Stuck in the "Sauces"

I happened to have been reading an essay mentioning Forrest McDonald's insistence that his students keep looking to primary sources in their work, and a young person's PhD thesis, at the same tim and so I was struck by something extraordinary in the latter.

Let us call the newly minted doctor of philosophy Jones. Jones's work was essentially "Examining the Debate Concerning Great Thinker X." I was perusing his bibliography, and what struck me was that it did not contain a single reference to anything written by X! And this is a book-length work, which I believe has actually been published as a book.

Apparently, Forrest McDonald would actually avoid the secondary literature on a topic he wanted to explore and immerse himself in the primary sources. I don't blame Jones for his very different approach, but his elders, and their obsession with "the literature."


  1. The best professor I had as an undergrad, by far, was a Holocausr survivor who taught a two-part political theory course which covered most of the major thinkers from the pre-Socratics through Marx. Much like McDonald (and unlike most of his colleagues), he avoided the secondary literature completely for pedagpgical purposes. Even at the undergraduate level, he insisted that students engage with the thinkers directly, read only their original works, and offer their own individual analysis. The result (at least among those who cared to do well in the class) was less "book report"-style regurgitation material and more critical thought and interesting discussion. Like I said, best professor by far.


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