Balkinization  

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Academic Haiku of the Week

JB

Jim Gibbons's recent academic haiku contest (via Crooked Timber), was a stroke of genius. The idea is to summarize your latest academic work, whether a paper or Ph.D thesis, in the famous five syllable, seven syllable, five syllable form. If your article has multiple theses, you may have a haiku for each one, but don't overdo it! This is haiku, not epic poetry.

The academic haiku is a brilliant innovation precisely because nobody these days has time to read even the abstracts to the endless stream of academic publications that flow ceaselessly before us, much less peruse the actual publications themselves. The flood of SSRN news letters I regularly receive drive me almost to despair. How much better it would be to be sent a series of short, evocative, gnomic stanzas summarizing the authors' ideas in seventeen syllables.

Moreover, as a memeticist, I am always on the lookout for new ways for academics to spread their memes ever more widely. The haiku is a far better meme than the abstract could ever be. It entices, it inveigles, it leaves the reader wanting more. The haiku is the delightful amuse bouche to the abstract's dry and tasteless dinner roll.

The shorter, the more alluring and the more ambiguous a cultural replicator, the more widely it will spread in a population, drawing people to investigate the abstract and perhaps even the underlying work.

The academic haiku is nothing less the academic soundbite of our times.

But enough talk. It is time for action.

I propose that every scholar-- and certainly anyone who sends a work to an academic journal or posts a new piece on SSRN-- should always provide three things: (1) the academic haiku, followed by (2) the 300 word abstract, followed by (3) the actual work itself, in that order. This will let readers know how far they need to read before they inevitably become distracted by some other glistening bauble in our Information age.

Hoping to turn Gibbons's idea into something more than a one-time contest, I hereby announce as a continuing feature (until either I or the readership gets completely tired of it) the Academic Haiku of the Week here at Balkinization.

This week, I present a haiku of a recent work of my own, and one I wrote in honor of Sandy Levinson's latest book.


Original meaning,
The Living Constitution,
Are one and the same.

Abortion bans are
Compulsory motherhood,
Class legislation.

-- Jack M. Balkin, Abortion and Original Meaning, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=925558


Our Constitution
Is completely screwed up; more
Democracy please!

-- Sanford Levinson, Our Undemocratic Constitution, Oxford University Press 2006



Comments:

Glad you liked the concept! One of the contestants referred to these haiku as abstracts, and I think that's exactly what they are. So let me be the first to second your idea - I think it's a great one.

I look forward to reading your weekly haiku. :)
 

Prof. Balkin:

Original meaning,
The Living Constitution,
Are one and the same.


Not to get too pedantic (I like it), but the first line is not traditional haiku, which follows a 5-7-5 syllabic format.

I may be a geek
but the format that you used
just is not haiku

Cheers,
 

You forgot that the meaning of "haiku" is living, and therefore it can change, much like the Professor's view of the Constitution.

Sorry, had to say it!
 

You forgot that the meaning of "haiku" is living, and therefore it can change, much like the Professor's view of the Constitution.


It also depends on how you pronounce "original." :) I barely hit that middle "i" if I do at all...

Here's my Ph.D. thesis boiled down (this is a great challenge).

Iconography,
Tool of Moche overlords?
Not entirely.
 

Here's my thinking about counting, in haiku form, from earlier on my blog:

There are three types of
people in the world, those who
can count and those who can’t.
 

I figured that someone would figure out that the word "original" could be pronounced with three syllables (or-RIG-nal) and four syllables (or-RIG-i-nal). Like a good living constitutionalist (and original meaning originalist) I decided to delegate this question to future interpreters.
 

ok, i can't resist...

with apologies to everyone...

in the near future
originalist thinkers
will be scalia'd...

a few more like this and we can hit the catskills.
 

Prof. Balkin:

I figured that someone would figure out that the word "original" could be pronounced with three syllables (or-RIG-nal) and four syllables (or-RIG-i-nal).

Ummm, not quite. But IC you are a lawyer:

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law - Cite This Source

Main Entry: orig·i·nal
Function: noun
1 : that from which a copy or reproduction is made <both parties signed the original> —compare DUPLICATE
2 : a work composed firsthand as the product of an author's creativity
NOTE: A work must be an original in order to obtain a copyright. —original adjective
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

The lawyerly class do manage to scrunch it up into three syllables, but not with your clipped pronunciation....

Cheers,
 

I love this idea! May I?

"Dearest Alvina"
The letter drove the outcome,
But it was a lie.

Marianne Wesson, "Particular Intentions": The Hillmon Case and the Supreme Court, 18 LAW AND LITERATURE 343 (2006).
 

Decision-makers
need scientific input
to chart our course, yes?

Making Scientific Information Actionable for Decision-makers (forthcoming)

Best,

D
 

You must all hate the Japanese.
 

Rain falls on parades,
Fun squashed for the canon's sake,
Thanks for dropping by.
 

pms_chicago,
Nice job, even if it was at my expense.
 

Meant entirely in good fun. I save my real barbs for Anderson and Mr. Link. ;)
 

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