Our website is home to two ongoing bibliographical projects, both currently in their infancy (as of April 2013). The first, the one you’re looking at, is what we hope to be a comprehensive online bibliography of scholarly or quasi-scholarly material about Objectivism and/or Ayn Rand (“about” in the sense of making explicit reference to Rand and/or Objectivism in some sustained way). Click on the subpages under the “Online Bibliography” tab to access this material, which is mostly divided by subject matter (with a special subpage for Periodicals). The other bibliographical project, our Online Bibliographical Annotation, is (or will be) described on its own page.
As we use it here, “scholarly or quasi-scholarly material” is material (writing, lectures, etc.) that discusses a subject-matter in a sustained and detailed way, with the goal of defending some relatively abstract thesis to an audience presumed to have high intellectual standards. Understood in this way, “scholarly or quasi-scholarly” material includes work in all of the recognized academic disciplines (whether or not engaged in textual scholarship in the narrow sense), along with a certain kind of high-level journalism (think: The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, etc.), as well as essay-writing of the sort found in literary journals (think: Salmagundi, Raritan, etc.). In using the quoted phrase, we don’t necessarily intend to endorse or sanction anything described by it; a work can qualify as scholarship but still be bad (or even immoral), and some work that isn’t particularly scholarly can have more intellectual value than work that clearly is scholarly. After all, Rand’s own writing is at best quasi-scholarly, and doesn’t clearly fall into the usual academic or literary categories, but if she were still writing or lecturing on Objectivism, we would have to include her work here (very magnanimous of us!). Indeed, some of the work that we intend to compile here–both pro and contra Objectivism–may well qualify as scholarship or quasi-scholarship, but is nonetheless pretty bad–inept, inaccurate, illogical, and/or dishonest. Since neither “scholarly” nor “quasi-scholarly” are intended here as hortatory terms, lack of scholarly value is not necessarily a disqualifying condition for inclusion in our bibliography.
Excluded from our bibliography are the millions of passing journalistic references made to Rand in both the print and electronic media, as well as the millions of obviously non-scholarly Internet-related references to Rand on blogs, websites, and the like. Likewise excluded are attempts at scholarship that are too eccentric or silly to meet the threshold conditions for belonging in a bibliography. (This doesn’t contradict what we just said; lack of scholarly value is not necessarily a disqualifying condition for inclusion here, but it can be.)
Currently, readers interested in what we’re calling scholarly or quasi-scholarly material on Rand or Objectivism have a number of bibliographical options, many of them of very high quality, but none entirely comprehensive.
(1) One option is to consult Mimi Goldstein’s New Ayn Rand Companion. Unfortunately, while Goldstein’s Companion is highly acclaimed, it was published in 1999, and a great deal has been written on Rand and Objectivism since then.
(2) Another bibliography, more attuned to online work since 1999, is Richard Lawrence’s astonishingly thorough Objectivism Reference Center (ORC), on which our own efforts here are modeled (and from whose site we’ve done, and will be doing, some unavoidable and unapologetic borrowing). It’s an understatement to call Lawrence’s ORC a mere “bibliography”; it’s actually a comprehensive research tool. In fact, the sheer size and scope of the ORC would almost make further bibliographical effort superfluous, but ORC has, it seems, been inactive since 2011; hence our attempt to try to continue its work here. (We don’t know Richard Lawrence, and have never been in contact with him, so despite our reliance on his work–and gratitude to him–IOS is in no way affiliated with the ORC.)
(3) A third obvious option would be to conduct some well-designed searches in research databases of the sort one can find in a good research-oriented library (e.g., JSTOR, The Philosopher’s Index, etc.). As it happens, that procedure yields an incredible list of mostly unmined resources, but an unstructured list isn’t a bibliography, and a bibliography has obvious research value that’s lacking in a bunch of idiosyncratic lists. And then there’s the material that isn’t in the usual research databases, a common enough occurrence with the material in question. Our hope is to find as much of this material as we can, and to present it in an organized, structured way.
(4) A closely related option would be hunt down references the old-fashioned way, by rummaging through the bibliographies or footnotes of other published material on Objectivism, or through the indices or tables of contents of Objectivist-relevant journals or websites. But that method is, of course, very time consuming; it helps to have a one-stop-shopping location for all of those resources–which is what we’re trying to generate here (minus the payment part of the shopping).
In short, our Online Bibliography is an attempt to supply what’s missing from those options. Of course, to the extent that it’s successful, it’ll have stood on the shoulders of bibliographical giants.
Most of what goes in our Bibliography will go up without comment; comments on recent (or past) trends in scholarship will go up on our “Comment, News, and Reviews” page, which is where we’ll also be announcing work-in-progress that may be of interest to readers.
We’d love to have some help in what promises to be an enterprise–in ambition, at least–on the scale of Etienne-Louis Boulee’s “Design for a Library” (pictured above). If you’d like to be part of the fun, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. All contributions will be credited by name (unless you request otherwise).