Denis Dutton, Editor, Department of Philosophy
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Garry Hagberg, Editor, Department of Philosophy
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504


Instructions for your abstract


Dear Philosophy and Literature Author,

All our articles, long and short, and review articles (what we call Critical Discussions) are now publicized by the Johns Hopkins University Press with 100-word abstracts.

Abstracts used to be an afterthought at this journal. They are now, however, important for attracting readers. In the past, abstracts have usually been dreary affairs, full of vague waffle, long, scholarly-sounding Latinate words, or statements of an author’s ambitions that give no clue, after the throat-clearing, whether the author managed to pull it off.

A colleague at our publisher recently sent us six abstracts to show our own authors as examples. The first four began, “This article discusses…,” “This paper is an investigation…,” “My paper explores...,” and “This chapter examines….” Are we academics imaginative people, or what?

So here’s the assignment: please give us a 100-word abstract that manages to entice, intrigue, and perhaps even entertain. We want an abstract that people will read and think to themselves, “I must check that one out!”

Try to use strong verbs, avoid Latinate words where possible. Make the abstract descriptive, give it color and punch. The Press is strict about the 100-word limit, so please cooperate.

We’re delighted to have you as an author.

Denis Dutton

P.S. If you are stuck for a formula, consider a problem/solution statement: “Was Jane Austen actually a man? In recent years this conjecture has been argued loudly, if unconvincingly, at every meeting of the MLA. What claptrap! My examination of gynecological records….” You get the point: drive straight to the issue and make it pluperfectly clear where you stand and what you reject.


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