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How to Write a Festschrift Piece and thoughts on “very meta” legal scholarship

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5 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:

    Isn’t it kind of weird to write a Festschrift piece for someone who has been teaching for only 12 years? A Festschrift is ordinarily understood as an act of generosity at the end of a scholar’s career. There is no self-interest in fawning because the scholar is retiring, and one may as well be positive because it’s too late for the scholar to change his or her work. That genre seems out of place with a relatively junior scholar, even if that scholar is truly top notch.

  2. David Schleicher says:

    Yeah, a bit, although I think it’s actually a much more productive and socially useful than an ordinary festschrift, as it provides useful feedback that may help guide future work. I actually defended it in my first footnote:

    “And among such events, this is a particularly odd one, as they are usually associated with an academic approaching the end of his or her career, whereas the subject of this festschrift is just entering the prime of her career. But both as a general and a specific matter, this event makes a lot of sense. Specifically, Heather Gerken has done a career’s worth of work in a short amount of time, and there’s no reason to wait. And generally the festschrift as mid-career review is probably an improvement on the ordinary set-up, as it might prove useful as well as respectful to the subject. Law review editors of the world ought take heed of the great Kanye West’s admonition, “If you admire somebody, go ahead tell ‘em/People never get the flowers while they can still smell ‘em.” KANYE WEST, BIG BROTHER (Roc-A-Fella Records 2007).”

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    I’m with Orin on this. A traditional Festschrift can be very productive and socially useful if at least a couple of contributors, junior to the honoree but maybe already quite mature scholars themselves, provide thoughtful pieces. As for someone mid-career, wouldn’t some kind of symposium/edited volume with a more robust mix of praise and critique, or critique with a concluding “reply to critics” from the honoree, be more useful for the honoree and her or his public? The latter, especially, seems really honorable, like a grandmaster playing simultaneous chess — not just anyone is invited to do that. Does a premature Festschrift (a Blitzfestschrift?) reflect a trend like the one in schools, where every child who runs in the race gets a medal?

  4. PJ says:

    David — I love your recipe but it is strangely reminiscent of another, more commonly encountered genre: the academic book review. The book was great (here a notable difference from your recipe, since book reviews are usually more enthusiastic than the book deserves); but wait, it has some small teensy little problems; but wait — they could be cured if only the author had read more of *my* work!

  5. Orin Kerr says:

    A.J., my guess is that the trend here is only the relentless journal focus on citations. A journal that has a hard time attracting top-name scholars can have a symposium celebrating a major scholar who is still in the middle of their career. The scholar celebrated will of course come, and he or she can get other major scholars to write pieces in the issue. The journal ends up with an issue that has a lot of major names and is more likely to be read and attract a lot of citations. That’s my guess, at least.

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