theory of demagoguery,” as asserted on p. 24 and supposedly demonstrated in the little bit of critical analysis we finally get toward the end of the essay. First, the whole critical exercise rests upon the dubious, anti-historical assumptions . . . . The analysis also rests upon a controversial assumption from so-called “posthumanist” theory—that we are obliged (because Biesecker said so back in 92?) to “displace the solitary individual or agent as the cause or source of rhetorical power.” Those are hardly assumptions widely shared by . . . [snip, more meanness]. At one level, this essay actually seems to explain Huey Long’s appeal in much the same way that some historians have explained it: by disparaging the people of Louisiana and (one might add) millions of others across the country who revered Huey Long. Echoing Jeansonne, it suggests that only by reflecting on the ignorance and “wretched poverty” of Long’s hillbilly following can we understand their susceptibility to such “fascist” appeals.

I apologize if my judgments sound harsh. Perhaps I’m responding in kind to the whole tone of this essay, which I found to be remarkably self-indulgent and at times even arrogant and offensive. I personally rebel against authors who pontificate about “our charge” as rhetorical critics and demand radical “shifts” in our “rhetorical thinking”—as if, in their superior wisdom, they finally have discovered the “right” way to do rhetorical criticism. And I especially resist suggestions that we all must change our “rhetorical thinking” to embrace this sort of wacky, psychoanalytical approach. Do you really mean to suggest that only by adopting this sort of anti-historical and even anti-rhetorical approach can we understand the phenomena of demagoguery and charisma? That’s the tone of this whole essay: that all the work that has come before is worthless. I found one sentence in the final paragraph especially offensive: “Our task as critics is also to show how persuasion is located neither in the speaker, nor the audience, but in the inter- and intrasubjective field of desire.” Now, you are welcome to devote yourself to that task. But please don’t insist that we all must take up this sort of approach!

SCENE: BATTERED JUNIOR SCHOLAR “SNAPS.” EYES TURN TO PINWHEELS, HYPNOGOGIC PINWHEELS. JUNIOR FIGURES OUT WHO THE REVIEWER IS (BECAUSE THE SCHOLAR-BEATER BEATS UP SCHOLAR FOR NOT CITING HIS WORK), AND GATHERS IMAGINARY JUNIORS INTO A HORDE. EMAILS REVIER:

Dear Dr. _______,

I recently received reviews for an essay I wrote on ________from [insert journal] titled “Academicish Sounding Title With Requisite Colon and Stupid Subtitle, With Alliteration.” I have a number of reasons to believe that you were one of the anonymous reviewers of my essay. If you were the reviewer who apologized for his “harsh judgments,” could you please let me know? I’d like to have a conversation about the tone of your review, which perplexes me.

Sincerely,

D(Jx3)

ANONYMOUS REVIEWER, SEATED IN BATHROOM READING EMAIL ON LAPTOP, AGREES TO REMOVE BLINDFOLD, RESPONDS:

Delivered-To: slewfoot@mail.utexas.edu
X-IronPort-MID: 1694084000
X-SBRS: 4.2
X-BrightmailFiltered: true
X-Brightmail-Tracker: AAAAAA==
X-IronPort-AV: i=”3.97,380,1125896400″;
d=”scan’208,217″; a=”1694084000:sNHT20689456″
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2005 07:44:03 -0500
To: Junior Scholar
From: Senior Scholar
Subject: Re: — Review

Dear Junior:

I’m sorry that you are perplexed by the “tone” of my review. As I said in the review, I may have been responding in kind to the “tone” of the essay, which violated my libertarian sensibilities by pontificating about our “charge” as rhetorical critics. I also can assure you that I don’t play the game of trying to identify the authors of the many essays I review, so please don’t take it personally. I had no idea who wrote the essay.

I would be honored to talk with you, although I’m not sure what more I can say about my reaction to the essay. My early work often provoked similar reactions, striking many reviewers as too out of the mainstream and/or too polemical. Instead of hunting down the reviewers and chastising them for the “tone” of their reviews, I learned to take the bad with the good, and perhaps to write with a bit more caution and humility. I haven’t seen the other reviews of your essay, but if I was outvoted, congratulations. If not, I look forward to seeing a revision of the essay in print, for as I said in the review, I think you have some very interesting things to say about these monuments to Long.

Happy Thanksgiving.

SCENE: JUNIOR IN HOUSECOAT WITH COFFEE ANSWERING EMAIL ON COFFEE TABLE, TIM RUSSERT INTERVIEWING RANDOM POLTICAL ANDROID ON NEARBY CATHODE RAY TUBE, BOTH DROID AND INTERROGATOR ALSO DRINKING COFFEE:

Hi Dr. Paranoid:

I do not make it my charge to “hunt down” reviewers. What perplexed me was the apparent pleasure you took in sadism, and how unfairly you projected arrogance onto my argument. I am truly sorry to have offended your sensibilities; I certainly didn’t intended to insult anyone, most especially Louisianans, whom I love. I hope in the future you’ll think twice about the young scholar you choose to beat up on in your “blind’” reviews. It hurts to get a review like yours–much more than it hurt to read and essay with a “wacky” approach. Meanwhile, I am going to revise and re-word to double check for tone–that is, to practice what I seem to be preaching. Kindness can teach better, I have faith.

Yours from Aus-Vegas,

D(Jx3)

SCENE: ANGERED SENIOR SCHOLAR WORKING IN OFFICE ABOVE GARAGE SOMEWHERE IN RURAL PENNSYLVANIA, WEARING PLAID, DRINKING COFFEE, NURSING HIS COMPLEXITY:

Subject: Re: ___ Review

Dear Obviously Very Junior:

As I suspected, you don’t want to have a “conversation” about the essay or my review, but rather to psychoanalyze and attack me! And I might be amused by your accusation that I take pleasure in “sadism” were it not for, well, the arrogance of the accusation. As I said, I had no idea who wrote the essay, so to suggest that I somehow take pleasure in beating up on young scholars is totally out of line. I think it’s perfectly fair to suggest that it’s arrogant to tell other critics what their “charge” must be. And if tracking down your reviewers and calling them names isn’t arrogant, I don’t know what is. Yes, it hurts to get negative reviews, but at least I apologized for the harshness of the review and tried to explain how I felt that the tone of the essay invited such a response. Perhaps you preach tolerance and humility, but neither the essay itself nor your personal attack on me would suggest that you practice what you preach. [signed with initials, which is what people with “big names” do, but not with any hint of disk jockey humor]

SCENE: E-TANGO, SOUNDS FROM THE FILM TRON AND A RANDOM WENDY CARLOS SCORE PLAY IN THE BACKGROUND; JUNIOR ENVISIONS ANGERED LETTERS, EMAILS, AND PHONE CALLS TO EDITOR OF SAID JOURNAL, CHAIR, AND DEAN OF COLLEGE, ALLEGING STALKING, FROM THE MEAN, PARANOID JUNIOR SCHOLAR BEATER:

Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2005 11:43:17 -0600
To: Big Name Paranoid Senior Scholar
From: Wee Little Junior
Subject: Apology
Cc:
Bcc:
X-Attachments:

Hi Prof. __,

First, let me apologize for my arrogance . . . .


And here's Gunn's addendum in the comments section:

Received today:

To: slewfoot@mail.utexas.edu
From: M—.
Subject: Invitation

Dear Junior:

Perhaps it would be useful to meet, so that you can see if I fit your stereotype of “sadistic” and I can see if you’re really “wacky.” So in the spirit of reconciliation and peace, I’d like to invite you to visit — State, to present a paper to our colloquium and to meet our faculty and grad students. We’ll pay your travel expenses and throw in a $500 honorarium. I know it doesn’t make up for my “unfair” attack on your QJS submission (which, by the way [the editor] tells me he agreed with completely), but hopefully you will take it as a gesture of good will, as intended. Interested? We have — open, and perhaps — although I would strongly recommend avoiding —- in February.

If you can’t do this, perhaps we can find some other way to meet. I suspect we’ve both allowed others to shape our perceptions in ways that oversimplify and distort.

(Josh Gunn, Underscore Collective, posted Nov. 27, 2005. Find the whole exchange in full @

http://www.underscore-collective.net/blog/index.php/archives/65#comments ).



2 Comments:

Blogger Bolibuckness said...

Who are you? Oh wait: answering that question would evaporate the sweet smell of irony.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Anawim said...

Ah, but the evaporation of the sweet smell of irony lets in the bracing winds of chiasmus, periphrasis, synecdoche...

... But now that you're here... Am I completely off about the name of your Pa. reviewer?

3:44 PM  

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