Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Another new book in the former native speaker's library

Davidson, James W. The Island of Formosa, Past and Present. 1903. Taipei: Southern Materials Center, 2008.

This is a beautifully produced reprint edition of Davidson's impressive 1903 book, complete with color illustrations and maps. (Not like the print-on-demand reprints available through some online bookstores. I made the mistake of buying a print-on-demand facsimile of Japanese Rule in Formosa a couple of years ago, and it was terrible--missing all of the illustrations, for one thing.) This particular book has been on my radar for years, but I couldn't bear to part with the money for it. I finally decided, though, to get it on this trip to Taiwan, and I think it was worth it. (Of course, it's also available online for free, if you don't want to pay for it.) I'm looking forward to reading it, though I have tons of work to do for the upcoming semester. (*Sigh*)

P.S. Japanese Rule in Formosa is also available online for free! Wish I had known that before I bought it...

Sunday, December 16, 2018

My Introduction to Formosa Betrayed is finally out

The 2018 edition of George H. Kerr's Formosa Betrayed, published by Camphor Press, is now available:
Formosa Betrayed is a detailed, impassioned account of Chinese Nationalist (KMT) misrule that remains the most important English-language book ever written about Taiwan. 
Author George H. Kerr lived in Taiwan in the late 1930s, when the island was a colony of Japan. During the war, he worked for the U.S. Navy as a Taiwan expert. From 1945 to 1947, Kerr served as vice consul of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Taipei, where he was an eyewitness to the February 28 Massacre and the subsequent mass arrests and executions. 
As well as chronicling KMT repression during the early years of the White Terror, Kerr documents widespread corruption, showing how the island was systematically looted. The “betrayed” in the title refers not only to the crushing disappointment Taiwanese felt when they realized KMT rule was worse than that of the Japanese but also to the culpability of the American government. The United States was in large part responsible for handing Taiwan over to the Nationalists and helping them maintain their grip on power. 
Formosa Betrayed has served as a foundational text for generations of Taiwanese democracy and independence activists. It had an explosive effect among overseas Taiwanese students; for many, the book was their first encounter in print with their country’s dark, forbidden history. A 1974 Chinese-language translation increased its impact still more. It is a powerful classic that has withstood the test of time, a must-read book that will change the way you look at Taiwan. 
In this definitive edition Kerr scholar Jonathan Benda has added a detailed, thoroughly-researched introduction as well as a biographical sketch of the author.
"Kerr scholar"... that sounds nice, though I prefer "Kerrologist," or, as Henk Vynckier once labeled my fellow Kerr enthusiasts and me, "Kerrdashian."

I mentioned back in January that my interest in Kerr started back around 2007 when I discovered the three volumes of Kerr's correspondence and other writings that Professor Su Yao-tsung and his team edited based on the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum Kerr collection. I encourage anyone with a historical interest in Kerr to take a look at those books or even arrange to see the original documents in the museum. (It's a bit of an effort to do the latter, but it's worth the effort.)

Anyway, I don't have a financial interest in whether or not you buy it, but I hope that people who haven't yet read Formosa Betrayed (or even those who have) will consider buying the book!

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Meditations on the fate of a scholarly article

I started this post back in October, but haven't gotten around to publishing it until now, at the end of the semester. I should note that I don't mean to sound whiny (or whingey--still don't know what the difference is between those two words). 

In my Advanced Interdisciplinary Writing sections, we're working on literature reviews. This project often finds me up late at night or, in the case of today (10/31), up early in the morning (woke up at 2:30) thinking about what goes into literature reviews. In this case, I'm thinking about the scholarly articles that are mined for what they can contribute to the students' reviews. Students are required to use only 10-15 sources, which, considering the hundreds of sources I've seen reviewed in some of the sample literature reviews I've asked them to look at, isn't that much. Still, I have some criteria for the kinds of sources they choose: peer-reviewed articles published within the last five years, preferably found via the library's databases (rather than through Google). I introduced them to the Web of Science, as well, which I think some of them used to find their articles. (Some of them, alas, are still finding sources through Google--not even Google Scholar--which perhaps I should "outlaw" in future classes.)

As we've been writing and talking about how to use sources in our literature reviews, I've been thinking about the different ways that scholarship gets used (or not used), and I think I want to share with students a personal example:

Someone who came across my list of publications on recently asked me for a copy of an article I wrote that was published in 2013, "Google translate in the EFL classroom: Taboo or teaching tool?" (I hate my titles). As I was responding to the request, I read through the article again, recalling (or, rather, wondering) how I wrote it and where and how I found the sources that I cited in it. I generally like the paper, but as I lamented to my wife, it hasn't gotten much mileage in terms of citations. While I was saying that to her, I checked out the article on Google Scholar and to my surprise found that there were three sources that had cited it, most impressively (to me, anyway) in the ACTFL-sponsored journal, Foreign Language Annals. Eager to find out what people were saying about my paper, I quickly downloaded the article, entitled, "Machine translation and the L2 classroom: Pedagogical solutions for making peace with Google translate."

My paper was mentioned twice in the literature review--the first time as one-third of a multiple in-text citation ("multiple researchers have suggested...") and the second as a "see also." I don't blame the authors of the article for this; in fact, I'm grateful that my paper got any mention, considering the conditions of scholarly writing these days. But, as I plan to tell students, my paper was almost 10 years in the making if you consider the origins of it in these blogposts from 2005 and 2007. I went on to write a paper about this topic that I presented at the 2011 Conference on College Composition and Communication. There I was invited to contribute to a special issue of Writing & Pedagogy on technology and writing, and then, in the middle of proofreading my dissertation and organizing a move from Taiwan to Boston to start a new job, I put together a small study to see students' reactions to using Google Translate as part of their writing/translation process. (The scope of the CCCC paper was a lot more limited.) Then the peer-review process (being invited to contribute a paper doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll be published) and finally the joy of seeing my work published.

I'm sure my experience is not unique--as I said above, considering how much academic writing gets published every year, I'm sure some people would be happy if their article got a "see also." (It's better than being ignored, or worse, plagiarized, both of which have happened to me.) But what I want to tell students about the experience of finding that citation and then seeing how my paper was being used is that it was probably the equivalent of the feeling you have when you get a "B" on a writing project--grateful for the attention, but not particularly excited.

(Update, 12/6/18) Well, I related this experience to my students, who listened patiently. No one really responded, though, and I don't think it comforted those who got Bs to hear me say I understood. Ah well...