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Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University

Tracing the transformation of early modern academics into modern researchers from the Renaissance to Romanticism, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University uses the history of the university and reframes the "Protestant Ethic" to reconsider the conditions of knowledge production in the modern world.

William Clark argues that the research university—which originated in German Protestant lands and spread globally in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—developed in response to market forces and bureaucracy, producing a new kind of academic whose goal was to establish originality and achieve fame through publication. With an astonishing wealth of research, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University investigates the origins and evolving fixtures of academic life: the lecture catalogue, the library catalog, the grading system, the conduct of oral and written exams, the roles of conversation and the writing of research papers in seminars, the writing and oral defense of the doctoral dissertation, the ethos of "lecturing with applause" and "publish or perish," and the role of reviews and rumor. This is a grand, ambitious book that should be required reading for every academic.

668 pages | 50 halftones, 20 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Education: Higher Education

History: General History

History of Science

Sociology: Social Institutions


“We are used to thinking of academic structures and pomp as ‘traditional,’ a throwback to an unspecified earlier time—maybe antiquity, maybe more recent. By contrast, William Clark gives the material and sociological bricks of the ivory tower historical specificity and by doing so takes the university apart. How do the category and comportment of the modern professor come into being? Are researchers heroes? Are they gentlemen? Are they bureaucrats? Robes and disputations, exams, and architecture: all grist for Clark’s mill. In this historical dissection of the university, Clark has created a world that is at once very erudite and immensely funny, an imaginative and beautifully researched step beyond the schematics of Bourdieu’s classic Homo Academicus. Anyone who wants to understand how universities got to be the way they are should grab this book off the shelf.”

Peter Galison, Harvard University

“William Clark is an incredibly original and sensible traveler through the history of German academia. The book is a marvel in its combination of stupendous scholarship and enjoyable reading. After all, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is like a mirror that shows us academics numerous characteristics of ourselves and our institutions, details we usually ignore.”

Michael Hagner, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

“This magisterial book offers a compelling new account of the origins of the research-based university. Drawing on an astonishing wealth of sources, it explores in fascinating detail the transformations of university life from the Reformation to the Romantic era. This will be required reading for historians of European culture and for all academics curious about their origins.”

Nick Jardine, University of Cambridge

"An enlightening look at what disputations, examinations, research seminars, appointments, advanced degrees, and scholarship represented in a bygone era, this volume is a challenging but worthy read."

College & Research Libraries News

"In almost any way that one can imagine, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is an astonishing book. . . . Many times the prose is purposefully funny and anything but dryasdust academic writing. No summary can do justice to a book so relentless in analysis and so rich in original source material. . . . It is astonishing in style voice, structure, method, conception, breadth and learning. . . . This is a brilliant book. The styles and methods may be recognizable, but the whole is daringly new, exciting and disturbing."

Sheldon Rothblatt | American Scientist

"[Clark] makes his case with analytic shrewdness, an exuberant love of archival anecdote, and a wry sense of humor. It’s hard to resist a writer who begins by noting, ’Befitting the subject, this is an odd book.’"

Anthony Grafton | New Yorker

"An anthropology of university life. . . .an analysis of the academic self. [Clark] tells us how academics became who and what they are."

Anthony Smith | Times Higher Education Supplement

"Focusing on changes between the 1770s and the 1830s, Clark offers detailed accounts of lecture and seminar formats, grading systems, the conduct of examinations, the doctoral dissertation, library catalogs, and the appointment of professors. He argues that traditional academic customs and practices were transformed by market forces and competition among the small states of 18thcentury Germany. To reap the benefits of having prestigious universities and scholars, bureaucrats established criteria for monitoring classroom diligence and publication productivity. This wideranging, thought-provoking book will reward anyone interested in the origins and early evolution of modern Homo academius and its environment."


"Clark has written a readable and thoroughly researched account of crucial changes in the medieval university that resulted in the modern academy. He describes these shifts with humor and insight, illuminating traditions and rituals that would otherwise remain lost in time."

Robert N. Matuozzi | Libraries and the Cultural Record

Table of Contents

1. Charisma and Rationalization
Part One - Tradition, Rationalization, Charisma
On the Dominion of the Author and the Legible
2. The Lecture Catalogue
3. The Lecture and the Disputation
4. The Examination
5. The Research Seminar
6. The Doctor of Philosophy
7. The Appointment of a Professor
8. The Library Catalogue
Part Two - Narrative, Conversation, Reputation
On the Ineluctability of the Voice and the Oral
9. Academic Babble and Ministerial Machinations
10. Ministerial Hearing and Academic Commodification
11. Academic Voices and the Ghost in the Machine
12. The Research University and Beyond
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Appendix 5
Appendix 6
Illustration Credits

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