Salisbury Responds to McVay


Salisbury's Response to McVay Review of _Perpetua's Passion_/April 1998



From Joyce Salisbury 27 April 1998

I have just received Professor McVay's clear review of my book, _Perpetua's Passion_, and would like to respond to McVay's question on the editorial decisions that led to my omitting most of the historical debate in favor of a more straight-forward narrative approach.

without a doubt, my goal when I began was to reach and engage the widest audience possible. My main area of interest is in Early Christianity, and the
best that is published in that field is virtually unread by interested generalists, so my hope was to offer something for the broader audience. One of my previous books on the subject, _Church Fathers, Independent Virgins_, engaged the historical complexities, and lost a large portion of the audience. I agree it would have been good to include some of the historiographic controversy, but I quite frankly couldn't figure out how to do it without losing the accessibility (I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that probably a flaw of mine, and I accept the possibility of doing both).

Actually, for my edification for future books, if anyone can recommend a book that "discusses difficulties of interpretation and differences of opinion" while remaining widely accessible, I'd love to read it. Anyway, thanks for the review, and I hope others of you enjoy the book.

From Kimberley Weathers 29 April 1998

What did everyone else think about Joyce Salisbury's decision to downplay the deep analysis in her book for the sake of readership? Personally, I think she did the right thing, and that the issues of sources and argumentation could either be included in a preface or appendix, or even in a separate journal article.

Salisbury realized something that I believe is an important trend in scholarship, and that is to appeal to a wider audience. I think this is an important decision, because as historians, we need to be conscious that there are economics involved, and most presses are looking for some return on their investments. One of the main factors that my advisor looked at for my work, in fact, is what will the readership be, and how marketable, will this work make me to academia as well as the general public? In looking around, however, I have seen new scholars digging ever deeper and smaller niches for themselves that I'm not sure will strengthen their appeal to either. In that we are all worried about landing jobs as historians (or at least getting published), what will help us more in the long run?