The department of English is leveraging our established, traditional scholarly and creative prominence by developing a focus in public scholarship. Public scholarship may initially seem to be the opposite of “private scholarship” – that is, conventional academic writing, for a small group of specialists – but they’re not antithetical activities: there’s considerable overlap. Public scholarship is something scholars do in public, with the public, and with the potential to impact the public: it’s extroverted, and appeals to a general audience.
Some specific things public scholars do: Working in and with museums and other cultural organizations and institutions (magazines, theaters, public libraries, book festivals); writing and compiling institutional and other histories (such as oral histories); establishing a media presence (both as writers and as subjects); engaging in activism and political/cultural advocacy; making documentaries; consulting and providing expert testimony on public policy and cultural matters; undertaking cultural and historic preservation and resource management, archival administration and creation of bibliographies and databases; preparing students for alt-ac careers.
We are working to develop a more widely recognized and vibrant public presence. Our goals include attaining a heightened media presence for our work (involving both media outlets covering our work, and writing/developing our own media contributions); actively connecting our scholarly and creative interests with specific audiences and communities beyond the academy; going out into schools, museums, and a range of other community venues, and also inviting people from those places into interaction with our scholarly activities (and, physically, into our classrooms). We want to emphasize, both internally (in the department and in GSU) and externally (in the community at large), that this public interaction is something we pointedly and forcefully embrace. We want to inform the outside public of what we’re doing, but beyond that, we want them to engage with us: to respond to our work, to use it in their own ways outside the academy, to invite us to share our methods and our insights with them as they pursue their own parallel agendas and activities. We expect that both the public and our department (including our students as well as our faculty) will be enriched by this interaction.
Public scholarship is predicated upon giving back to the community that supports higher education; cultivating audiences that expand our potential reach; and breaking down barriers between the academic world and the public consciousness. We ask our faculty and students to identify in their scholarly/creative works a potential public component: who, besides our academic peers, might be interested in this? How and why would they be interested in it? What would they do with it? How can we get it to them? At its core, the etymological root of the “publicity” we seek is of course “public”; by definition, we expect that our public scholarship initiative will generate important publicity that will enhance our reputation and expand our research and creative portfolio. We also expect that it will lead to more opportunities for student service learning, internships and post-graduation career opportunities.