Mark Gignilliat, Assistant Prof. of Divinity (Beeson Divinity School), published his thesis with the Library of New Testament Studies. His monograph is entitled: Paul and Isaiah’s Servants: Paul’s Theological Reading of Isaiah 40-66 in 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:10.
Mark was kind enough to contribute to this series on turning a thesis into a monograph and choosing the right publisher.
1. As I recall, you studied at St. Andrews with Bruce Longenecker. I have the highest respect for Bruce,especially because he studied at Durham! Did he give you any specific advice on publishing your thesis?
I did study under Bruce Longenecker (and Christopher Seitz as well) at St. Andrews. My friends and I who were there at that time thought the Shekinah was resting on the place. We all had a wonderful experience and miss it much. Bruce was very helpful as a supervisor for several different reasons, one of which has to do with this question. Bruce is very versed in the world of publishing and gave very sound advice (especially for someone like me who had below zero knowledge of the matter). Bruce published with the JNTSupp, which is now LNTS, so I guess in hindsight that is one of the reasons LNTS was high on my list. He was conscientious throughout the writing phase of publishing, if my memory serves me correctly. So, I think he looked at my dissertation as if he were editing a book for publication. He also gave warnings about pitfalls and what to avoid. I was very fortunate to have his insight on these matters. I think Bruce assumed his students would publish their dissertations, and he offered much insight along the way toward this end.
2. What drew your attention to LNTS?
I had a working mental list of dissertation series. LNTS was one of the top three for me. So, I was going to aim for these and then move down if need be. I was fortunate that LNTS accepted my mss. For those who do research in biblical studies, LNTS is standard fair. I had engaged so many of the older JSNTSupp series during my research at St. Andrews that I didn’t really need my attention to be drawn to it. I knew it was a solid series.
3. How much correcting did you do before sending the manuscript to LNTS for the first time? Were your thesis examiners’ comments given much consideration at that point?
My dissertation examiners spent the last half hour of the examination talking to me about publication. I took their advice and made the changes they suggested (e.g. trying to stream-line chapters together, dropping one chapter and turning it into an article, etc.). They were very helpful; so, yes, I took their comments seriously. One of the best pieces of advice given to me was from the late Brevard Childs. While in St. Andrews presenting lectures, I asked him about dissertation publishing. His advice was, publish it, don’t fiddle with it and move on. Everyone knows what a dissertation is and to make it a magnum opus is to lose sight of what it is. Childs mentioned people who spent years polishing their dissertation for publication, and then that was it. They had given their creative energy to this project and were pooped. Again, I remembered Childs’ advice and didn’t do too much beforehand other than cleaning up.
4. What about after the manuscript was accepted? How long did you work on revising and reworking?
I did spend some time here. The peer reviewer made some suggestions that were very helpful, and I needed to beef the piece up in a few places (primarily with LXX engagement). Boy, I can’t remember how long this took, but I think it was about two months or so. For those who have done this before, they know this is extremely difficult. You’ve spent three years plus on this research project. You’re sick of it and now you have to go back to it. It is like a dog returning to its vomit. But, publishing the dissertation is worth it, despite the onerous nature of editing your dissertation one more time.
5. How big of a difference do you think it makes, in terms of getting hired or moving up in academic rank, to have your thesis published in a more prestigious monograph series versus a lesser-acclaimed one? What sorts of things were important to you in choosing a publisher?
So many factors go into getting hired that it is hard to say how big a difference this makes. Some schools care more about teaching skills than research skills; confessional or non-confessional identities come into play as well. It, of course, helps. I didn’t have my dissertation published when appointed to Beeson. I was encouraged to do so by Paul House, our academic dean, and he provided support for this. I think showing a publishing trajectory is important for people on the front end of their careers. A peer-reviewed article or two, some book reviews, these sorts of things are very helpful. I have to thank my peers at St. Andrews here. I came in very naïve, and these folks were publishing articles. I thought, I better have a crack at this as well. All to say, I’m sure in some institutions publishing in a prestigious series is important and in others it is not. It depends on the teaching goals younger scholars have (research institution, smaller college, etc.). I do think publications are very important in moving up in rank, or at least should be. Here I do think quality should come into play (fully aware that I may not have reached this goal yet as well!). So, a prestigious series is probably weightier than one that is not. But, again, I’ve read some very good work in series that are not “prestigious” and vice-versa. In all honesty, I did want to publish in one of the standard NT series. So it is easier for me in hindsight to play this down.
6. I know that LNTS has a limitation of 80,000 words for the upper-limit of the manuscript. What that a challenge for you? (I can’t remember if St. Andrews has a similar upper-limit).
The part of the dissertation my examiners encouraged me to cut and publish independently as an article took me to around 80,000 words. So this wasn’t a problem for me.
7. Do you mind sharing with us what writing projects you have for the future?
I just finished a project on Karl Barth’s theological exegesis of Isaiah. It is entitled, Karl Barth and the Fifth Gospel: Barth’s Theological Exegesis of Isaiah (Barth Studies Series, Ashgate). This came out earlier this year. Now, I’m working on a short history of Old Testament criticism beginning with Spinoza and ending with Childs. This will be more of a text-book oriented study aimed at upper-level undergrads and graduate/seminary students. It will be a picture gallery of sorts, introducing students to some of the major figures within the history of OT criticism. I teach OT now at Beeson, as providence would have it. I’m fiddling with my next academic monograph. I may try and do something on the narrative identity of YHWH in Isaiah (Frei/Ricouer). I’m thinking through the methodology of the project now. This is a few years out. I should say, in light of this interview, that most of these other writing projects took seed-form while writing my dissertation. I was working on Paul’s reading of Isaiah and discovered the way Barth read Isaiah. I thought, I might do a project on that. The narrative identity stuff was the part of the dissertation that was edited out and published as a single article with SJT. I may expand these ideas in my next monograph. So, the dissertation spawns so many other ideas and writing opportunities.