Every scholar knows that too much stuff is published. It is just simply overwhelming how much secondary literature is out there in every sub-discipline and most of it is really not worth reading. However, the standards by which professors are evaluated for both hiring and promotion center heavily on the quantity of work than an individual has published. Some metrics also try to gauge the quality of articles and such but that only goes so far.
In light of this I was struck by this statement in Toward a Generous Orthodoxy: Prospects for Hans Frei’s Postliberal Theology by Jason A. Springs:
The sheer quantity of the critical responses that Frei’s work continues to inspire nearly twenty-five years after his death is startlingly disproportionate to the two monographs and handful of articles that he produced over the span of his career (6).
Here is an example of a scholar who has had a tremendous influence on his field with relatively little writing. I think that all of us who are engaged in or trying to get into the academy should think quite seriously about our own publishing efforts. To be sure, we have to play the publishing game if we want to survive and thrive but maybe we should play it more carefully, thoughtfully, and with a good dose of restraint. After all, we know those scholars who “have no thought that goes unpublished” and it is not a flattering portrayal.
Very few of us will have the influence of Hans Frei, but we can make sure that the stuff that we do publish is of good quality and beneficial rather than just CV padding. And in this way we can follow in Frei’s footsteps and be of service to the academic world at large.