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Publishing Philosophy: A staff Q&A

This March, Oxford University Press is celebrating Women in Philosophy as part of Women’s History Month. We asked three of our female staff members who work on our distinguished list of philosophy books and journals to describe what it’s like to work on philosophy titles. Eleanor Collins is a Senior Assistant Commission Editor in philosophy who works in the Oxford office. Lucy Randall is a Philosophy Editor who works from our New York office. Sara McNamara is an Associate Editor who assists to manage our philosophy journals from our New York offices. Find out what they think about working on philosophy titles below:

How did you get interested in philosophy?

Eleanor Collins: I studied philosophy A-level under a brilliant teacher, Ellis Gregory. After that I continued with a joint undergraduate degree in Philosophy and English at the University of Sussex. I had been particularly interested in history of philosophy, but ended up in a very engaged and lively seminar group in the metaphysics and epistemology options that were available, which – in the end – made that the course I remember most vividly.

Sara McNamara: I took my first philosophy class in the first semester of my freshman year of college. I did not know anything about philosophy, but a scheduling conflict left me a class short for the semester and the course fulfilled one of my university’s general education requirements. I was riveted by my professor’s descriptions of ancient Athenian culture and the audacious defiance of Athens’ gadfly Socrates. From that moment forward I was hooked. I went on to add philosophy as a second major, taking nearly every course the department offered, and eventually earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Lucy Randall: Different things that I read for pleasure and for school over the years overlapped with philosophy, and I wanted to learn more by immersing myself in it at OUP.

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Philosophy & Poetry by Lawrence OP. CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr

What’s a current project that you are excited about?

Eleanor Collins:
I hope this answer won’t seem predictable but it has to be our new Twitter feed @OUPPhilosophy. It’s doing extremely well and is a great way of keeping up with developments in philosophy more generally, as well as the work of OUP authors.

Sara McNamara: We were delighted to welcome The Monist, one of the most important journals in the American philosophical tradition, to OUP this year. I have been working on The Monist’s transition to OUP for the last several months, and I’m completely honored to have the opportunity to play a role in this iconic journal’s long and prestigious history.

Lucy Randall: We’ll soon be launching a new series in philosophy and literature edited by Richard Eldridge, with each book focusing on philosophical themes in a major work of literature. One to look out for!

What would be your top tips for an aspiring academic author?

Eleanor Collins: Be patient, and try to publish a few good articles in well-established journals before thinking about a book contract: this will help get your work out there, and your name and ideas known.

Sara McNamara: The best advice I can give to aspiring academic authors is to start/join a writing group. These groups can be small or large, formal gatherings, or relaxed hangouts. The crucial thing is that you find a constructive space to discuss your work with others.

Lucy Randall: It’s always a good idea to be professional about peer reviews. This is a good way to help others in your profession and also build a good relationship with acquisitions editors. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and make contact at any point when you’re working on a book project, even if you’re in the very early stages.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Eleanor Collins: We publish a lot of titles every year, so there is always a lot going on in the office: new books and manuscripts arriving, cover designs to consider, materials to prepare, and queries to answer. While it is a challenge, it’s also part of what makes the job so interesting and varied.

Sara McNamara: The most challenging part of my job has been learning about other academic disciplines. In addition to working on philosophy journals, I also manage titles in other fields. While my background in philosophy has been a tremendous asset to my work on journals like The Monist, I have a lot to learn about music, religion, and archaeology.

Lucy Randall: Keeping up with all the impressive things our authors are doing! That, and walking away from a project that I felt invested in.

What are you currently reading?

Eleanor Collins: At the moment I am reading Boredom: A Lively History, by Peter Toohey. It’s broad-ranging and accessible, and (amongst other things) explores representations of boredom in art and literature across the ages. The book group I am in has also just finished reading Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower. It tells the story of the early years of the poet Novalis, and is unlike anything I’ve read before. Highly recommended.

Sara McNamara: I am in the final pages of friend and OUP colleague Robert Repino’s debut novel, Mort(e). The pleasure I felt in buying the book as a celebration of my friend’s accomplishment has only been exceeded by my enjoyment in reading it. Mort(e) is earnest, original, and unassumingly insightful.

Lucy Randall: I’m currently reading Ian McEwan’s The Children Act and a backlog of New Yorker issues from the past month or so (as usual).

If you could invite any three philosophers to a dinner party, who would you choose and why?

Eleanor Collins: I suspect I would enjoy the company of David Hume, whose work I have always found entertaining and amusing to read; and then René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes. I have a long-lived interest in the early modern period, so these are obvious choices for me.

Sara McNamara: The first two people I would invite to a dinner party are not, strictly speaking, philosophers. Despite the fact that they are called poems or short stories, the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke and Jorge Luis Borges are intensely philosophical. Their works, as such, always inspired me, made me strive to articulate in my own writing the thoughts and concepts that I found most challenging and elusive. I would love little more than to be able to sit in their presence for an evening. My final invitee would be the incomparable Friedrich Nietzsche. His bold and challenging writings – especially Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Gay Science – should be required reading. I am not completely sure he would be an enjoyable dinner companion. It is likely he would seek to dominate the conversation and/or antagonize the other guests. Nonetheless, he would be most welcome.

You can explore free journals articles and online resources via our Women in Philosophy site to discover both famous and lesser known female philosophers.

Feature Image Credit: Book Exposition Composition, Poland, Zeromski Kielce, by jarmoluk. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

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