Publishing News

I have a few miscellaneous bits of publishing news that might be of interest to readers of this blog. First, the URL for my website has changed. It used to have a “www” at the beginning, but it is now simply Simpler is better, I think. Unfortunately, the new URL is not the only change to the website. The site used to be hosted on Apple’s Mobile Me, but when Mobile Me closed down at the end of June, I had to move it to another host and the move resulted not only in the name change, but in the loss of several features of the site, such as the one that allowed people to post comments to the entries on my blog Reading Notes. There were quite a few comments, but they were all lost and it appears there’s no way to get them back. My plan is to create an entirely new website. I will probably move it to WordPress, the host of this blog. WordPress is fantastic.

I made another discovery relating to Ferrall and Repp’s excellent Danish-English dictionary from 1845. Not only is it available as an ebook that can be downloaded for free from Google Books, it is now available in actual physical book form. That is, it can be printed on demand for $28.69! Here is a link to the page on Amazon with the details.

Finally, I received and email recently from a journalist at Jyllands-Posten in Denmark. He said they were doing a series on important books published in the last 50 years and planned to include a piece on Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard. He said he’d noticed that I was writing a book on the biography and asked me how I saw the issue today, “almost ten years later.” He said the whole controversy had been largely forgotten in Denmark.

I responded that that was, unfortunately, what I had feared would happen and precisely why I was doing a book on the controversy. Everyone involved tried to cover the thing up. The Danish publisher GAD issued a corrected paperback edition of the book without indicating anywhere that it was a corrected edition. It has the same copyright date as the original uncorrected edition. This information was in the newspapers, of course, in fact Garff was effectively forced to promise in print to produce such a corrected edition, but who is going to read eight-year old newspaper articles, let alone ten or twenty-year old newspapers articles.

The situation is even worse with the English translation of the book. When I wrote to Peter Dougherty, the head of Princeton University Press, to inquire whether the new English paperback edition incorporated the corrections that had been made to the Danish paperback edition, he said he didn’t know what had been done to the Danish edition, but that the new English paperback incorporated 52 pages of corrections. Fifty-two pages–that’s a lot. We’re not talking typos here. We’re talking 52 pages of corrections of factual errors. Just as was the case with the Danish edition, however, there is nothing to alert readers to the fact that the English paperback is a new edition. It too has the same copyright date as the original uncorrected English edition. But where many Danes still remember the controversy, most readers of the English edition don’t know anything about it because the only piece that appeared on it in what could generously be called the popular media in the U.S. was a whitewash in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The controversy over Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard was not merely an indictment of scholarly publishing, it was a particularly ugly chapter of intellectual history more generally. It’s one we can all learn a great deal from though–if we don’t forget it.

Attacking the Essence of Scholarship

Work is progressing well on my book Fear and Dissembling on the controversy surrounding Joakim Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard. I became interested in the controversy not, as some appear to believe, because I had anything personal against Garff, but because I had, and continue to have, a strong objection to people being punished for being good at their jobs, as happened to Peter Tudvad when he was officially censured by Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, the then director of the Kierkegaard Research Center in Copenhagen, for daring to go public with his criticisms of Garff’s book.

Open and honest debate is the lifeblood of scholarship and should, I believe, be defended at all costs. This is an issue of increasing concern because the private funding of work in the sciences has led to the suppression of much research with devastating results for the public welfare.  I thought I’d provide you with another sample of the material that will be in the book that is relevant to this timely issue and that is of interest not merely to Kierkegaard scholars, but to the general public. What follows is an article by Professor Frands Mortensen of Aarhus University that appeared in the newspaper Information in August of 2004, before the English translation of Garff’s book had appeared.


Cappelørn Should Resign

From Information: “Debate 8/4/04”

The summer brought us an interesting debate in the newspapers, namely the one surrounding the scholarly merit of the prize-winning biography SAK by Joakim Garff. Peter Tudvad’s comprehensive contribution identified a number of errors in the work and cast doubt on the reliability of much of the information it contains. He did this in Kierkegaardian polemical style so that both the content and the form of his criticisms aroused attention.

What was most interesting, however, was not the conduct of Garff and Tudvad, but of Niels Jørgen Cappelørn, the director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center in Copenhagen where the two scholars are employed. He stated in Jyllands-Posten on July 29th that “I firmly believe that one should refrain from openly attacking a colleague, and Peter Tudvad did not, so far as I am aware, inform Garff of his decision [to go public with his criticisms of the book]. It was wrong of Garff not to correct the errors, but also wrong for Tudvad to point them out in the media.”

Here we have a director and head of scholarship of a publicly-funded research center who believes that scholars should not attack one another publicly because they are employed by the same institution, and that they should not publicly expose one another’s errors, but should do this only behind closed doors without the knowledge of the public?

That is quite simply outrageous and profoundly unacceptable. Cappelørn attacks the very essence of all scholarship–namely the public and open discussion of research. It’s possible that, because of the economic significance of research in the private sector, the attitude there is that it is best to correct errors away from the view of the public. For publicly-funded research, however, it is a mortal sin to conceal the fact that material that was published earlier (including in biographies) contains errors.

I cannot know, of course, how committed Cappelørn is to the view that scholars should not publicly criticize their colleagues. He maintains that he was not misquoted in Jyllands-Posten, yet he asserts in Information (July 29) that he is pleased to see scholarly disputes conducted in public and that the exposure of the errors in Garff’s book ought to lead scholars to view claims made in the work about Kierkegaard more skeptically.

What should thus be done about Cappelørn? If he is as good as his word, and encourages more public discussion [among the scholars at the center], then perhaps he ought to be allowed to remain as the director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center. He ought properly, however, to resign his position as director. The trustees of the center ought, at the very least, to place him under stricter supervision, as is common in such cases in theological circles.

Those of us who are employed by publicly-funded research centers, ought to think long and hard about whether this is a sign of what we can expect when the new ordinances governing higher education in Denmark are completed and new directors of research centers are appointed.

Frands Mortensen


Aarhus Universi