Scholarship: Books for Burning

If the 18,000 members of the Modern Language Association published one book every five years, calculated the association's president, Morris Bishop, they would turn out 3,600 books a year. The thought appalled him. "If publication is a virtue," reasoned Bishop, professor emeritus of romance literature at Cornell and himself a prolific author of witty light verse and biography (Pascal, Petrarch, La Rochefoucauld), "so is refraining from publishing unnecessary words."

Original literary sin. Bishop told the association's convention in New York last week, lies with the intellectually sterile Ph.D. thesis. "Given the...

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