Thursday, August 18, 2011

Saving ESQ and Poe Studies

As I prepare to teach a new course on Emerson and Thoreau (and other figures in their Transcendentalist milieu) the news of  the impending closure of EEmerson Studies Quarterly (ESQ) and Poe Studies, which I already knew about in my capacity with the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, gains new pertinence. In prepping the course, I am turning again and again to articles published over the last few decades in ESQ, and it leaves me wondering if a future teacher, like me someone not an Transcendentalist scholar by training, takes up such a course as part of their university's offerings in twenty years, where will the scholarship be? Blogs, wikis, and open-source archives are not the utopian solution to everything. A scholarly journal, with the continuity provided by an editor and editorial and/or advisory board, by referees, reviewers, and the sense of an ongoing record, is irreplaceable.

Though celebrated and rewarded handsomely for writing and publishing my own books, I have never been given any reward by any university for which I have worked for editing a journal. I used to think this was because of fiscal stresses at my university and the faraway nature of the field in which I edit, but in talking with colleagues at far plushier institutions working in far more accepted and canonical areas, for the most part I get the same impression. Universities rely on learned journals to assess scholarship weighed in tenure and promotion, but the journals themselves, and their personnel, are, paradoxically, not deemed essential. Washington State University, in hiring a full-time editor for both journals and maintaining a well-staffed office to keep them running, was one of the few standouts here. This made, as far as I am concerned, a notable difference at raising the institutions; national profile and defining it as a genuine center of excellence. Whatever the dire budgetary situation--and I am aware it is dire, though even in a dire situation education should be a priority--I am surprised WSU would squander a platform in which it has achieved notable eminence. 

Please sign the petition here and help save Poe Studies and ESQ.