Sorry for my absence; I have been sick and editing proofs for an article I have written on Procopius that will be out next week. I have been very pleased with the efficiency of the journal that will be publishing it (parekbolai 4). I sent the pdf off three months ago, and last week out of the blue a beautifully formatted version of my piece arrived on my desktop. I was happy to see that it had cleared peer review with no changes. The internet age has certainly made the process easier and more enjoyable…despite the acerbic comments of some reviewers who I imagine are troll-like figures sleeping under a damp bridge.
The world of academia is in the midst of a revolution. As I have discussed in previous blogs, scholars, like musicians before them, have begun to find numerous outlets for their scholarship. Despite the strong stand from the old-guard of journals to hide this research behind paywalls, leaks are slowly eating away at the dam. Scholars tired of the long waits and limited audience found in these closed mediums, have shown a tendency to place their work in open-access journals that are still peer-reviewed, but attract a larger audience. Since scholars do not get paid for their toil, many….myself included… prefer this larger dissemination to the greater prestige offered by the old guard journals. Some have argued, that the days of sites like academia.edu are numbered, yet I would suggest the opposite. As more and more top scholars turn to open-access the edifice of the old school ebbs away.
Certainly, there is a more sinister side to this development….at least for those who do not have English as their first language. Increasingly these open journals are in English. While journals in German, Spanish, and other languages continue to be published they are having a more and more difficult time disseminating this non-English scholarship to an English audience. Of course there are exceptions, so too can google translator can help for those whose German and/or Russian and French remains limited. So too do sites like academia.edu translate their content. Though garbeled these translation still are easier for someone with only two years of a certain language.
Yet, as Geoffrey Greatrex has recently pointed out, the bulk of the audience seems only too happy to just ignore the evidence published in non-English sources. As my own personal experience teaches me as well, two years of a language does not give you the ability to digest dense articles in a foreign language. Unfortunately, for many of these non-English scholars this reality has forced them to compose many a paper in, at times, laboured English prose. Another consequence is the rise in dominance of scholars whose first language is English.
For example I specialize on a sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius. Many graduate students in the field of Late Antiquity would be familiar with the important works of Peter Brown, Averil Cameron, Michael Whitby, and Anthony Kaldellis, yet the equally important scholarship of Dariuz Brodka, Henning Borm, and Mischa Meier in German is left in the margins if consulted at all.
What does the future hold? I would suggest that the growing dominance of English will continue. So too will translators improve so much in the next few decades that actually learning a foreign language may become obsolete amongst the majority. Of course this means that much subtlety and nuance will be lost in translation. Any thoughts?