- Editor’s Note
When I first began thinking about writing this editor’s statement for my first issue of Modern Fiction Studies, I was in full Charles Foster Kane “declaration of principles” mode. Fortunately, reality stepped in, cast a shadow over my pretentiousness, and faced me with the fact that I hadn’t many changes to announce.
First, I have inherited a scholarly quarterly that, thanks to former editors Maurice Beebe, William Stafford, Margaret Church, William Stuckey, and Patrick O’Donnell, has engaged high-quality critical discourse on narrative from modern and postmodern perspectives for forty-three years. Modern Fiction Studies is a journal firmly focused upon its subject matter and strong in its commitment to explore that subject matter from historical and other theoretical perspectives. It is also a journal solidly grounded on its editorial sponsorship by the Department of English at Purdue University and its publication partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Press.
Second, my role as editor it is not altogether unfamiliar because I have been around Modern Fiction Studies in a number of different capacities for quite a long time. As a twenty-five year member of the Purdue Advisory Board, I have read scores of submitted articles, written a goodly number of reviews, guest-edited two special issues, and served in an advisory capacity to three of the five previous editors. With that much experience at the journal, I hope that I can maintain the high quality of critical discourse that has for so long been the rule at Modern Fiction Studies. Finally, my inheritance includes many extremely talented [End Page 823] and hardworking people who have successfully deflected my bad ideas and corrected my mistakes in my first six months on the job. Nancy Peterson has been indispensable in ushering our first three issues together through the editing process and taking the review editorship in hand. Editorial Assistants Andrew Kunka and Susan McHugh have edited aggressively and creatively to bring those issues to print not only on time, but also in a style marked by its clarity, accuracy, and felicity. Nel Fink, longtime Modern Fiction Studies staff member, continues to run the office smoothly and efficiently. But most heartening in my first six months as editor has been the collegiality of the journal’s Editorial Advisory Board. These experts’ willingness to read and to judge submitted essays has been most helpful, and the thoroughness, intelligence, and constructive critique of their reader’s reports have been consistently impressive. My hope is that members of the profession at large, and not just the authors of submitted essays, appreciate how we are all the beneficiaries of these scholars’ openness and expertise.
Thus, I have indeed inherited a great deal. But with inherited wealth comes responsibility, and the responsibilities of editorship are many. The editor of a journal like Modern Fiction Studies owes it to the readers to advance intellectual discourse by publishing cutting-edge critical essays and to provide service to the profession by publishing fair and thoughtful reviews of the latest scholarship in the field. The editor also has the responsibility to assure that every essay submitted to the journal gets the fullest, most objective, most informed reading possible. Finally, the editor must constantly monitor the “readability” of the journal.
Film scholar Robert Sklar recently wrote, “the rhetorical lessons of well-known scholars such as Jacques Lacan and Louis Althusser had a baleful effect on cinema-studies prose. Many in this field regarded clarity in writing as but a mask for bourgeois capitalist ideology; the more unreadable a work, from this perspective, the more profound.” Sklar recognizes that we live in a postmodern age and that the philosophical ideas and arguments of postmodernism are extremely complex, but nonetheless he declares that postmodernist discourse does not have to be unaccessable. For all of its complexity, there is still no reason why contemporary critical discourse cannot be rhetorically available and perhaps even entertaining to every serious reader. That is [End Page 824] one principle that I feel the authors of essays submitted to scholarly journals, the expert readers of those essays, and the editors of the journals themselves should constantly keep in sight.