What is a Festschrift and how do I cite it?

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Imagine you’ve just found a brilliant article and want to cite it in your essay. However, when you come to cite it you find that the source is not an academic journal at all, it’s actually in a type of book called a Festschrift. Your natural questions are: (i) Am I allowed to cite books if I can’t pronounce their titles? (ii) Wait, did I just read an article in German? (iii) What is a festschrift anyway?

 

Festschrifts are memorial volumes, written to commemorate the lives of the most eminent scholars. Sometimes the scholars have died, but most often they have just retired (or in the case of the most prestigious scholars) reached a milestone age (“well done, you got to age 60 without losing your job to stress”). Festschrifts usually come from conferences held in that academic’s honour. That’s good for readers because only the best academics are invited to present at these conferences. In addition, academics will forget to use incomprehensible jargon when they are presenting out-loud, so ordinary readers stand a better chance of understanding the article. So, easy-to-understand and authoritative – sounds good, right?

 

Unfortunately, there are some down-sides. At the moment, festschrifts are usually only published in paper form. That means, unless you have access to a serious academic library, they are unlikely to be available to you. There are three reasons for this: (i) festschrifts aren’t subscribed to like journal articles, so there is no money to pay for them to be put online, (ii) senior academics are still suspicious that the internet might be a fad, and (iii) young people with the technical ability to digitise content are not included in the conference.

 

In addition, festschrifts can occasionally be one-sided. Most senior academics have laboriously created networking cartels over the years, made up of people who broadly agree with them and cite them. Festschrifts for these scholars are likely to consist especially of their closest colleagues and their students, meaning that opposing networks of scholars are less likely to be represented in the volume. Festschrifts are also not actually peer-reviewed in the traditional blind sense, so scholars can get away with more speculation than usual. That’s unlikely to be a problem because the authors are such experts. For our purposes, festschrifts still count as reliable academic sources.

 

You reference a festschrift just like you would an edited book:

 

Author of article (year) ‘Title of article’, in: Editors of Feschrift, (eds) Title of Festschrift, City published: Publisher, pages

 

It’s a complicated reference, but it’s worth it to get such a reliable source! Here is an example:

 

 

Did this article help? If so, the chances are you would benefit from our complete University Preparation Package. It goes through all the critical thinking and academic writing tricks you need to survive writing essays in adult education. Sign up today!

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