It’s Academic

Several of the associates at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center (FCWSRC) have decided to have a writing group. We met for the first time yesterday. Each person said what they would like to work on while at the center and what help they hoped to get from the group. I have to present a poster at the American Historical Association annual meeting in January. I have never even seen a poster at any conference so I definitely can use some help.

In a discussion of authenticity, which is a subject I wrote about in Brewing Battles, *(see excerpt at end of post) one of the associates said she would like to see my footnotes. I replied that the ideas mainly came from me. In other words, it was my original analysis. This exchange made me realize I have come a long way from my academic roots. Academic scholarship and writing often seeks legitimization by showing that an idea has prestigious pedigree. My current sense of accessible writing is to document the facts and the ideas and analysis are my own.

Another aspect of academe that seems to have changed is literature reviews. When I wrote my dissertation at Columbia University, you had to include a historiographical overview in your prospectus. A prospectus is akin to a book proposal. The actual dissertation did not contain a literature review. Two people in the group who have completed history PhD’s more recently both had to include literature reviews in their dissertations. This seems like a bad idea that will only make it harder to turn the theses into a book.

Before I became a nurse, I had a business, Academic Publicity. It provided promotional services and publicity to academic authors. It was a great idea with a fatal flaw. Most academics don’t think of themselves as writers or authors. Therefore, they do not want to pay to promote their books. By now, I really think of myself as a writer and author. I am writing Dames, Dishes and Degrees from that perspective.

* Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer (New York: Algora Press, 2007, 190.

The emergence of craft brewing highlights a battle within the brewing industry over authenticity and identity. Since World War II the national brewers have connected beer to all things American —  baseball, barbeques, race cars, and pretty, sexy women.1 Yet the nationalizing of the beer industry removed one of the most potent aspects of beer’s identity — localism. The new generation of brewers emphasizes its connection to place and community even more than taste. They stake a claim to authenticity via their roots in a specific locale.

Craft brewers, whether or not they start as home brewers, are entrepreneurs. In this way they are similar to the many hundreds of people who start a business every day. What is interesting about the thousands of people who started breweries and brewpubs since the late 1970s is that they created these businesses in an industry dominated by some of America’s biggest companies.

Craft brewers have been able to exploit a hole, a gap, in the huge edifice of American brewing. Some three to fifteen percent of the American beer drinking population didn’t and still doesn’t like drinking Bud, Schlitz, Miller, or Pabst. In the nineteenth century ten percent of Pabst’s customers wanted pure malt beer; craft beer drinkers of the twenty-first century are their  descendants.2


  1. For examples of these themes and their use in alcohol advertising and marketing see Lynn Walding, “Alcohol Marketing 2005,” (powerpoint presentation) Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division, http://www.iowaabd.com/index.jsp , accessed  July 20, 2007.
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  2. Thomas Childs Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company: The History of an American Business (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1948), 122. []
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2 Responses to It’s Academic

  1. Robert says:

    That’s a great point about authority and the academic need to show a the “pedigree” of an idea. I’ve also made the transition from academia to commercial writing, and it took many years of conscious effort to stamp out the impulse to belabor the source of facts. Why write, “in his groundbreaking study Food in History, John Smith documented that New England colonists were importing rum into the United States as early as 1680?” The real point is “New Englanders were importing run as early as 1680.” And, yes, it is certainly possible for one to create a unique analysis without having to reference an authority!

  2. Laree Ismael says:

    Great article… I’ll come back again to look for more articles like this… All credits to the author…

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