Change devastates and change invigorates. Change makes us acutely aware of the value of the past and impatient for the promise of the future. We here at Modern Fiction Studies have been conscious of the dynamics of change in recent months
The first major change is a sad one. Virgil Lokke, whose name was a fixture on the MFS masthead since its founding in 1954, passed away in late December 1998. Virgil was not only present at the founding of the journal, but for over 45 years (along with William Bache) remained one of its most knowledgeable contributors. Virgil was responsible, I feel, for single-handedly dragging the Purdue English department kicking and screaming into the postmodern era of critical theory. An Americanist, Virgil’s early research and teaching interests were in the American novel with a focus on utopian fiction as well as Hollywood novels, but, beginning in the early seventies, the great love in Virgil Lokke’s intellectual life was postmodern critical theory in all of its reconfigurations. While Virgil published widely, everyone who knew him agreed that his greatest works were his students, to whom he bequeathed the tools to encounter the literature and theory of the postmodern era. He opened and sharpened our minds, and he always made us laugh while he was doing it.
The second major change is to the editorial staff. Nancy J. Peterson, Assistant Editor of MFS since 1994, and the guest editor of our most recent Special Issue Native American Literature, left this position in January. She brought to MFS her wide-ranging editorial experience and judgment [End Page 273] , her sure hand in the training of our editorial assistants, and the depth of her knowledge in so many areas of modernist literature. An Americanist, Nancy’s expertise in the fiction of Toni Morrison, in Native American literature, and in modernist women’s fiction have served MFS especially well over the years of her tenure as Assistant Editor. Working mainly with Editor Patrick O’Donnell, Nancy guest edited the Toni Morrison Special Issue (a double issue, MFS 39.3&4) in the fall of 1993 just prior to becoming Assistant Editor. Nancy later revised that Morrison Special Issue, and in 1997 it became the first “Modern Fiction Studies Book” published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Nancy’s latest book, Against Amnesia: Contemporary Women Writers and the Crisis of Historical Memory, is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press. We already miss her greatly.
Finally, the third major change is an exciting one. John N. Duvall became Associate Editor of MFS in January. John came to Purdue from the University of Memphis in 1998, and brings to us not only his excellent editing experience but also wide-ranging knowledge in modern and contemporary American literature and in postmodern critical theory. His long list of more than twenty critical essays range from studies of Henry James and William Faulkner to Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Don DeLillo, with special emphasis placed on postmodern theoretical readings of these authors. John’s book, Faulkner’s Marginal Couple: Invisible, Outlaw, and Unspeakable Communities, was published by the University of Texas Press in 1990. John is presently working as Editor on a collection of essays titled Productive Postmodernism: Consuming Histories and Cultural Studies. The felicitous mix of modernist and postmodernist scholarly interests makes John an excellent fit with the editorial philosophy of MFS. We here at MFS are all delighted to be working with John N. Duvall.
Change is a bittersweet reality. But change happens and offers only two positive options: to commemorate it and to propel it forward.